Intersil narrows focus on power

Mark Downing Intersil

Intersil general manager Mark Downing

Intersil is going back to basics to turn around its balance sheet, so says general manager Mark Downing.

The strategy to become a wide-ranging catalogue analogue IC company has been curtailed, in favour concentrating on three power management sectors.

“We had focussed on power before, though we were spread too thin. We have really narrowed focus, and invested an amount of money in order to be successful,” said Downing. “It is a turn-around situation for the company. We had seen revenues decline. In the last year there has been a stabilisation in revenues.”

The company has been shaken up, with workforce reductions in operations, IT and sales support, and investment in R&D – 20% of revenue goes into R&D, the bulk of it into power management, he said.

The three sectors are: phones/tablets; computing infrastructure/industrial; and automotive/aerospace.

“There is growth potential in mobile and industrial and infrastructure power,” said Downing, pointing out that Intersil has a history multi-phase dc-dc converters, which are now appearing in portable consumer products. “We have 15 years in multi-phase dc-dc for high current, tight regulation and significant load transients. As voltage goes down, currents are going up. Mobile processors need 10-12A, and are already using multi-phase.”

He sees phones and tablets transitioning from stand-alone converter chips to more integrated PMICs (power management ICs). “In past, we were dealing with contract manufacturers in Taiwan. Now we are having design discussions with end-customers – the Apples and Lenovos – typically moving to customised solutions.”

For computing infrastructure, Intersil is designing all-digital converters base around the intellectual property it acquired with Zilker Labs. PMBus is included to allow power to be strategically throttled as data flows dictate.

“Data centre primary constraint is cost of supplying electricity and cooling, not installation any more. If we can increase efficiency by 1%, think how many more servers they can run in the data centre,” said Downing, pointing out that there are now up to 50 voltage rails that need converters in a system, no the 15 of old.

In automotive, the firm’s goal is to extend applications it has not been in before – infotainment, for example.

While in aerospace, it will aim primarily at satellites “We typically have $1,500 of content in every satellite shipped,” said Downing.

It retains its (formerly Harris) 0.6µm fab in Melbourn Florida for aerospace, which is being up-graded to 8in. Digital power is 0.13µm from external fabs.

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