While the need for circuit protection dates back to the origin of electronic devices, circuit protection devices have evolved to meet new technology demands. Circuit protection provides reliability and remains mission-critical in the product lifecycle. If a device experiences damaging surges of voltage or current caused by lightning strikes, electrostatic discharge (ESD) or inductive load switching, it can lead to end-of-life for the device. Circuit protection also helps guarantee safety as it protects from catastrophic events that could cause fires.
The need for circuit protection has always been there, but the applications in which the components are used have evolved. The transportation industry is an excellent example. The electronic content in vehicles is growing six percent per year, and electronics currently make up 35 percent of the production cost of a vehicle. Electronic circuits power things like vehicle infotainment, seat motors, on-board computers, electronic windows and more - that is a lot of electronic collateral to protect from surges.
Industrial lighting is another industry that has increased demand for circuit protection. Back in the day, incandescent bulbs were the norm and didn’t require substantial protection. Now everything from streetlights to stadium lighting and advertising signs use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and sensitive integrated circuits (ICs) to drive or power those LEDs. Both the LEDs and the drivers are much more susceptible to damaging overvoltage and overcurrent surges.
Another trend influencing new circuit protection product development is miniaturization. We see this in every industry from healthcare to industrial power supplies to transportation – everything is getting smaller and lighter, with more features packed in. As manufacturers continue to miniaturize ICs that cater to this tiny electronic trend, the downside is that the ICs have become more susceptible to transient surges. Where circuit protection was once thought of as a secondary or even tertiary consideration, it is now often a critical component.