Amber looks to custom chip in deal with Infineon

July 06, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Amber looks to custom chip in deal with Infineon
Solid state switching startup Amber Solutions has signed a strategic partnership deal with Infineon.

The deal initially covers using the PSoC microcontroller acquired with Cypress Semiconductor and discrete power MOSFET devices and the two companies are exploring the integration and module options as well as a custom version of the PSoC, Steve Bakos, Senior Director, Switching Power for Infineon told eeNews.

The designs are aimed at replacing mechanical relays and switches in consumer power application such as plug sockets and LED dimmers and adding sensors and wireless links

“We happened to be using their technologies as part of our solutions so it was a matter of time before we showed them what we had. We have been validated by some very large companies and they have tested it,” said Thar Casey, founder and CEO of Amber Solutions.

“We started looking at the Amber technology a while back with a healthy dose of scepticism but we like what we se so we have been collaborating with Amber on how to bring the solutions to the wider market,” said Bakos. “It’s only a matter of time before circuit breakers move to solid state solutions.”

“We are working with the current implantation and we have challenges of getting to a monolithic piece of silicon, which is doable but not necessarily practical. So we are looking at how we do a multichip module (MCM) and we are working with Amber and their customer engagements to take the pieces of the technology puzzle and put them together but it will be a step by step process,” he said.

“The high voltage MOSFETs will stay off chip, with pSOC in two die package with the AC line interface,” said Bakos. “An Amber-specific PCoC variant is on the table, that’s part of the discussion.”

“The PSoC is the core intelligence and with that as a backbone we have a lot of ability to configure and customise for the customer base and intelligently go after the low hanging fruit,” he said. “Its not just a matter of the same package but there are thermal issues so there is lots of work ahead of us.”

Infineon also has Bluetooth and WiFi chips in its portfolio after the Cpress deal and leading security chips.

“Part of the equation down the road is connectivity, and this is a big piece of it, not just control of the power but access,” said Bakos. “We also have the security elements.” 

This could lead to a standard reference design and even a custom version of the PSOC controller.  

“The customer base so far understand the issues in the market. Sometimes they have overkill in their products but they all want to follow some kind of standard,” said Casey at Amber. “As long as it is across as many as possible we don’t have to worry about customisation of ASICs – we will have one with as many options as possible, starting with the dimmers initially, then with circuit breakers to 15A, and the wireless will be separate.”

“However we are not ready to discuss the detail of the software stack,” said Bakos. “We are validating the functionality and looking at the UK and IEC requirements for circuit breakers to satisfy the end markets.”

“We have 13 MoUs to date and 30 engagements in total,” said Casey. “These vary from early engagements with companies in Europe to others that are validating the technology and some are now starting to design what the final product will look like with market strategies.”

He is also willing to work with competitors that are coming to market with consumer high voltage switching systems.

“I will be able to help the competition improve their technology,” he said. “as long as I can sell silicon. If Infineon has a better relationship with a customer then let them lead the relationship, but naturally I prefer that they will come to us.”

www.ambersi.com; www.infineon.com

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