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July 2016

Designing in the

Negative Space with GE Industrial Solutions Interview with Karim Wassef, Product Line Leader, and his team at GE Embedded Solutions

Powering a Path to Autonomous Vehicles Overhead vs. Underground Power Lines


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CONTENTS

Power Developer

EDITORIAL STAFF Content Editor Karissa Manske kmanske@aspencore.com Digital Content Manager Heather Hamilton hhamilton@aspencore.com Director, Creative Development Jeff Chavez jchavez@aspencore.com Graphic Designer Carol Smiley csmiley@aspencore.com Audience Development Claire Hellar chellar@aspencore.com Register at EEWeb http://www.eeweb.com/register/

Published by AspenCore 950 West Bannock Suite 450 Boise, Idaho 83702 Tel | 208-639-6464

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PRODUCT WATCH Littelfuse: Protect, Control, Sense TECH REPORT Powering a Path to Autonomous Vehicles EEWeb FEATURE Overhead vs. Underground Power Lines Self-Charging Battery Stretches Over Skin like a Band-Aid INDUSTRY INTERVIEW

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Designing in the Negative Space with GE Industrial Solutions Roundtable Interview with Karim Wassef, Jim Montgomery and Raj Radjassamy, of GE Industrial Solutions

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Victor Alejandro Gao General Manager Executive Publisher Cody Miller Global Media Director Group Publisher

EEWeb

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Littelfuse:

Protect, Control, Sense Littelfuse is a name synonymous with circuit protection. Their extensive technical expertise, constant push for innovation, and unmatched portfolio of circuit protection products have driven them to become the preferred brand for leading manufacturers around the world.

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PRODUCT WATCH

Their products are used extensively in consumer electronics, automobiles, commercial vehicles, and industrial equipment. Littelfuse is never standing still. They are constantly strategizing, researching, and adapting to an always-evolving industry. As new trends appear or old ones evolve, they are ready to jump on opportunities to grow their business in exciting new directions. Now is the time for Littelfuse to lead these new trends and move to extend their reach even deeper into the electronics industry. Their latest endeavor is summed up in three words: protect, control and sense. Leveraging a global leadership position in circuit protection, Littelfuse is becoming a powerful force in the power control and sensing markets. These growth areas provide a massive opportunity for Littelfuse to maintain their position in circuit protection while growing their core business to provide an extended range of solutions to their customers. To streamline their entry into these new markets and fortify their ability to protect, control and sense, Littelfuse has recently made a number of exciting acquisitions of strong industry players that exponentially expand their existing technical expertise, innovative ideas, and portfolio to new heights and give them a tremendous head-start in their path forward to become a major player in the power control and sensing industry. To learn more about Littelfuse and their vision for the future, click here.

POWER CONTROL MARKET

CIRCUIT PROTECTION MARKET

SENSING MARKET

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Powering a Path to

AUTONOMOUS Vehicles

Morgan Stanley estimates that self-driving vehicles could deliver $1.3 trillion in annual savings to the U.S. economy, but advancing a reliable autonomous vehicle (AV) will require a significant increase in computing horsepower [1]. As designers advance electronic control modules (ECMs) that support teraflop processing, a deeper understanding of power integrity (PI) will be necessary. Just as signal integrity (SI) addresses interconnect impedance in high-speed digital circuits, PI addresses interconnect impedance of the power distribution network (PDN). When it comes to powering advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and AV systems, designers need to consider PDN for the radiated and conducted emissions they create, and interaction with circuit board parasitic impedances that can create unacceptable noise in high-speed digital imaging systems, wireless communication and precision analog circuitry. I n this article I examine the fundamental considerations for designing an automotive, off-battery switch-mode power supply (SMPS) and point-of-load (POL) regulator that considers power integrity. By John Rice, Senior Member Technical Staff, Texas Instruments

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TECH REPORT

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Power Developer

Vision for the future Electronic control modules equipped with multi-core, gigahertz processors already crunch a staggering number of lines-of-code. [2] This number is expected to at least double as highbandwidth imaging systems required for next generation ADAS and AV attempt to replace driver fallibility with splitsecond, decision-making algorithms [1,3]. Built on a fusion of imaging sensors including radar and LiDAR, these systems will process somewhere around 1 GB of information every second. “Super chip” processors delivering high processing speed need clean power, and designers advancing this technology will need greater attention to the PDN.

