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Yaskawa invests $4m in GaN firm to boost next-gen drives

22 December, 2020

The Japanese drive and robot manufacturer Yaskawa is investing $4m in Transphorm, a Californian pioneer in gallium nitride (GaN) power semiconductors, with the aim of using GaN to enhance the performance of the next generation of power conversion systems, including servodrives and variable-speed drives. The two companies have entered a multi-year cooperation and development agreement, expanding on a co-operation initiated in 2017, when Yaskawa invested $15m in Transphorm.

“The device development under this contract will further enhance the specifications of Transphorm’s products,” says the company’s co-founder and chief technology officer, Umesh Mishra. “These enhanced product features will make our new GaN products appealing for servodrives for robotics and motion control, as well as a broader range of industrial and white goods applications.”

Transphorm designs and produces high-performance GaN semiconductors for high-voltage power conversion applications. It holds more than 1,000 patents covering these technologies which, it claims, are moving power electronics beyond the limitations of silicon to achieve efficiencies above 99%, as well as boosting power densities by 40% and cutting system costs by 20%.

In 2017, Yaskawa launched the world’s first servomotor with a built-in amplifier equipped with GaN devices. By integrating the motor and amp, the Sigma-7 motors were half the size of the amplifier part of a conventional servodrive, resulting in smaller, more efficient drive systems. A 400W version these integrated drives is just 170mm long and 70mm tall.

In multi-axis applications, up to eight servo amplifiers in a control panel can be replaced by a single convertor, allowing the smaller panels to be used. And using a single DC link to power the amplifiers allows regenerative energy to be shared between the motors. In addition, the ability of the amplifiers to operate at frequencies above the audible range reduces irritating high-frequency servomotor noise. A further advantage is that the amplifier is IP65 protected, like the motor, allowing the combined motor-amps to be used in locations where water may be present.

Several of Yaskawa’s Sigma-7 servomotor-amplifiers can be linked to a single control panel converter to create multi-axis applications

GaN materials can operate at higher temperatures than silicon-based devices and, compared to devices based on SiC materials, they have stronger dielectric breakdown field strengths, and offer higher rates of electron mobility. Because of these characteristics, combined with their low losses and high-speed switching capabilities, Yaskawa has high hopes for further GaN applications.

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TransphormTwitter  LinkedIn 

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