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Trends And Challenges In High-Voltage Power Supply Design
By David G. Morrison, How2Power Today, Power Supply Jobs & Technology section, November 2013

High voltage (HV) power supplies represent a distinct segment within the merchant power supply market with a relatively small number of companies serving this niche. But despite this niche label, HV power supplies serve a rather diverse set of applications across a wide range of voltage and power levels. X-ray, ion beam implantation, electron microscopy, mass spectrometry, medical laser, electron beam welding, and thermal printing are just a few of the many areas requiring these specialized supplies. The HV power supplies also encompass a wide range of voltage and power levels, employ different communications protocols, have electronics floating on HV outputs, and incorporate special protection features. Naturally, the design of these HV power products requires very specialized knowledge. Earlier this year I spoke with Dave Hopkins, director of engineering at HiTek Power about the various technical trends and challenges encountered in the development of HV supplies. He provided his insights on the technical, application, and engineering factors that influence HV power supply development today including the impact of new technologies such as digital control methods and silicon carbide semiconductors. Read the full article»


Growth of HVDC Power Transmission Should Bring Challenges and Opportunities For Power Electronics Engineers
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, July 2012

Over the last 50 years, high-voltage dc (HVDC) power transmission has made tremendous progress. As the technology improved and design challenges were overcome, voltages and power levels rose, while newer systems became smaller in size and offered greater control over power flow. Meanwhile, the time and manpower required to design HVDC power systems has greatly decreased. Nevertheless, growing demands for energy have increased the number of HVDC systems being designed and implemented, suggesting there will an ongoing need for more engineers in this field, including the power electronics (PE) engineers who design the multi-megawatt-scale ac-dc and dc-ac power converters that are at the heart of these systems. In this Power Supply Jobs & Technology feature, Roger Critchley, Head of Power Electronics at Alstom Grid’s Technology Centre, discusses at length the history of this field and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for current and future generations of PE engineers.  Read the full article»


Wireless Power Emerges As New Field for Power Supply and Electromagnetics Design
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, June 2012

The large number of companies now developing wireless power products suggests that this is an area that may generate new career opportunities for power electronics (PE) engineers in the years ahead. For PE engineers interested in this field, it may be encouraging to learn that the power supply topologies, design techniques, and components being deployed in wireless power applications are generally similar to those PE engineers have been working with in other applications. However, there are some wireless-specific design challenges such as the design of transmitting and receiving coils, which creates a fundamental requirement for electromagnetics modeling and simulation. In this column, two developers of proprietary technologies—Wireless Power & Communication AS and WiTricity Corp.— share their insights on the design challenges encountered in their applications and the types of engineering skills that they and their customers rely on to create wireless power solutions.  Read the full article»


PE Engineers Face Common Challenges In Motor Drive Design
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, April 2012

Motors drives represent a truly diverse field encompassing many different application areas-- everything from aerospace to appliances, automotive to industrial, and more. But despite the many disparities among the end products, certain motor drive requirements and design issues are shared by power electronics (PE) engineers working on different motor-drive applications. These design requirements and issues include the demand for higher efficiency, whether to design with modular or discrete components, preparing for the arrival of GaN and SiC devices, and learning how to apply advanced control methods. In this article, two engineers knowledgeable about the development of motion control ICs and their applications explain how these issues are among the biggest motor-drive design challenges for PE engineers. (See pages 51-54 of the source PDF.) Read the full article»


Power Electronics Engineers In The Solar Inverter Industry: Salary And Hiring Trends
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, April 2012

In this 5-minute presentation, I discuss salary and hiring trends in the solar inverter industry. To begin, I look at growth in the solar power industry and how this growth has produced numerous opportunities for power electronics engineers within companies that manufacture solar power inverters. With that as background, I present the results of a survey of solar inverter companies in which they were asked about the salaries they offer power electronics engineers and other EEs, the relative difficulty of hiring power electronics engineers, and plans for hiring of these engineers in the next five years.  Read the full article»