PDN in brief

THE GOAL OF THE PDN IS TO CREATE “CLEAN” POWER FOR HIGH-BANDWIDTH ELECTRONICS.

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The goal of the PDN is to create “clean” power for high-bandwidth electronics. In his book, “Signal and Power Integrity Simplified,” Eric Bogatin defines PDN as, “all those interconnects from the voltage regulator to the pads on the chip and even the metallization on the die that distributes power and return current.” [4] This includes the power supply itself, the circuit board, bulk decoupling capacitors, vias, traces, power plane, solder bumps and package bond wires. In short, clean power means that when all these interconnects are considered the composite impedance of the PDN is below a manufacturers specified limit, often referred to as the target impedance. It is not uncommon for this to be 10 mOhms or less from DC to 1 GHz.


TECH REPORT The “off-battery” regulator The ECM does not typically run from the car battery, although it may need to be powered from the battery under a “key-off” condition. In key-off, the total quiescent operating current of the ECM is usually specified to be under 100 uA. In run-mode the ECM is powered by the alternator ignition system and that net is anything but clean. In fact, power distribution from the alternator to the ECM is polluted with a host of fast-acting and high-energy voltage and current transients defined by ISO7637. The automotive ECM voltage typically varies from 9V and 18V, but must also survive high-voltage transients, double battery jumpstart, and more recently a “warm crank” condition associated with engine “start-stop” operation that can result in a voltage dip below 5V. As such, the off-battery switch-mode power supply (SMPS) must buck, boost, and on occasion buck-boost the ignition voltage.

Like the proliferation of electronics driving the Internet of Things (IoT), an AV will certainly result an increase in ECMs to support a robust and reliable artificial intelligence.

To buck, boost or buck-boost Designing an off-battery SMPS for an automotive ECM is complex. A typical ECM converts the ignition/battery input into intermediate voltages of 5V and 3.3V. These voltages are used to power everything from the controller area network bus (CAN) to the instrument cluster, gauge stepper motors and other downstream pointof-load (POL) regulators. Some processor cores are now operating below 1V at 10A, alongside lowvoltage differential system (LVDS) imaging systems, high-speed DDR memory, microwave RF electronics, and other high bandwidth and precision electronics, all requiring clean power to function reliably.

Figure 1. Typical FPGA/ processor interconnect impedance requirement

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Power Developer

To support the PDN target impedance illustrated in Figure 1, code-hungry processors and FPGAs use integrated FETs, multiphase and multioutput power management ICs (PMICs) operating above 2 MHz. Even the off-battery regulators are starting to use 2 MHz converters to avoid AM-band interference, but this approach has its own challenges. Electromagnetic interference (EMI) is a complex topic as are the methods for eliminating it, but the best approach has always been to eliminate EMI at its source. Devices like the LM5140 are designed for off-battery, high-frequency operation using innovative gate driver circuitry to spread the EMI noise spectrum and to minimize switchnode dv/dt that, otherwise, would activate printed circuit board (PCB) parasitic impedances and cause EMI.

