New adaptive analog power management ICs save time and money

December 14, 2016

Max the Magnificent-December 14, 2016

The folks at AnDAPT have just introduced a family of adaptive analog power management ICs that combine analog proficiency with digital flexibility to provide programmable off-the-shelf solutions that will displace existing "catalog" power devices and offer capabilities approaching those of full-custom PMICs (power management ICs).

These adaptive multi-rail power (AmP) platforms take analog power designs to a new level of flexibility. Designers can, on-demand, select and integrate multiple heterogeneous application-targeted power components on a single device. AmP platforms may be thought of as analog FPGAs for power, which is somewhat ironic since the power market is about 6X larger than the FPGA market.

In order to set the scene, let's first take a step back and consider the fact that every electronic system requires some form of power supply and power management. In the case of simple products like an Arduino Uno, for example, the power may come from an external 9V wall wart, which is conditioned by on-board 5V and 3.3V regulators.

By comparison, more-sophisticated boards may well present significantly more complicated power requirements, such as a couple of rails at 60A, six to eight rails at 1A to 10A, and a bunch of rails at 0.5A to 1A. For products that are expected to sell in high volumes (hundreds of millions of units), it may be worth the time and expense to create a full-custom PMIC. For the vast majority of products, however, system architects and power-supply designers are typically obliged to employ off-the-shelf ("catalog") power devices in the form of regulators, sequencers, sensors, supervisors, timers, level-shifters, monitors, and MOSFETs. In addition to requiring a high level of design expertise, power systems created using these catalog devices increase development time, effort, and cost; increase inventory costs; and consume valuable real estate on the circuit board.

The first family of AmP devices -- the AmP 12V family -- support an input voltage from 5V to 12V and are targeted at enterprise, industrial, medical, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications. The AmP product roadmap includes the AmP 60V family supporting an input voltage from 24V to 60V, the AmP 5V family supporting am input voltage from 1.8V to 9V, and the AmP 110V family supporting an input voltage of 110V.

(Source: AnDAPT)

In the case of the AmP 12V family, there are nine members supporting four, eight, and twelve power blocks, where each block can handle one, three, or six amps.

(Source: AnDAPT)

Each power block contains a MOSFET augmented with current sensing capabilities for monitoring, protection, and current sharing capabilities. Of particular interest is the fact that the MOSFETs in multiple power blocks can be ganged together to increase the device's current-driving capabilities. For example, the 12 MOSFETs in an AmP12D6 device can be combined to provide 12 x 6 = 72A.

Now let's look at an AmP8Dx device in a little more detail as illustrated below. The analog and digital general-purpose input/outputs (GPIOs) are on the north and south sides of the chip, while the power paths are on the east and west sides.

(Source: AnDAPT)

In addition to the eight power blocks themselves, the device contains programmable analog fabric, programmable digital fabric, sensors, a timer array, and configuration RAM (CRAM). There's also an SPI port that is used to configure the device, and an I2C port that can be used to monitor and control every power rail on a rail-by-rail basis (the I2C address of the device is loaded as part of the configuration).

Speaking of configuration, an AmP device can be configured from an external source using its SPI port, where such configuration takes only a few microseconds. Alternatively, AmP devices also contain an internal ROM, so once the design has been completed and verified, the folks at AnDAPT can provide a pre-programmed ROM version of the chip that doesn’t require SPI configuration.

AmP adaptive multi-rail power platforms are supported by WebAmP cloud-based tools that offer a user-friendly, drag-and-drop GUI along with integrated power analysis capabilities.

(Source: AnDAPT)

The WebAmP tools include an extensive library of pre-built and proven "Power Components," which are used to configure the power blocks and sensor blocks along with the programmable analog fabric and the programmable digital fabric.

(Source: AnDAPT)

AnDAPT also offers the AmPLink adapter, which can be used to download the users' power designs into their AmP platforms.

(Source: AnDAPT)

Using AmP devices to create power supply and management solutions will decrease development time, effort, and cost; decrease inventory costs; and free-up valuable real estate on the circuit board. These devices won't completely remove the need for specialist expertise, but they will allow power supply designers to become much more productive.

Personally, I think AnDAPT's AmP technology has the potential to be a real game-changer, because it will allow every product to benefit from the advantages offered by custom PMICs without incurring the associated costs in terms of money, time, and resources. What do you think?

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