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Posted on 01 April 2019

Interview on Power Management Technology

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with Donald E. Paulus, Vice President and General Manager, Power Products, Linear Technology

By Bodo Arlt, Editor BPSD

 

Bodo Arlt: What end markets will drive Power Management technology?

Don Paulus: Linear Technology is engaged in a broad range of end markets, including networking and communications infrastructure, computing, industrial/medical, automotive, avionics and aerospace, and digital consumer. Each end market brings its own challenges that drive power management technology. In particular, we are excited about increasingly demanding applications in the automotive sector driven by growth in electronics systems ranging from advanced telematics and entertainment to solid state lighting to sophisticated ‘x-by-wire’ drive train and body control.

Bodo Arlt: What is Linear Technology’s position besides the wide range of discretes and the selected modules?

Don Paulus: Linear Technology has maintained a singular focus on high performance analog ICs since our founding 25 years ago. Our culture of continuous innovation and technical leadership has led to a broad portfolio of leading edge products including linear and switching DC/DC converters, battery chargers, LED and photoflash drivers, and display bias generators. Increasingly we are combining multiple functions into highly integrated ICs that provide all of the high performance power management functions required for the application. Recently we have championed the introduction of multichip microModule power supplies that provide complete DC/DC subsystems in an IC-like form factor to address high reliability and other space-constrained applications.

BodoArlt: What are the technologies that can offer innovation for leadership?

Don Paulus: Linear Technology has always been a design-driven company. We believe that world class design is a key determinant of innovation in high performance analog products, and we pride ourselves in maintaining the finest design team in the industry. In addition, since we are a vertically integrated company, Linear Technology is able to tailor a variety of specialized technologies to achieve optimum analog performance, including CMOS, BiCMOS, DMOS and Bipolar processes. We supplement these core strengths with in-house assembly and test operations to deliver outstanding value to our customers.

Bodo Arlt: Is it more in silicon, or is it part of packaging technology?

Don Paulus: In power management, package technology is increasingly important. In particular, the ability to deliver high power density and excellent thermal characteristics are key to product performance and reliability. At Linear Technology, our design team works side by side with in-house package engineering as well as outside suppliers to provide direction and feedback regarding the technologies needed to support our next generation designs. Further, while test technology is often overlooked, it too is an important factor in our ability to deliver industryleading products. Our many years of experience in developing high performance test solutions constitutes another competitive strength of Linear Technology.

Bodo Arlt: What makes Linear Technology different from traditional IC suppliers?

Don Paulus: Linear Technology differs from other suppliers in a number of respects. First, as I mentioned previously, we have a disciplined focus on high performance analog ICs. So we have optimized and targeted the company to serve this special market segment, and we are careful to avoid products and markets that do not leverage the performance we bring. Second, we are an engineering-driven company in that the strategic marketing and product planning functions rest with design engineering. We develop long term relationships with key customers and put senior designers and design managers into the field continuously in order to sleuth out impending trends and to quickly translate them into new products that will enable next-generation customer applications. And third, our goal is to be the supplier of choice for high performance analog across our broad customer base, both large and small. So we complement our products with the industry’s best quality and shortest production leadtimes and service our customers with a highly technical direct sales and applications team leveraged by strong distribution partners in every major market worldwide.

Bodo Arlt: How much is Linear Technology involved in the end customer’s application?

Don Paulus: Often very involved. Power management is a very applications-intensive business, and system cost and performance are dictated by factors ranging from choice of system architecture to component selection and board layout. But power expertise is increasingly limited, even at large systems companies. So the Linear Technology applications team provides a variety of tools to support our customers, including circuit simulators, product macromodels and related design tools, demonstration circuits and layouts, as well as direct design and problem solving support.

Bodo Arlt: How much is Linear Technology involved in motion applications using the advantage of high voltage IC technologies?

Don Paulus: Our in-house process technologies, both Bipolar and MOS-based, support voltages from less than 1V to more than 100V. These processes enable a wide range of applications that demand these voltage extremes. In particular, the transportation industry is an important target market, with tough requirements to support cold crank and load dump transients while providing clean power to sensitive digital ICs with high efficiency over a wide range of load conditions. Similarly, selected industrial applications, including process control, instrumentation and robotics value the same high voltage capabilities.

