Industry 4.0 advancements are driving intelligence to the edge in automated factory environments. Control at the edge is, in turn, decentralizing decision-making by opening up new possibilities for cyber-physical systems to make simple decisions on their own and become as autonomous as possible.
As machines, devices, sensors, and people get connected and communicate with each other, uptime and productivity levels benefit. At the heart of this manufacturing convergence are smart sensors that, courtesy of IO-Link technology, collect voluminous amounts of real-time data that enable the machines to act and react.
Growth in factory automation systems will only increase demand for smart sensors. From a power standpoint, designing these sensors comes with two big challenges: managing thermal requirements and shrinking the solution size. The trend is, after all, toward miniaturization, especially as intelligence moves to the edge. I’ll talk more about these issues at the upcoming Sensors Midwest conference, October 16-17 in Rosemont, Illinois.
Meanwhile, these issues around power and size are not limited to industrial environments. For power supplies supporting various applications, the same challenges apply. In a recent blog post, Bonnie Baker wrote about the trend toward smaller and lower power wireless local area network (WLAN) devices for the home. She suggests that the device that drives the power supply for WLAN devices contributes to the system’s footprint and thermal problems. Using a buck converter can result in a highly efficient power-supply solution, especially when compared with using a low-dropout regulator (LDO). Buck converters, however, typically involve a discrete inductor, which requires additional capacitors in order to fully implement the power-supply conversion—not exactly a PCB space-saving approach. Baker proposes a highly integrated buck converter module as an alternative to meet thermal and size requirements for WLAN devices.
Incidentally, Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC™ power modules fit the bill for the needs of compact, efficient power-supply designs. The modules integrate a synchronous wide-input Himalaya buck converter, which includes built-in FETs, compensation, and other functions, with an inductor. They deliver up to 90% peak efficiency in solution sizes of less than 15mm2. For example, the MAXM17532 4V-42V input step-down DC-DC power module supplies up to 100mA of load current and is available in a 2.6mm x 3mm x 1.5mm package. For more details, read my white paper, “Meeting the Efficiency and Power Dissipation Needs of Space-Constrained Applications.”
If you’re attending Sensors Midwest, be sure to come and hear my talk, “Powering Miniature Sensors,” from 11:10am to noon on Tuesday, October 16. I’ll discuss techniques that you can use to efficiently power increasingly tiny sensors reliably without overheating and also provide more insight into our uSLIC power modules. See you at the conference!