Active-Semi remakes itself and power IC design - Embedded.com

Active-Semi remakes itself and power IC design

NEW YORK — Active-Semi, a Dallas-based fabless chip designer with roots in China, is seeking to remake itself though the introduction of a “power application controller” (PAC) platform featuring 32-bit ARM Cortex M0 processor integrated with the company's patented peripherals.

CEO Larry Blackledge claimed the new platform will “reinvent” the way the microcontrollers are designed into smart embedded systems today, especially for power electronics.

Along with the new platform, the company known for its power ICs announced a corporate makeover that includes a new management team and a commitment to new product categories.

The fabless chip company with offices in Dallas, San Jose, Shanghai and Hanoi, Vietnam, has beefed up its management team with several ex-TI executives.

Blackledge, for example, spent 22 years at TI, most recently as general manager and vice president of its mixed-signal IC business.

The brains behind Active-Semi’s patented tile-based analog array methodology at the heart of the PAC platform is Steven Huynh, the company’s founder and CTO. He spent seven years at Maxim.

The newest member of the Active-Semi team is Alex XuCheng Wang, executive vice president, who left TI last year after spending 15 years. At TI. he worked on several mixed-signal and system-on-chip product lines, including DaVinci video processors.

For China to create the “next Texas Instruments,” it needs to break out of the low-cost, low-margin, me-too product development so prevalent in China. Active-Semi is positioning itself to be that breakout company.

PAC offerings
Active-Semi’s Cortex M0-based PAC platform comes with all the building blocks necessary for power electronics, which can be reused in multiple system applications ranging from energy efficient home appliance to industrial controls and LED lighting to transportation.

PAC is a radical departure from conventional “bag of chips” approaches that are much more complex and costly, according to XuCheng Wang. Off-the-shelf chips are often “loose, and not a real fit” for power control and conversion designs, he added.

Such an approach requires extensive analog system integration knowledge and long development time, he explained. Active-Semi is essentially promising customers that PAC will simplify the development process and integrate analog and digital functions into a cost-effective system chip platform.

PAC also deviates from a traditional ASIC approach, usually a single application solution that “fits only one body size,” said XuCheng Wang. The problem is that power control and conversion applications come in many body sizes – for applications ranging from home appliances to industrial control, he added.

The key to the PAC platform was designing a scalable and flexible solution with optimized features for a number of pre-defined, different applications, XuCheng Wang explained.

Active-Semi claims that the PAC platform provides ease of use, a lower bill of materials and better performance in multiple system applications.

To read the rest of this article, go to “Tile technology.

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