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Tips to Achieve Faster Design of USB-C Power Solutions

July 28, 2020

Bakul Damle  By: Bakul Damle
 Business Management Director; Maxim Integrated 
Sagar Khare  and Sagar Khare
 Executive Business Manager, Battery Management; Maxim Integrated  

Advanced features like 5G and 4K displays in portable devices are driving up power consumption—a lot more than 15W in many cases in devices operated by high-capacity 2S batteries. For these power-hungry gadgets, USB-C Power Delivery (PD) is a boon as it enables fast charging that gets these products back in operation with little downtime (Figure 1). Also, many applications that previously used AC-DC barrel adapters are migrating to USB-C PD for convenience and standardization. For designers, however, compliance with the USB-C PD standard typically requires complex firmware development and additional hardware components. With the short distance and high voltage (20V) between pins, there are certainly opportunities for damage if the connector is inserted or disconnected at an angle. Indeed, both USB-C and USB-C PD specifications require a unique skill set, as designing for them is not quite as straightforward as designing for legacy USB variants is.

Consumer devices like cameras, AR/VR systems, and wireless speakers are leading the charge to USB-C and USB-C PD. Ironically, these are the very products that can ill-afford an extensive development cycle, given the time-to-market pressures. On the horizon, applications in areas like industrial and medical are on the cusp of greater adoption, as the same consumers are demanding the same level of convenience in their professional environments. We're also seeing the USB-C standard used in things like point-of-sale (POS) devices, industrial scanners, and breast pumps. In this blog post, we'll share some tips to streamline the design effort for USB-C PD designs.

USB-C and USB-C Power Delivery Bring Fast Data Transfer and Charging to Portable DevicesFigure 1. USB-C and USB-C Power Delivery are bringing the conveniences of fast data transfer and charging to portable devices.

Design Challenges of USB-C Charging Systems

USB-C and USB-C PD enable designers to realize the promise of a universal connector, providing the specifications for a reversible 24-pin connector for data transfer and power delivery. USB-C specifies 5V up to 3A (15W), while USB-C PD 3.0 specifies 5V to 20V up to 5A (100W). To design a charging system for USB-C, you'll need to:

  • Address signal integrity and speed issues
  • Connect to a variety of legacy interfaces
  • Make sure that your design can handle a wide range of voltages and currents, including starting up with a cold socket (0V until end-to-end detection is complete)1
  • Ensure that the charger and the port controller will be able to talk to each other when the USB-C charging source is plugged in
  • Meet the shrinking size demands of products like consumer devices
  • Maintain thermal efficiency to minimize temperature rise

Meeting these challenges typically requires complex host-side software development for USB-C negotiation, or additional parts such as external FETs and external microcontrollers. However, there are charging system solutions available that help minimize these challenges. One key feature is compliance with the protocols, as this will simplify the design implementation. Some solutions are also designed with event-based action scripts that make the customization process easier. Highly integrated ICs will eliminate the need for too many discrete components. Also, be sure to consider features that will help maintain reliable operation in harsh environments (varying temperatures or moist conditions, for instance).

Another consideration arises with the use of higher capacity batteries, which the power-hungry end devices need in order to support longer runtimes. Migrating from a 1S to a 2S battery increases the capacity without increasing the charging current. Since USB-C supports input voltages between 5V and 20V and 2S or 3S battery voltages fall somewhere in between, a buck-boost converter can help bridge the gap. See Figure 2 for a block diagram of a 2S battery-based application.

Diagram of 2S Battery Application for USB-C SupportFigure 2. Block diagram of a 2S battery-based application.

Out-of-the-Box USB-C Compliance

Maxim Integrated has a new pair of USB-C charging system solutions that provide out-of-the-box compliance with the USB-C PD 3.0 specification, eliminating firmware development and reducing development time by up to three months. Their compact footprint also reduces the solution size by half compared to competitive solutions. The MAX77958 USB-C and USB-C Power Delivery charge controller is responsible for doing away with the firmware step, thanks to its GUI-driven customization script, BC1.2 support, and configuration settings related to Fast Role Swap (FRS), Dual Role Port (DRP), and Try.SNK mode. The standalone device eliminates an external microcontroller, provides out-of-the-box USB-C PD 3.0 compliance, and enables you to customize operation for the end application without firmware development. The device is also designed to withstand harsh environments via features including 28V rating, VBUS short protection to CC pins, an integrated analog-to-digital converter (ADC), and moisture detection/corrosion prevention.

The MAX77962 is a 3.2A USB-C buck-boost charger with integrated FETs for fast charging of high-capacity 2S Li-ion batteries. It provides a wide input voltage range (3.5V to 23V) for USB-C PD charging, requires no discrete FETs, and can be configured with or without an application processor. Peak efficiency is 97% at 9VIN, 7.4VOUT, 1.5AOUT.

You can evaluate both parts with the MAX77958EVKIT-2S3#, which demonstrates the MAX77958 autonomously controlling the MAX77962 charger with its I2C master feature. The evaluation kit is available for $80.

Both of these devices are part of a broader portfolio of USB-C and USB-C PD devices that includes power-efficient chargers and converters, autonomous and robust controllers, and power path and protection ICs.