A Diverse Drives Market Depends On PE Engineers
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, March 2012

The market for industrial drives encompasses a wide range of motor and motion control applications. From fractional horsepower to 1000+ hp motors with widely varying voltage levels and wide-ranging control requirements, industrial drives must serve a broad spectrum of needs in powering all types of industrial machinery. On top of this diversity, there are some common market pressures that add to the challenge of designing and manufacturing industrial drives. These include demands for high efficiency, high reliability, long life expectancy, small size, electromagnetic compliance (EMC), and low cost. In this article, executives from Emerson and Rockwell Automation discuss how power electronics (PE) engineers who develop industrial drives are working to evaluate and deploy the latest generation of power semiconductors, and to apply new topology options such as active front ends. (See pages 41-47 of the source PDF.) Read the full article»


High-Speed Systems Pose Many Power Design Challenges
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, February 2012

For many designers, there are growing challenges in the design of power supplies for high-speed circuits. I recently spoke with Steve Sandler about the issues power designers need to consider when powering RF and high-speed digital circuits. As a chief engineer with AEi Systems, Sandler has developed extensive expertise in the design and analysis of both power and RF systems. Sandler is also the managing director of Picotest, a company specializing in precision test equipment, and as such he raises many issues that concern test and measurement of both power and RF systems. In this article, we discuss Sandler’s list of the top 10 considerations for power designers working with RF or high-speed digital applications. (See pages 44-46 of the source PDF.) Read the full article»


PV Systems And Inverter Engineering Teams Are Scaling Up
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, December 2011

For engineers interested in the potential impact that a growing photovoltaic (PV) industry could have on their career opportunities, the pool of current job openings in this field provides another barometer of how much PV equipment manufacturers expect the industry to grow. In this column, we once again focus on the opportunities for power electronics (PE) engineers within solar inverter companies. In a previous column, we discussed the technical requirements and experience sought by manufacturers for these types of positions. Here, we’ll discuss some of the market trends that will influence the types of solar inverter design challenges PE engineers will be called on to address in the years ahead. (See pages 44-46 of the source PDF.)  Read the full article»


Power Design Remains Core Competence in Satellite Industry
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, November 2011

For satellite manufacturers, power system design is still considered a core competency too vital to the product’s success to delegate to others. Their equipment must operate in the hostile environment of space for well over a decade without faults or failures that would result in satellite downtime. A satellite’s power system must be optimized for highest efficiency and lowest power losses, in large part to minimize the system’s size and mass. One engineer who has a bird’s eye view of all the design challenges is Robert Lyon, a systems engineering manager at Space Systems/Loral. Lyon’s descriptions of the issues that drive power system design for satellites illustrate why there continue to be opportunities for power electronics engineers in this field.(See pages 46-49 of the source PDF.) Read the full article»


Ultrasound Poses Ultimate Test of Low-Noise Design Skills
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, October 2011

As in many other industries, companies in the medical equipment field that once designed and built their own ac-dc power supplies, now turn to power supply and contract manufacturers to develop and produce them. However, in these applications, the task of power design does not end with specification of the ac-dc supply, as there are significant power conversion challenges at the board-level. Examples of these challenges can be found in ultrasound imaging equipment where designers face exceptionally tough requirements for noise control in a product one industry expert describes as “the world’s most sensitive receiver.” This article discusses how the requirement for low noise influences many aspects of power design in ultrasound equipment. (See pages 46-49 of the source document.) Read the full article»


Aspiring Power Electronics Engineers Must Master Four Aspects Of Converter Design
By Dennis Feucht, Innovatia Laboratories, Cayo, Belize, August 2011

Power converters are not trivial to design. They involve analog and digital circuits; discrete-time, sampled feedback loops; parasitic elements in components that significantly affect circuit behavior; and control models of the nonlinear element (the PWM switch) that have taken decades to refine. In all, power electronics is one of the most demanding areas of electronics. This article presents a brief overview of power converter design, describing four essential aspects of this activity—circuit waveforms, magnetics, parasitic resonance, and control—and highlighting some of the complexities of converter design. This article will also point out some of the skills engineers need to overcome converter design challenges.  Read the full article»




