For many years the rumored demise of the discrete semiconductor has been thrown around, says Joe Beck from Central Semiconductor. Everything’s going to be integrated into an IC. It’s all going away.
In fact, there’s more interest in discrete today than in the last 10 or 15 years, Beck says. When engineers try to squeeze every last drop of efficiency out of their design, the first place they look is the discrete. They’re the most energy hungry parts of any power supply or system.
Beck says he gets a lot of engineers looking for the discrete functionality they’ve had for many years, but in a form that is faster, smaller, and able to work more efficiently.
Beck also says there’s a lot of design work in the world of the discretes right now, more than people might think. Designers of discrete semiconductors are trying to optimize total conduction losses, forward/reverse and switching losses, and that is driving a lot of innovation on the silicon side.
On the packaging side, customers want smaller, more thermally efficient packages that can dissipate more energy in a smaller footprint, Beck says. That is easier said than done. Designers also want to integrate different types of functions into a single package. The usual reasons include to protect some IP, or to increase the thermal efficiency, or reducing parasitic elements by shrinking the distance between components.
The integration of semiconductors in the past was historically reserved for low power, small signal type applications. There is more demand now for medium powered devices integrated into a package, says Beck.