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IPMs – A Solution for Compact Motor Drive Applications?

Higher integration and more complex subsystems are some of the current mega trends in power electronics. Very popular are Intelligent Power Modules (IPM) for motor drive applications. They are a combination of power semiconductors like IGBTs, MOSFETs and diodes with peripheral components like driver circuits. If whole subsystems have a good match to applications, an IPM can bring a lot of unique benefits.

Transfer Molded IPMs

Very often IPMs are produced in a transfer molding process. The power semiconductors and other components are mounted on a lead frame. For isolation and protection everything is molded with plastic. The advantage of this technology is the simple production process. Disadvantages are the scale down limitation of the lead frame and the limited heat conductivity of the isolation material. The mechanical design also has some strong limitations. Typical applications are consumer products like white goods or low cost standard motor drives.

Thick-Film Technology

Another possibility for high integrated power electronics is the thick-film technology. Different layers of conduction and isolating materials are printed on a ceramic sheet. The layers can build tracks, pads, or resistors. Advantages of this technology are the good thermal conductivity and the possibility to create layouts similar to a PCB. The design of the housings and the pins have no limitation. Thick-film is a very mature technology. It is already in use for several years, especially in critical applications, e.g. at the automotive industry.

One thick-film based intelligent power modules is the flowIPM from Vincotech. This power module has power semiconductors for the rectifier and a 3- phase inverter, a complete driver circuit with bootstrap circuit and shunt resistors for current sensing all together in one package. Optional a PFC (Power Factor Correction) power stage is also integrated (MOSFET with driver, diode, and capacitor). Nearly all components which are working on grid voltage are integrated into the module.