Power supply weight reduction, efficiency improvements, reliability improvements, hot-swap-ability and load sharing are the top concerns for aviation electronics (avionics) designers today. In the race to create safer, lighter, more fuel-efficient aircraft, every component must be considered, even the smallest electronic chip.
Efficiency is in the (Re)Design
Orchid Technologies Engineering & Consulting is an electronic hardware and firmware design and development company. Their primary business is to design custom electronic products for a variety of clients around the country. The company specializes in conceptualizing and developing solutions for their clients as well as redesigning previous or current projects to enable the avionics system to be as efficient, safe, and light as possible.
�A product may have been in an airplane for the last 10 or 15 years, and that airplane may still be in the air for another 10 years,� explains Paul Nickelsberg, president, Orchid Technologies. �Subsystems need to be redesigned and we're doing that all the time, and in aviation, the name of the name of the game is making them lighter.�
One of the areas that Orchid Technologies addresses is the battery systems. For instance, a current project, a primary energy system for a 747 aircraft, weighs 200 lb at the start. It was designed about 35 years ago, but needs some updates to meet today's standards. According to Nickelsberg, the part could probably be S as large and at least � as heavy as its current size and weight. But reducing the size may not be the solution they're looking for.
�So often with situations like that, we don't want to make it smaller, because it's going into somewhere that it fits,� he says. �But we do want to make it lighter, and that's always a winner. The envelope is fixed and the form fit and function is fixed, but the weight can be removed and sometimes the reliability can be improved.�
In circumstances such as this, it is often Orchid's challenge to reduce the weight but keep the size of the part. A primary way of reducing weight is switching battery technologies and the electronics to control them. Previously, backup power supplies were lead-acid based, and housed in stainless steel or some other heavy metal. Lead-acid batteries are rather heavy, and weight could be reduced by switching to lithium-ion batteries.
About 10 years ago, Orchid selected Linear Technology, Corp., a manufacturer of a broad line of high performance power controllers, as one of its primary vendors.. The two companies have continued to work together to bring efficient power supply designs to the market.
�Battery-charge cycling, power path control, ideal diode load sharing components, Field-Effect Transistor (FET) drivers � all of these components play a part in modern power system design,� states Joe Silk, area sales manager at Linear Technology. �We happily recommend Orchid Technologies to our power supply and analog component customers. Orchid has had a lot of experience using Linear Technology's products.�
It's not uncommon for Orchid to partner with Linear Technology to create parts that enable aerospace applications to yield more efficient results.
�As good as Linear Technology's parts are, when you're working day-to-day with them, it's often the case we think of features that that they may not have thought of. If they're trying to see how the market might respond, we can often offer some insight into that,� Nickelsberg says. �But I really think it's a two-way street. They're extremely helpful to us in suggesting a particularly well-suited device, maybe something we haven't seen. And the other way around, we're useful to them in showing them applications that they may not have thought of.�
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To view recent designs visit Orchid Technologies Engineering and Consulting, Inc., at http://www.orchid-tech.com or contact Paul Nickelsberg at 978-461-2000 X111.