Power Electronics Engineers Move EVs And Hybrids Forward With Cost-Cutting Innovations
By David G. Morrison, How2Power Today, Power Supply Jobs & Technology section, August 2011

With the rise of the plug-in vehicle and hybrid vehicle markets, the requirements for automotive power electronics continue to grow and create opportunities for power electronics engineers. These opportunities can be found at mainstream car companies and their suppliers, as well as at the many electric vehicle startups. By working to develop the power systems that are at the heart of EVs, HEVs, and plug-in hybrids, power electronics engineers are helping to address societal needs for more-fuel-efficient vehicles. In doing so, their main challenge is driving down the costs of the power systems as part of the larger effort to make EVs and hybrids more affordable. This overarching need to reduce cost influences many aspects of power electronics engineering in electric and hybrid vehicle design, as Gary Cameron, the interim general director of Advanced Engineering and Business Development at Delphi, discussed in a recent conversation.  Read the full article»


Wind Turbine Makers Turn to Power Electronics Engineers for Robust Solution
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, June 2011

A global wind power industry that has experienced rapid growth over the past decade predicts much more of the same in the years ahead. Power electronics engineers, who play a critical role in this industry in helping to develop wind turbines, can expect increasing demand for their skills as the turbine manufacturers gear up to meet the technical challenges of the wind power marketplace. This article discusses forecasts for growth in wind power including market share among major turbine manufacturers, trends in wind power R&D spending, and challenges in the development of power electronics for wind turbines. (See pages 48-50 of the source PDF.)  Read the full article»


Power Electronics Engineers Can Build Diverse Project Portfolio In EMS Industry
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, June 2011

As power electronics engineers find themselves in high demand in many industries, there’s one option that offers them a different experience than they’re likely to obtain working for most OEMs. This industry may allow them to work on a broader range of projects, get involved in different levels of product specification and design, and focus more on the details of getting products to market quickly as opposed to R&D-related activities. And despite the emphasis on getting products into production, engineers in this industry are still expected to keep up with newer power technologies that provide performance and cost advantages in the marketplace. In this column, executives at Jabil discuss the role of power electronics engineers in the electronics manufacturing services (EMS) industry, how their work differs from that of engineers in OEM companies, and the skills and experience valued in this industry.  Read the full article»


The Promise of Solid-State Lighting Depends On the Prowess of Power Electronics Engineers
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, May 2011

Lighting manufacturers and others involved in the development of solid-state lighting (SSL) or LED lighting are working to accelerate the acceptance of SSL in both markets. They’re doing so through their efforts to drive down the cost of LED replacement bulbs, while also developing new styles of cost-competitive lighting products that more fully take advantage of the LED’s unique optical, electrical, and mechanical properties. One aspect of driving down the cost of LED lighting is reducing the expense associated with the LED driver circuit. I recently spoke with engineering executives from two lighting companies about this and other technical challenges they face in the development of power electronics (PE) for LED lighting. (See pages 45-47 of the source PDF.) Read the full article»


Digital Power Control Impacts Power Design on Many Levels (Part 2)
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, May 2011

Last month, we discussed the impact of digital power supply controller ICs on power design, both as it affects requirements for design skills at the chip level as well as at the power supply and power system levels. In this column, we explore some of the effects of DSC/DSP-based power supply and power system design on engineers working in these areas. We’ll also look at some of the general requirements for power designers working with digital power control, and how future technology developments may impact power design work involving both dedicated digital power controllers and DSPs/DSCs.  Read the full article»


Rap Session Wrap Up: APEC Panelists Explore Social Media As Cure For Corporate Hiring Woes
By Kevin Parmenter, Power Sources Manufacturers Association, Phoenix, Ariz., April 2011

