methodical, and intelligent approach to the design process, not
just component selection or access to generic technical content.
Central to such design environments are simulation and modeling
capabilities that enable engineers to quickly focus on solutions
that meet their technical requirements and help predict how
alternative solutions will perform within the framework of their
specific design. During a design, requirements change frequently. Having access to an integrated tool helps designers keep pace
with the project.
More than a parts selector
Embedded power system designers are often bombarded with
information but are given little guidance. Having access to the
specifications for POL power modules and the various support
components that surround them is just the first step toward the
kind of functionality that engineers need in a comprehensive
design tool. A more capable toolset would encompass the entire
design environment that is typically encountered whenever a
POL power module is being designed into a system. Such an
environment would assist with the evaluation of the available
power modules that meet the requirements of the design and
would guide the designer through the rest of the process of
selecting, evaluating, simulating, and analyzing the probable
performance of the external components that will be required.
Lastly, the environment should be able to illustrate the schematic
of the complete power supply design, capture the bill of materials and encapsulate the full design content so it can be shared
with the rest of the design team.
As a first step, a more helpful design tool would start by get-
ting the designer in the right neighborhood of appropriate power
modules based on the objective electrical and environmental
specifications of the application. So, for example, if the engineer
were to provide the electrical requirements — such as the input
and output voltages, number of outputs, current level — as well
as environmental requirements like typical temperature, mini-
mum airflow, and space restrictions to the design tool, it would
produce an extensive list of power modules to consider.
Adding several subjective preferences that the designer might
have in mind can narrow the field further. For example, the tool
might ask the developer to make a judgment call across a range of
possible responses on the importance of certain criteria such as
cost, area, and efficiency. The tool would then order modules that
meet the objective electrical and environmental requirements by
the previously identified subjective criteria.
Simulation capabilities built into the design environment
would help the engineer evaluate whether the values and tolerances of the power modules being considered operate within the
bounds of the design’s requirements. For example, the designer
might be interested in the relationship between the maximum
current outputs of the power modules being considered and the
environmental requirements of the design. Alternatively, he/she
might want to take a closer look at the efficiency of the power
modules given the specific electrical design requirements.
These simulations help engineers understand the tradeoffs
between design requirements, as well as the tolerances and costs
of the power solutions — which include complementary external
devices such as resistors and capacitors. For instance, the tool
might alert the designer when a resistor with unnecessarily tight
tolerances is selected. This might be a case of over-design —
which could drive up the cost of the system — where a resistor
with looser tolerances would suffice.
Once all of the components have been selected, a comprehensive
design environment should automatically integrate the actual
power supply circuitry and generate the schematics. At this
point, powerful analytics would predict how the supply would
Figure 1. This module selector page showing possible module solutions that meet the electrical, environmental and ranking requirements
provided by the user.
Figure 2. This schematic page displays electrical circuit, based on the
selected module and external components. Simulation tool icons and
names are listed above the schematic.
The designer might be interested in the relationship between the maximum current outputs of the
power modules being considered and the environmental requirements of the design.