My Opinion on Evaluating the Latest Tools & Hardware

Richard Nass

March 1, 2013

3 Min Read
My Opinion on Evaluating the Latest  Tools & Hardware

It's always a fun week for me when a product shows up at my door for evaluation. This week, it was twice as good, as I received an eval version of the Autodesk Product Design Suite and three separate eval boards from Intersil. Alas, there are but 24 hours in a day.

First, hats off to the folks who put the Autodesk eval kit together. It has a little bit of the Apple feel to it. It's in a small box, with innovative packaging, like an iPhone. When you open the box, there's a nicely packaged, stylish USB memory stick that contains all the necessary files. Note to self: don't throw away the packaging as it contains the product key that's needed to unlock the software.

OK, anybody can create a nice package, box, etc. Of course, it's what's inside that's really important. And this package did not disappoint. I'm far from an expert with the Autodesk software, but that did not prove to be an issue. I was up and running pretty quickly.

I went through the various packages within the suite and took a shot at designing a few components. The libraries that are at your disposal are pretty extensive. There's also a ton of tutorial-type data with live conversations, should you find yourself needing help (which I did on multiple occasions). I imported a bunch of stuff and developed an interesting product that likely wouldn't serve for anything more than a cool doorstop. But it gave me a good feel for the power of this tool suite. I'm sure if I had a little more time I could have designed the next groundbreaking widget (think Gadget Freak). But that'll have to wait.

The three eval boards from Intersil are a little closer to my wheelhouse. They are all based on the same IC, the ISL8225M 30A dc-to-dc power module. I must admit I did a double-take when I saw "30A" engraved into the board. I'm accustomed to seeing modules this size operate well below 5A. In fact, one of the modules holds three separate dc-to-dc converters, and is capable of handling 90A. Hence, I had to move from my desktop to my workbench where a higher power supply is available in a safer environment.

The way the module is constructed, it makes it very easy to evaluate the converter chip. I went through two of the three modules, what is likely the simplest and the most complex, although complexity is relative because all three boards are very simple to put through their paces. The ISL8225MEVAL3Z contained the one chip and a bunch of passives on the underside. The ISL8225MEVAL2Z looked similar, just with three of everything.

I fired up the two modules with the designated voltage and current, and thankfully didn't burn anything down. I could honestly say that if I was planning to build some type of industrial equipment, these eval boards would simplify the power component selection process.

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