In the September 2010 issue, guest columnist Kevin Parmenter wrote about his frustration with corporate hiring systems that make it difficult for technology driven companies to find talented engineers and for talented engineers to land rewarding jobs. During the recent APEC 2011 conference, Kevin had the opportunity to moderate a rap session on this very topic. The session allowed him to compare his experiences as a hiring manager and a job applicant with the experiences of other engineers, learn from recruiting experts why such hiring systems exist, and discuss possible solutions to the current bad practices in hiring. In this article, Kevin reports what he and other rap session participants learned during their lively discussion.  Read the full article»


Digital Power Control Impacts Power Design on Many Levels (Part 1)
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, March 2011

Use of digital power control is on the rise as it finds its way into more and more applications, a wider range of power levels, and even high-volume applications where cost barriers may have prevented its entry in the past. Although volumes are still low for many digital power designs, the field is growing and as it does, it is changing the way power components, power supplies, and power systems are designed. Consequently, the mix of skills required to design these products is also changing. In the first part of this article, we’ll look at the impact of digital power supply controller ICs on the types of skills and experience required in power design. (See pages 46-50 of source PDF.) Read the full article»


HP Employs Multiple Disciplines and Collaborative Approach To Optimize Power Utilization Across The Data Center
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, March 2011

The quest for more energy-efficient data centers profoundly affects the way IT equipment, software, and systems are developed. At IT equipment companies such as Hewlett-Packard (HP), energy and power consumption issues are being addressed across all the different levels of product development. In this installment of Power Supply Jobs & Technology, engineering executives in HP’s Enterprise Business division, describe how the quest for greater energy efficiency creates varied opportunities for engineers with power electronics (PE) expertise, how PE engineers within HP require different backgrounds and skillsets to enable collaboration, and how technical requirements have been changing. The HP executives also discuss some steps their company is taking to meet staffing challenges.  Read the full article»


Forecasted Growth For Wind Power May Whip Up Demand for PE Engineers
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, January 2011

A study published last fall by the Global Wind Energy Council and Greenpeace International forecasts that wind power could generate up to 12% of the world’s electricity by 2020 and as much as 22% by 2030, given the adoption of favorable energy policies. If the reality comes close to these predictions, there should be great opportunities in the wind turbine industry for power electronics (PE) engineers. In this article, I highlight a few of the technical requirements for PE engineers working in this field and present example listings of current opportunities at various wind turbine manufacturers.  Read the full article»


Solar Inverter Industry Offers Talented Engineers the Chance to Shine
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, December 2010

As manufacturers of solar power inverter gear up to meet the growing demands for their products, many are expanding their engineering teams through hiring of additional power electronics (PE) engineers and other electrical engineers (EEs). Manufacturers are looking for both new grads and experienced engineers with strong theoretical and practical knowledge, and in some cases, experience with high-reliability design. Competition for good candidates is said to be very strong due to competition within the solar inverter industry and from other industries. In this article, I share my discussion with executives at Enphase Energy and Eltek Valere who described the requirements and opportunities for power electronics engineers and other EEs in the solar inverter industry. (See pages 47-50 of source PDF.)  Read the full article»


Working With Recruiters: What Engineers and Employers Need to Know
By Kevin Parmenter, Power Sources Manufacturers Association, Phoenix, Ariz., December 2010

If you’re an engineer working in industry, at some point there’s a good chance you’ll encounter a recruiter trying to fill an engineering position at a company. Your encounter with recruiters can either be a positive or negative experience, depending not only on what the recruiter says or does for you, but also on what you—the potential job applicant—say or do with respect to the recruiter. In this edition of Power Supply Jobs & Technology, guest columnist Kevin Parmenter gives you guidelines to avoid the potential pitfalls of working with recruiters, how to identify the good ones, and other tips to make the recruiting experience work well for you. Parmenter also shares his advice for how companies can work productively with recruiters. Read the full article»




Communications Field Calls On Analog Designers and Power Specialists
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, November 2010

