Power Modules presents some innovative thinking Anders Sellin, strategic product manager at Flex

for designing power electronics with software T

several manufacturers have developed o support digital power modules,

design support software for electronics designers. These software suites are

While configuring individual modules is significant amount of functionality. manufacturer’s devices, but share a naturally tailored to a particular

clearly important to getting any system

overview of the whole power systemand running, designers need a complete

how themodules are interacting to understand any issues that need to be addressed. Modern power development software recognises this and provides advanced functionality that will support the process fromprototype to production. Software is generally run on a host PC

the power systemvia a common bus such and communicates bidirectionally with

as PMBus. USB adapters are available for this purpose, enabling rapid and reliable

Most software works on the basis of a connections.


oject’, and the first step for designers is to establish the proj

first step in the workflow is to build the systemby selecting each of the devices

‘offline’, and devices are selected froma within it. This work is all completed

manufacturer-supplied library that is

available frommost manufacturers, a Given the vast number of products embedded within the software.

product search function is usually available. This will allow search by part number if this is already known, but other searches such as product type, output voltage/power or feature/function

software will ensure that all of the latest often available. Regularly updating the as well as physical device size are also

The next step is to use the software to devices are available to be selected.

the PMBus addresses and definitions of system– this would include setting up establish the basic parameters of the

all of the voltage rails in the system. Designers will then use the software to

parameters such as the voltage, ramp further configure each rail, defining

depending on the capabilities of the times, fault parameters andmore –

26 MARCH 2019 | ELECTRONICS At themost basic level, voltage rails can

generally available bemonitored, but

Depending on the

software package and frompowermodules. there is farmore data

modules being used, is is possible to monitor parameters such as voltage and current atmultiple points as well as module temperature, duty cycle and operating frequency. These parameters

advanced software will be able to give a can bemonitored continuously and

parameter against time, with selectable graphical representation of each

Figure 3:

Anders Sellin, strategic product manager at Flex Power Modules

PC, using the power design software. The oject as a file on the

individual rail. For more sophisticated module(s) that are powering each

systems that comprise fully featured modules, the final part of the set-up is to configure system-level functionality such as voltage rail sequencing, tracking and phase spreading.

All of the work to this point has been completed offline and no PMBus connection is required, nor is any

this point designe hardware or solde

ring irons. However, at rs generally opt to test

the configuration in hardware. Using the communication bus (usually PMBus), all of the configuration information is sent d stored in onboard ory (NVM).

non-volatilemem to themodules an



Modern power design software generally offers far more so functionality than

simply configuring the phistication and

modules and systemparameters. As designers run the systemunder power to check and tweak the operation, most software will allow detailedmonitoring of performance.

Figure 2:

from physical hardware sent to and read back Configurations can be

Figure 1:

Power design software typically supports the design cycle from

prototype to production sampling intervals andmonitoring duration, showing exactly how the system

to detect faults such Many power modu is operating.

les contain circuitry as over-voltage,

over-current, over-temperature and more. Power design software is also able tomonitor these alarms and faults, and using the parametric traces, shows the exact systemcondition immediately preceding the fault condition.

ANALY LYSIS AND EVALUATION AT Until recently, the only significant

functionality not present in power design software was the ability to perform

detailed thermal simulation of the design. Given the performance and power density typically required in today’s power systems, simulation and analysis can ensure that there is sufficient design margin under all operating conditions. Flex Power Modules recently launched V3.0 of its Flex Power Designer software, which contains thermal analysis as

standard. Armed with this new feature, it is possible to fully simulate the thermal performance of designs and to see the effects of altering key parameters such as ambient temperature, PCB copper thickness and forced air cooling.

The simulation tool provides a graphical output showing the dependencies betweenmultiple parameters, such as temperature against output current, input voltage or fan speed. Based on this information, it is possible to confirmthe design, meeting any derating guidelines and complies with safety agency

requirements, thereby reducing the risk of weaknesses in the design.

Flex Power Modules


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