Bodo Arlt: What will be the target to introduce new products?

Don Paulus: New products are the life blood of Linear Technology. We have more than 7000 products in our portfolio and we do not obsolete them; we still sell products today that were introduced to the market almost 25 years ago. This year we will introduce over 200 new products, with power management representing more than half of that total. Further, instead of investing development resources on cost reduction efforts, we focus on new products that will extend the state of the art in performance or functionality, thereby providing system leverage for our customers.

Bodo Arlt: What will be the future for line voltage and driver technology in Linear Technology?

Don Paulus: In the networking and communications infrastructure markets we see a continuing trend away from multiple output AC/DC converters toward intermediate bus architectures which in turn drive the need for high performance point of load regulators to service the continuing proliferation of low voltage (sub-5V) power rails. At the same time, many applications demand wide input voltage capability to accommodate multiple input power sources. Increasingly even portable products must be compatible with power sources as diverse as single cell lithium batteries, USB ports, AC wall adapters and automotive power ports. Linear Technology offers a very broad product line to address these diverse market needs.

Bodo Arlt: Do we expect more monolithic solutions in power management?

Don Paulus: I believe that monolithic solutions will be attractive to more and more customers. Products with integrated power devices and synchronous rectification provide superior performance and power density while simplifying the power system design task. Integrated subsystem products, like Linear Technology’s microModule product line go a step further, providing ‘turnkey’ solutions that bring high performance power system design within the reach of digital and systems designers. But in the hands of a power design expert, discrete designs utilizing state of the art controllers and separate power stages may still offer the most flexible and cost-effective solutions. As a result, Linear Technology offers a full range of products with complexity ranging from simple DC/DC controllers to complete microModule power subsystems.

Bodo Arlt: Who are your competitors you believe will stimulate the race for leadership?

Don Paulus: We face different competitors in different markets. In the digital consumer market, for example, there are a number of companies that offer single function power management products with minimally acceptable performance at very low prices. At the other extreme, a different set of companies provides highly customized solutions with resultant compromises between solution size, complexity and performance. Linear Technology has chosen a unique path, focusing on the high performance power needs of targeted applications, and meeting those needs with elegant, highly integrated standard products. In the automotive market, on the other hand, we face a different, much smaller number of established competitors who also have the necessary infrastructure and global presence to overcome the significant barriers to entry. Here Linear’s quality focus, culture of continuous improvement and in-house operations are important assets, complementing our design innovation and applications know-how. Finally, in the broad industrial market we differentiate ourselves from a large set of competitors through product performance and our strong technical field sales and applications support.

Bodo Arlt: Are you ready for 2007?

Don Paulus: Absolutely. Over the past two years, Linear Technology has made major investments in our design and sales organizations. In design, we have increased our staff by more than 30%, including three new design centers in Phoenix and Dallas and our first European design center in Munich. Our expanded design capability will translate to an acceleration of new product introductions throughout 2007. Further, our growing geographic presence will enable us to stay even closer to our customers and to more quickly address their rapidly changing needs. Our larger sales and field applications force enables more focused support for our larger customers, as well as a greater reach to our broad base of smaller customers worldwide. After a relatively slow second half of 2006, we believe that we are well positioned for a very successful 2007.

Bodo Arlt: Thank you, Don, for your time and we look forward to a successful future for power management technology.

 

Don Paulus

Don Paulus

Vice President and General Manager, Power Management Products, Linear Technology Corporation

Mr. Paulus has served as Vice President and General Manager of Power Management Products since 2003, and has been with Linear Technology since 2001, initially as Director, Satellite Design Centers. Prior to joining Linear Technology, he was a founder of Integrated Sensor Solutions, Inc. (ISS), serving as Vice President of Engineering and Chief Operating Officer from 1990 to 1999. Following the acquisition of ISS in 1999 by Texas Instruments, Mr. Paulus served as TI’s General Manager, Automotive Sensors and Controls until 2001. Prior to ISS, Mr. Paulus held various engineering and management positions with Sierra Semiconductor, Honeywell Signal Processing Technologies and Bell Laboratories. Mr. Paulus holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Lehigh University, an MS in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and an MBA from the University of Colorado.

 

 

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