Integrated MOSFET technology with devices like the LM53635-Q1 use innovative package technology to eliminate parasitic switch-node ringing that otherwise can disrupt the reference plane and radiate noise. Figure 2 illustrates the improvements between conventional wire-bonded, integrated FET regulator and this device. If the “battery� input was always greater than 6 V, then a buck topology could be used for both the 5 V and 3.3 V rails, but as previously mentioned, the off-battery SMPS may be required to generate 5 V when the input is below 5 V. Cars with start-stop capability often include a centralized voltage stabilization module (VSM) to address this condition. This boost converter ensures that critical nets are not affected by a warm-crank condition, and are designed to deliver between 200 W and 1400 W for short periods

Figure 2. Switch node of the LM53635 (left) compared with a conventional wire-bonded regulator

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TECH REPORT of time, typically less than 100 ms. Although these systems are generally not thermally challenged, peak electrical and thermal stresses can be very high and must be carefully analyzed. A robust and efficient approach is to use a multi-phase, synchronous boost converter. The LM5122 was specifically designed to support this topology—this controller has high current integrated FET drivers, can operate down to 3 V and can be interleaved with other devices for a scalable solution. The device circuit behavior can be analyzed on the TI WEBENCH™. Independent voltage stabilization at the ECM can be implemented using a pre-boost architecture in front of a buck converter. Boost controllers like the 60V, 2 MHz LM5022 can be configured as either a boost or SEPIC buck-boost converter. Whereas the pre-boost architecture stabilizes the input on an “as needed bases”, the ECM would still require a downstream buck converter. Configured as a SEPIC, the downstream buck converter is eliminated. However, SEPIC converters typically have a lower control loop bandwidth. This is necessary to address its complex power stage transfer function. Consequently, SEPIC converters are not well-suited for processor POL regulation, but they do work well in creating a voltagestabilized intermediate voltage.

Keep the electrons moving forward One of the many famous quotes by Albert Einstein goes something like this, “Every design should be as simple

as possible, but no simpler.” Unfortunately, determining when good is good enough is not always easy; we keep pressing forward to make things “better.” When it comes to reverse battery protection, the PN junction diode is as simple as it gets. It is low cost, only has two terminals, is available from many suppliers in many packages, can stand off very high negative voltages, and fails in a predictable way. But the reverse battery blocking diode has at least one significant deficiency—its forward voltage drop. As ECM current increases, that deficiency becomes increasingly problematic. To address this issue, ECM designers have used MOSFETs with the body diode blocking reverse current in the off-state. In the onstate, the MOSFET channel is enhanced to minimize the forward voltage drop. That works fairly well, but it has issues. For starters, getting a MOSFET that can stand off—400V ISO pulses is not cheap, so a transient voltage suppressor (TVS) is generally needed. Also, the quiescent current associated with fast-acting gate control can be prohibitive. To overcome these deficiencies, the LM74610-Q1 “smart diode” was developed. This innovative three-terminal device, shown in Figure 3, uses the body diode of the MOSFET as its power source boosting that voltage to keep the MOSFET gate on 99 percent of the time. The remaining 1 percent of the time, the IC refreshes the charge pump capacitor that keeps the MOSFET in saturation. When a reverse condition is detected, the IC actively turns the MOSFET off within

“EVERY DESIGN SHOULD BE AS SIMPLE AS POSSIBLE, BUT NO SIMPLER.” — Albert Einstein

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Power Developer

2 us. Because the device floats on the supply, it requires no quiescent ground current. One limitation of the device is that although it reduces the forward voltage drop 99 percent of the time, it does not fully address dropout concerns since the MOSFET body diode is conducting 1 percent of the time with a higher forward drop.

Conclusion Power integrity will become increasingly important in advancing high bandwidth automotive systems like ADAS and AV. Whether you are advancing an “off-battery” regulator or lower voltage point-of-load regulator, the importance of designing for power integrity in high bandwidth applications cannot be overstated. Two excellent book references are provided that explain the subtleties of designing for, and measuring power integrity and point-of-load PDN [4,5].