In the communications field as in other industries, many companies have jettisoned their power supply design teams and outsourced their work. These companies still need some hardware designers who can address power supply issues, but their design responsibilities tend to be broader than just power. Moreover, the de-emphasis of power supply design within the communications equipment companies has placed more of the burden of power design on the shoulders of the power supply and IC vendors, which may lead to greater opportunities for power electronics engineers at those companies. In this article, I discuss these trends and their implications with two engineering recruiters. (See pages 57-59 of source PDF.) Read the full article»


Networking Giant Still Understands The Value Of Power Electronics Engineers
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, November 2010

It’s said that many companies in the telecom and datacom industry no longer have dedicated power supply teams, or if they do—their size has been reduced considerably from years past. But at least one networking equipment manufacturer still maintains a sizable staff of engineers devoted to power electronics. That company is Cisco Systems. I recently spoke with the manager of one of Cisco’s power engineering teams about the type of work his engineers do and what his team looks for when filling new positions.  Read the full article»


Medical Power Supply Vendors Rely on General Practitioners to Craft Their Products
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, October 2010

As medical applications for electronics expand, the requirements for medical - grade power supplies also grow. According to market analysts, ac-dc power supplies for medical applications account for approximately S455 million to $640 million in worldwide revenue with somewhere around 4% growth in this revenue expected over the next few years. Although this growth rate is not spectacular, it is considered steady and said to be higher than other segments of the industrial power supply market. However, power supply manufacturers must confront the challenges of shrinking profit margins for medical power supplies. This article discusses the impact of industry trends on opportunities and requirements for designers of medical-grade power supplies. (See pages 64-66 of source PDF.) Read the full article»


Bad HR Processes Stymie Efforts To Hire Talented Engineers
By Kevin Parmenter, Power Sources Manufacturers Association, Phoenix, Ariz., October 2010

"Companies often state that their number one business concern is finding, attracting and retaining the right talent in their organizations,” writes guest columnist Kevin Parmenter in this edition of Power Supply Jobs & Technology. But as Kevin explains, the hiring systems and processes that companies have put into place make us wonder whether these organizations really mean what they say about the importance of attracting and retaining the right people. A long-time semiconductor industry veteran who currently serves on the board of directors of the Power Sources Manufacturers Association, Kevin shares his experiences and frustrations as a manager trying to deal with these hiring systems. He also suggests common-sense alternatives to the current practices, which threaten to derail many engineering-driven companies Read the full article»


Big Power Challenges in Little Products Create Opportunities for Power Specialists
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, September 2010

Manufacturers of portable devices such as smart phones, portable media players, and laptops are continually driven to make these products more sophisticated. The latest gadgets must always offer more functionality and better performance, while maintaining the small form factors and the same or longer battery life. To meet these challenges requires engineers with experience in power system design. In the past, many of these engineers worked for the portable device OEMs. But over time, these companies have come to rely on the semiconductor vendors to provide power system design expertise in the form of IC solutions. This article discusses semiconductor industry requirements for the IC designers and field application engineers (FAEs) who develop and support power management ICs for portable applications.  Read the full article»


Corporate Recruiting of Graduating Engineers: Many Factors Influence Hiring, Consortiums Offer Companies An Edge
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, August 2010

In last month’s Power Supply Jobs and Technology column, I discussed trends in corporate recruiting of graduates from power electronics (PE) programs, focusing mainly on the types of companies that are recruiting these engineers and the level of demand for these engineers. In this issue, I’ll explore the technical requirements that may influence recruiting. I’ll also touch on the impact of industry consortiums, and how their support of PE programs gives them an advantage in the recruiting process.  Read the full article»


Universities See Continued Demand For Graduates Of Power Electronics Programs
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, July 2010

