Particularly with the boom in wireless devices, power management issues present more challenges than ever.
"Most designs require power, yet engineers often leave power supplies to the last minute," notes Jeff Perry, Internet Marketing Manager responsible for new National Semiconductor web tools for solving power management problems.
As Perry sees it, few companies have power specialists, yet the issues keep getting more complicated: increasing power requirements in smaller footprints; heat buildup; idle time management on wireless devices; the need to put more power control functions on a chip.
To help engineers cope, National Semiconductor has established a special website (www.power.national.com). It offers news, tutorials, discussion forums, and technical support on power management. The site also contains WEBENCH 3.0, an interactive collection of tools that help engineers simulate a power management system. Engineers input the system specifications and get a suggested list of parts that fit the application. WEBENCH will automatically generate possible designs, along with specifications on each part. Also included is Flomerics' WebTHERM, which simulates the heat generated in a power supply board and outputs a thermal image of the board.
Through a special "Build It" feature on the site, engineers can get a custom prototype kit within 48 hours. National will even supply a fully-assembled prototype board, including initial testing, for just $80.
Perry notes that WEBENCH is helping engineers design about 4,000 boards a month, with applications ranging from handheld devices to refrigeration units. He estimates that engineers using all the tools can save as much as 40 hours in design, simulation, and board construction. "We can keep you out of the thermal lab and save you the hassles of soldering prototype boards," says Perry.
National cites the example of Escape Communications, which needed to supply power to a DSP board for a new TV set-top box. The board layout had a sizeable portion related to power supply and power conditioning—not the company's core competency. Using WEBENCH, Escape saved days in design work and months in implementation. Great testimony to the value of web-based design tools.