References 1. Intel, Self-Driving Car Technology and Computing Requirements http://www.intel.com/content/www/ us/en/automotive/driving-safetyadvanced-driver-assistance-systemsself-driving-technology-paper.html 2. Charette, Robert, N. This Car Runs on Code, IEEE Spectrum. http://spectrum.ieee.org/transportation/ systems/this-car-runs-on-code Figure 3. “Smart diode” configured to minimize ECM power losses

3. Estl, Hannes. “Paving the way to selfdriving cars with advanced driver assistance systems,“ Texas Instruments white paper, August 2015 4. Bogatin, Eric. “Signal and Power Integrity Simplified”, 2nd edition. ISBN-13: 978-0132349796, Prentice Hall 5. Sandler, Steve. “Power Integrity” ISBN- 978-0-07-183099-7, McGraw Hill

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Power Developer

Why Aren’t More

POWER LINES

Buried Underground? In Boise, ID, where both my brother and I live, some neighborhoods have overhead power lines while others have underground, or buried, power lines. My neighborhood – approximately 50 years old—was designed with overhead power lines, while, in contrast, my brother’s newer neighborhood—15 years old—consists of underground power lines. Although it seems strange, I have discovered that I personally don’t notice the missing overhead power lines in foreign neighborhoods until I unexpectedly realize they are absent. What I do notice, however, is the cleanliness and simplicity of the neighborhoods when the power lines are “missing.” I find that I often ask myself the question: why aren’t more power lines buried underground? After doing some research on this topic I discovered the answer is both simple and complicated.

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EEWeb FEATURE

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Power Developer

Overhead power lines have been around since the dawn of the age electricity, so that means the time of Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla—the late 1800’s. On the other hand, the practice of burying power lines underground is relatively new.

The higher installation cost is on average 10-times that of installing overhead power lines.

The question of why power lines aren’t all underground gets asked often by both the public and officials from cities, counties, and states following a major storm. Consider the following major storms: Hurricane Sandy, unofficially known as “Superstorm Sandy”, in October of 2012 resulted in 8.2 million people losing power in 17 states, Washington D.C., and Canada for up to 2 weeks because of storm-related flooded equipment and downed trees. The derecho of June, 2012 in the MidAtlantic and Midwest: this severe thunderstorm complex damaged trees and equipment resulting in 4.2 million people losing power.

August 14, 2003: In Northeaster US and Ontario 50 million people lost power for up to four days due, in part, to inadequate tree trimming causing a short circuit. On June 25, 1998, a lighting storm in Minnesota initiated a transmission line failure. 52,000 people lost power for up to 19 hours. So, why aren’t more power lines underground? The answer is simple —because it’s very expensive. The higher installation cost is on average 10-times that of installing overhead power lines. According to a May, 2011 paper published by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, “The estimated cost for constructing underground transmission lines ranges from 4 to 14 times more expensive than overhead lines of the same voltage and same distance. A typical new 69 kV overhead single-circuit transmission line costs approximately $285,000 per mile as opposed to $1.5 million per mile for a new 69 kV underground line.” They went on to say that costs vary in other regions, but the relative difference between overhead and underground installation costs is similar from state to state. Additionally, the maintenance cost of underground power lines is also more expensive than repairing overhead power lines. While underground power lines are better protected against weather, they are susceptible to insulation deterioration. If and when a fault occurs the cost of finding its location, excavating the surrounding dirt and rock, making the repair, and re-burial is sometimes

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EEWeb FEATURE five to 10 times more expensive than repairing a fault in an overhead line where the conductors are visible, readily accessible and easier to repair.

While underground power lines are better protected against weather, they are susceptible to insulation deterioration.

So, the simple answer is cost. However, the more complicated answer, or followup question, is: are underground power lines a good investment? Unfortunately, this answer is not so simple, and for the most part it’s unknown. The long-term savings of underground power lines, such as paying overtime to out-of-state workers and the cost to businesses when the power goes out, is not part of the conversation. As reported on All Things Considered on NPR in 2012, “Nobody has gone past the cost side of the cost-benefit analysis; so there is no way to know if it’s a good investment.”

are, considered. And, ultimately the tax payer is on the hook for electric grid infrastructure costs. So let me ask you: would will be willing to pay more on your monthly power bill to have underground power lines in your neighborhood? Me? I would consider paying more, but not 10-times more, to have underground power lines provide a more reliable and longer lasting electric grid, and, of course, for the aesthetics that they offer. As I mentioned earlier, I have found that neighborhoods with underground power lines appear much cleaner.