In this column I usually explore opportunities in power electronics from an industry perspective. I typically speak with recruiters and engineering managers in a particular industry such as automotive and ask them about their requirements for power electronics (PE) engineers. This time, I went searching for a different perspective, that of the universities who are graduating engineers from dedicated power electronics programs. The message I have been hearing from industry is that such power electronics programs are too few and they are not producing enough power electronics engineers to go around—at least not in the U.S. In speaking with staff and faculty at a few American universities, I hoped to find out whether this demand was reflected in the recruiting of their graduates. I also wanted to get some insights into the types of companies or industries that were recruiting PE engineers, and whether there were any emerging trends in that regard. And finally, I was curious about what impact if any, the recession has had on corporate efforts to attract these new engineers.  Read the full article»


Opportunities in Portable Power Management
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, June 2010

An update of the jobs listings in “Big Power Challenges in Little Products Create Opportunities for Power Specialists.”  Read the full article»


Mil/Aerospace Industry: A Unique Environment For Power Electronics Engineers
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, May 2010

Reliability is a factor in the design of any power supply. If the power supply fails, the system goes down. In some applications, a system failure might merely cause inconvenience or a loss of business. But in military and aerospace applications, a failure of the power system could be life-threatening, or endanger the mission. So given its critical role in these applications, it’s natural that the associated power electronics design jobs present unique engineering challenges as well as unique hiring challenges. Engineers with design experience in power electronics will be better equipped to take advantage of opportunities in this industry, if they understand the employers’ requirements and expectations.  Read the full article»


Power Magnetics Designers: Their Skills Grow More Important and Scarce
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, March 2010

In industries like automotive, you find examples of how demanding power electronics applications create a need for very sophisticated magnetic component designs, which in turn create requirements for highly skilled magnetics designers. Although even big organizations like automotive electronics manufacturers may not be hiring these engineers in large numbers, the importance of their work and the scarcity of their skills can distinguish an experienced magnetics designer as an engineering VIP. But just about all engineers who work in power electronics have some experience with magnetics, so what sets apart the magnetics design guru from the crowd. And why with all of these advances in design tools is it so important for some companies to have an expert magnetics designer? Also, if they’re so important, why aren’t there more of them?  Read the full article»


Lighting Company Takes a Shine to Power Electronics Engineers
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, February 2010

If you prefer dealing with human resources managers who don’t have a clue about power electronics, and can’t tell a power supply designer apart from any other EE, then please stay away from Maureen Crawford. And if you’re comfortable with HR personnel who have difficulty stifling a yawn as they skim your resume, then steer clear of Crawford. She’s just going to be too interested in your resume and how you might help her company solve the next lighting-design challenge. For more on opportunities for power electronics engineers in lighting, read the rest of the story.  Read the full article»




Hybrid Vehicles Drive New Demands for Power Electronics Expertise
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, January 2010

Hybrid electric vehicle technology is changing the way automobiles are designed. It’s also changing the mix of engineering skills that automakers and their suppliers need to design and build cars. While electronics content has been growing in vehicles for decades, the introduction of HEVs has greatly increased the need for power electronics as the technology requires inverters, dc-dc converters, battery chargers and battery management circuits, motion control circuits, and other power management circuitry. But what do job listings mean to PE specialists who have been working in other segments of the electronics industry? Or to recent graduates of engineering programs? To get some answers I spoke with engineering managers and directors at a few automotive companies to get a broader picture of their requirements.  Read the full article»


Power Supply Vendors Seek Fundamental Knowledge, But Truly Value the Specialists
By David G. Morrison, Editor, How2Power.com, November 2009

Many of the power supply products formerly designed in the U.S. are now designed abroad. To get a sense of the opportunities that exist for electronics engineers within the power supply industry.,I spoke with executives at a number of power supply companies as well as some industry veterans who are currently unaffiliated. These executives discussed what engineering positions they found hardest to fill and what skills or knowledge they sought in new hires. Much of this discussion relates to engineering work in the U.S. However, because of the global nature of the business, the discussion also touches on engineering opportunities for power electronics specialists in other countries. Part 1 of 2.  Read the full article»




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