Tech Tips: TI’s Webench Power designer

When I work with clients I see that most of them don’t know of this tool except for in large companies. Webench Power Designer is a superb tool online virtual wizard by Texas Instruments (TI) which can be used in power supply design. Have been a regular user of it for some time now and can’t recommend this enough.

So what does it do? If you are building a power supply module, AC-DC or DC-DC, this tool allows you to feed in a few parameters like the input, output voltage range, current output, ripple, etc and gives you a massive list of usable designs using the ICs from TI. This design contains all the parts needed and the full BOM of passives. It even provides you with an optimal board layout which you can directly import into a few PCB CAD tools like Altium. It provides the necessary graphs and you can even export a simulation.

It has an awesome feature in which you can tell the tool to optimize for low BOM cost, High Efficiency, lowest PCB space footprint, or even a mix of all the above with a balanced view. This makes life simple for a newbie. It takes in all the datasheet design equations and spits out resistor, inductor, and capacitor values(But I double-check and redo it from the datasheet again, that’s just my paranoia, nothing else). The design it puts out is accurate and you can expect near simulation results if you implement that. I never had issues with it.

It gives you a list of TI’s massive power part ICs, you can pick a design and then fine-tune it if needed. If you have already selected a part, you can specify that in the tool to make a design around that part. I truly hope other companies can develop solutions similar to this using their product portfolio. If you are only working with TI parts for a design, it’s very well worth trying out. Real time saver.

For folks who have used it before, what was your experience with it?

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Advanced: Glass Core Substrates

A couple of months ago Intel in an event introduced a cool new tech in the chip packaging domain, which I think is pretty cool. When IC chips get manufactured, they get placed on a substrate which allows chips to talk to other chips. These can be memory, GPU, or with your PC motherboard. The faster you can talk between these units, better the performance. We currently use organic substrates similar to the FR4 materials that you use in your circuit PCBs.

Intel is proposing a new glass core substrate that aims to outperform existing organic substrates, thereby facilitating larger chips on a single substrate. The glass core substrate isn’t an entire glass replacement; it augments the organic material at the core. Metal redistribution layers (RDLs), which allow one part of the chip to talk to another part, are placed on both sides of the glass substrate. The key advantage of glass lies in superior mechanical strength and its being extremely smooth as a surface. Not like the woven fibers in PCBs(Search for microscopic images of your PCB substrate, you can see mountains and valleys). Glass can withstand higher temperatures during packaging and reducing warping. It can transfer data at an extremely high speed with very little losses.

Glass core substrates boast better electrical performance, with Through-Glass Vias (TGVs) similar to your PCB vias but with a very high-density spacing of around 100um between vias. This translates into the ability to accommodate 50% more dies on a chip, a substantial leap in chip density.The transition to glass core substrates will begin later this decade, starting with high-end HPC and AI chips. The limiting factor is its cost. But it’s bound to reduce in price as the tech matures. Likely glass is one of the hottest candidates in the material space. Do check out Project Silica from Microsoft which uses glass to store data for potentially eternal storage of 10,000+ yrs.

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