Obviously each technology has its benefits. Overhead power lines are more economical, easier to repair, and easier to expand when neighborhoods grows. In contrast, underground power lines are more protected, though not immune, from weather related damages, they are definitely more aesthetically pleasing, and they are not vulnerable to airborne elements like wind and ice. But as prudence suggests, both the installation and maintenance costs should be, and

So the next time you’re out and about I encourage you to take notice of the power lines. Are they “missing” or are they strung throughout the area? Do you have a preference? And, if you would like the overhead lines to vanish, how much would you be willing to pay on your monthly power bill?

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Power Developer

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EEWeb FEATURE

Self-Charging Battery Stretches Over Skin Like a Band-Aid to Power Wearable Electronics By Kristen Perrone

Scientists have devised a method to power wearable electronics through a soft, millimeter-scale battery that may stretch over the skin like a Band-Aid. Led by the University of Illinois’s material scientist John Rogers, the research team aimed to create a power solution that is lightweight and has mechanics suitable for applications that wearable devices offer.

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Power Developer

“The most important applications will be those that involve devices integrated with the outside of the body, on the skin, for health, wellness, and performance monitoring.”

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While many wearable devices require an external power source and must be removed from a consumer’s body to recharge, Rogers and his colleagues sought for an alternative method by developing a new type of battery. The team cut an ordinary lithium ion battery into small ultrathin tiles. Connecting the tiles with wires, the scientists then embedded these components in a soft, rubbery material and coated them with a stiff rubber. This process resulted in a thin waterproof battery that now had the ability to stretch, as the wires connecting tiles were longer than the space between them. Further experiments proved that the battery can even stretch up to 30 percent while still generating a charge. The project began as early as 2013, with the research team—compiled of representatives from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University—well aware of the trials they had to tackle. “Batteries are particularly challenging because, unlike electronics, it’s difficult to scale down their dimensions without significantly

reducing performance,” said Rogers in an interview with BBC News in 2013. By layering tiny solar cells, biosensors, and chips on top of the battery cells, the team further innovated their design, creating a solution that can be integrated with a wide range of devices and power sources. For example, the battery can be applied to human skin to enable an unlimited current of biosensor data. Further plans for the battery’s use even include integration into clothes, causing its sensors to capture bodily signals 24 hours a day without being removed for a recharge. The study also hints that the battery can be recharged wirelessly. The stretchable battery joins a group of other prototypes that conform to the human body, but, like these earlier designs, it isn’t quite ready for mass usage yet. However, its great potential is undeniable. “The most important applications will be those that involve devices integrated with the outside of the body, on the skin, for health, wellness, and performance monitoring,” explained Rogers.


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Power Developer

Designing in the

Negative Space  with

GE Industrial Solutions

A roundtable discussion with Karim Wassef, Product Line Leader, Jim Montgomery, Senior Product Manager, and Raj Radjassamy, Senior Product Manager, Embedded Solutions, GE’s Industrial Solutions business

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INDUSTRY INTERVIEW

A

s technology progresses, the need to find space-efficient power solutions invariably comes into play. The space for powering

and cooling is finite. How can a company find power solutions that fit within the cutting edge technology they create? The first step, according to the engineers working for GE, is to look at various power design constraints and then overcome them by using what was previously thought to be unusable space on printed circuit boards and power distribution systems. This approach has been coined by the engineers as Designing in the Negative Space (DITNS). EEWeb recently met with the engineers of GE’s Embedded Solutions, a branch of GE’s larger Industrial Solutions business, to discuss the approach of Designing in the Negative Space, and why this approach is changing how their clients view power solutions.

