nanoMan Says: Use This Power Design Simulation Tool
September 05, 2017
Guest Blogger, Maxim Integrated
When you've got a high IQ like mine, you're not easily impressed. So when I heard that Maxim revamped its EE-Sim® DC-DC Converter Tool, I was skeptical. Productive power design for every user? Really? But then I talked with Erin Mannas, one of the tool’s designers. Erin showed me how much easier this new version of the tool is to use, and how accurately it simulates power supply circuits. I was able to finish my power circuit design quickly, and get on with the rest of my project. Listen in on our talk…and try the tool for yourself.
nanoMan: Vendors love to describe their tools as easy to use, but we’ve all heard this line before. Why should any engineer believe this?
Erin: When we redesigned this tool, we paid a lot of attention to user interface. We aimed to make the tool easy, fast, and intuitive to use—whether you use it frequently or just a few times a year. We avoided contextual navigation, where you’ve got tabs on the side and the top of the page. Who’s able to find anything quickly with this type of web design?
Instead, we struck a nice balance between providing the functionality that engineers want and delivering an interface that is clean, well-organized, and easy to digest. The less that users have to think about the tool, the better, because they can focus on their power supply design.
We’ll continue to enhance the look-and-feel based on user feedback. So do let us know what you think about the tool.
nanoMan: I'm certainly not shy about sharing my opinion! Now, what was so wrong with the original version of the tool that you had to rebuild it from the ground up?
Erin: We recognized that based on the sheer number of enhancements and the scope of improvements we were making, it would be more efficient to build a new tool. Imagine buying a small house with the intention of knocking it down to build a new—and larger—home in its place. You wouldn’t reuse the same old foundation, would you?
nanoMan: I see your point: sometimes it is more efficient and you can get better results by starting over. What kinds of advanced capabilities can a power user like me take advantage of?
Erin: In most tools, you hit the simulate button without being able to see the simulation parameters. Now in EE-Sim, you can not only see the parameters but also change them.
Recompensation is another function we’ve added. When you create a power design in EE-Sim, you enter your requirements and the tool runs datasheet equations to determine optimal values for all of the components around the ICs. If you change one component, that throws off the design equations—to the point where your design may no longer be stable or simply won’t work. With most tools, you have to live with the results. In EE-Sim, after changing a component’s value, you can rerun the equations, and get updated values for the other components that will work better than the originally calculated ones.
Novice users shouldn't shy away, though. The tool provides default settings defined by our engineers for all parameters, and returns perfectly sound results with minimal adjustments. In fact, experts like yourself will probably use the default settings first, examine the results, then decide to vary the load or do something else. Anyone who wants to focus on creating a cool product without spending too much time designing the power supply can benefit from EE-Sim.
Figure 1: The EE-Sim DC-DC Converter Tool was revamped to enhance productivity for users of every level.
nanoMan: But can the EE-Sim tool really save me hours of design time? (If that’s true, that’s more time for my yoga practice…Om….)
Erin: By using EE-Sim, you don’t have to go through datasheets and crank out equations by hand. Our tool has always provided a first-pass design. In the latest iteration, we've gone past first-pass design by allowing you to:
- Derate capacitor values
- Change components and recompensate in a few seconds
- Easily customize how simulations are run, including adjusting the source and load settings
- And quickly compare multiple versions of the same design – you can simulate the original and the version you created when you changed components, and also overlay waveforms of both designs
The tool's reports provide lots of granularity and control over what you include. You can also annotate the schematic with comments, highlights, and even arrows. For example, say you've got traces that need to handle a lot of current. You can highlight these traces on the schematic with a note that more metal needs to be used in the layout. If you need to pass your design along to a layout engineer, including these annotations can quickly communicate to your colleague what needs to be addressed.
nanoMan: I've heard you call the tool’s waveform viewer better than others on the market. Are you pulling my 'stache?
Erin: The functionality in the tool is awesome and we managed to make it not look ugly (laughing). It is a very capable virtual oscilloscope. You can add and remove waveforms, change colors, scale the graph in four different ways, zoom in, use multiple markers to spotlight specific horizontal or vertical values, calculate values between the markers. When you have multiple waveforms on one graph, you can stack them individually or based on the Y axis. You can save plots in nine different formats for pasting into documents, or extract the underlying data in a spreadsheet format.
nanoMan: Thanks for sharing some insights about the revamped tool. I, for one, will focus on my core design now—and my mad Ultimate Frisbee skills, instead of sweating the power design.