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Power Developer

Tell us a bit about your background. What is your education history and how did you come to design for GE? Karim: I have a PhD in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech and began my career with AT&T and Lucent Technologies. My work with Lucent began with working on very complex design issues in power technology and that interest migrated into more of a business role. I came to work for GE with the acquisition of Lineage Power. I am now the product line leader for GE’s Embedded Solutions business, a part of GE’s Industrial Solutions business. Raj: I joined GE in 2014 as a senior product manager in GE’s Embedded Solutions business. Prior to GE, I worked as a business development manager for power management products at Texas Instruments (TI), defining and delivering a product portfolio targeting strategic and adjacent markets. And prior to that, I worked for HP designing microcontrollers for mid and high-end servers.

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Jim: I am also a senior product manager, Embedded Solutions. I joined GE in 2003 through the acquisition of Lineage Power. Prior to that, I have experience in the oil and gas, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), and telecom industries including more than 13 years with mission critical power technologies.

I understand that you and your team are responsible for creating products that can be utilized in what you refer to as “negative space”. Can you please clarify what Designing in the Negative Space (DITNS) entails? How do you create products for space previously unusable and turn it into something usable? Karim: We use the term “negative space” to describe the lost, wasted or forgotten space in power designs. Instead of just focusing on current products, we look at the bigger picture and try to look at the root of problems to see if there is another way to provide a right answer. This requires looking in new places for power conversion that have been lost due to past design constraints.


INDUSTRY INTERVIEW For example, most power solutions today live on top of the power module, on top of the printed circuit board (PCB). But over the evolution of power design solutions that are now very thin, small efficient and higher-power can now live on the bottom side of the board. By designing power products, such as GE’s 2.8-2.9 mm Slimlynx power modules, that can live on the bottom side of the board, you take up none of the very expensive, very valuable top-board real estate. So that’s one example of going out and finding lost space and reclaiming it for power design engineers. Jim: Let’s spend a minute talking about market drivers. One of the key market drivers is the ability to power various forms of data processing equipment. One of the common threads among all of the various types of data processing equipment is the need for greater and greater processing capability. Those systems are becoming larger with greater computing capacity, and therefore require much more power. We’re seeing exponential increases in the amount of data processing power where there just simply isn’t any place for the power to go. So we have to be very creative not only at the microprocessor board level but also at the rack level. The challenge lies in putting more power in the rack and providing greater product data processing capability while keeping size in consideration.

Why do you think Designing in the Negative Space hasn’t been a more common practice previously? Was

it perhaps too hard or inconvenient, or was the technology simply not there to support this approach? Karim: Designing in the Negative Space is as old as design itself. We didn’t invent it, but we gave it an interesting name. We have really taken to heart the use of this philosophy in designing power supplies, systems and solutions. As we’ve adopted this philosophy, we look for solutions everywhere we see challenges. This takes efforts and design consideration but the payoff is there. Raj: Designing in the Negative Space is more of a creative process; an exercise to meet industry needs. As Jim and Karim mentioned, there’s a need for higher power density within the same space on a printed circuit, or in a board within the same shelf of a server rack. The valueadd in a shelf or in a board is making that particular product do the maximum of what it is meant to do. Within the designs we bring to market lies the necessity of implementing new products in a way customers can embrace. When we create products that effectively follow a Designing in the Negative Space concept, we positively “disrupt” the overall design process in ways that are not necessarily cost prohibitive.

The challenge lies in putting more power in the rack and providing greater product data processing capability while keeping size in consideration.

Can you talk about other markets you’re engaging with or you’ve engaged with in the past? Jim: A common area we work in is high-performance computing and enterprise computing in data centers.

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Power Developer

In each industry, and pretty much globally, we’ve found examples of how you can apply Designing in the Negative Space to anything built with PCBs.

When designing for data centers, each rack design follows a common formula. The larger the data center, the more dramatic the demand and the need for rack-level computing power density. But power for those servers was taking more and more away from server blades. So by Designing in the Negative Space, we found ways to relocate our GP100 power rectifiers in the unused interior space between the cabinet wall and mounting tracks, and relocated the power distribution unit along the rear inside corner of the rack. The net result of the GE PowerEdge cabinet is that we returned almost 10 percent of the rack space back to server capacity. Karim: We have yet to find the industry where we are unable to apply our Designing in the Negative Space philosophy. In fact, this seems to be true everywhere where we’ve looked: supercomputing, networking, telecommunications, industrial. Each market is a little bit different in terms of what options are available. But in each industry, and pretty much globally, we’ve found examples of how you can apply Designing in the Negative Space to anything built with PCBs.

What are the possible disadvantages or challenges of using the approach of DITNS? Have you received any pushback or are there hurdles you’re facing or anticipate to face in the future? Karim: Any time you break down walls there will be some corresponding pushback because the walls went up

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for a reason. When those walls begin to break down, there will be pushback with people saying, “Wait a minute. I don’t want to do it like that.” For example, let’s say we have dedicated components that individually do separate things. We have a power supply, data acquisition, temperature sensors. Then we design all of those different components into a single, compact device. The GigaDLynx power module is able to do all of the things mentioned, and by creating this single device we not only optimize space by up to 23 percent, but we also reclaim the previously wasted space. Today we have devices that simply do more with less because people are coming to the realization that you can fit multiple functions into a single device. The most prominent example this function consolidation is a smartphone. Creating devices that could place calls, take pictures, record videos, and send messages required breaking down the preconceived notion of how electronics should be made and marketed. Raj: One thing we really focus on when resistance comes up is bringing in our technical team to identify the reason for the pushback and, with them, reach a solution. Engineers operate within the solutions. For example, if they say a new product will increase the need for a thermal base and a thermal base is not something we want in the final product, alternatives have to be found. When we work with customers and they find issues, we work to understand the issue and find a path with an


INDUSTRY INTERVIEW effective solution. We have yet to run into a case where our solutions were not embraced. Communication is key to facing pushback. Karim: Another example: Some of our products contain pins used to connect our products to our customers’ products. A few years ago, we had an engineer who said “Why do we have pins?” This basic question resulted in discovering a way to bond our power module devices directly onto our customers’ boards without the use of pins. Direct bonding reduced the height significantly which in turn improved thermal performance. When we took this new bonding technique to market, we received pushback, “Wait, you can’t do that!” However, in the end, there was no reason not to rid our products of the pins; it had simply not been done before. However, with these new concepts and products comes the necessary due diligence of demonstrating it can be done, and done well. This takes time because change requires people to rethink old beliefs and ways of doing things. Sometimes this involves extensive data collection to prove this new technology helps rather than hinders.

Any final thoughts you would like to close with? Jim: We talked a lot about breaking down walls and resistance to change. The largest hurdle in design is sometimes convincing the market that thinking outside the box is a better approach. Once we capture

that mindshare, it becomes much easier to brainstorm new ideas. Then these ideas feed off of themselves and in the end, the customers who are brave and disruptive will take that step with you to start designing in new directions. Most often, this is rewarded with a better, more effective product that fits the application. Raj: One of the most common areas to see the disruptive concepts we previously spoke of is in startups. I heard that there is an 80/20 rule when it comes to startups—only 20 percent of startups will successfully turn their disruptive ideas into a market-ready product. If we look at that and compare it to Designing in the Negative Space, it’s very similar. The goal is to find the disruptive concept and find a way to make it usable by customers in their applications. Delivering these effective solutions for negative spaces has shown to be a very helpful and successful endeavor for GE.

A way to look at Designing in the Negative Space to build better power supplies is going back to the “why” of things.

Karim: A lot of times you have to start with a fresh look at the world to make change. I have two little girls and my most frustrating, and yet favorite question they pose is “why?” Sometimes as we get older and more seasoned in design we stop asking that very simple question. A way to look at Designing in the Negative Space to build better power supplies is going back to the “why” of things. Change does not come just because we want to make things better. It comes when we actively seek out solutions by reclaiming lost ideas. For more information and a video roundtable series of Designing in the Negative Space visit GE’s Power Thoughts.

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Power Developer: July 2016  

Designing in the Negative Space with GE Industrial Solutions

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