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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Tech Tips: Reading Unknown Electrolytic Capacitor Codes

Earlier this week I was helping a friend debug a large 5KW inverter circuit which stopped working. In the end, the issue was eventually tracked down to a non-working electrolytic capacitor. Now how do you find a replacement capacitor when dont know the brand? I then realized that it wasn’t common knowledge on how to find out the values of random electrolytic capacitors. This may probably help some of you who didn’t already know. BTW you can’t measure the value with an LCR meter because the capacitor might already be blown. If so, it will just show as an open circuit.

You usually find some weird numbers and characters printed on top of radial cylindrical Can package type electrolytic capacitors. I have collated a list of what those values mean from a few manufacturers in the shared image. It’s pretty self-explanatory from the images. It usually comes in a set of 3 rows from branded vendors. Unbranded ones also do copy and paste these nomenclatures. So there is a high likelihood that you might run into a capacitor with a similar number. Those numbers represent the value, DC voltage rating, temperature rating, and maybe manufacturing code in some. You can save the post/image for some random use case in the future if you ever find yourselves in a spot where you need to replace the electrolytic capacitor on an unknown circuit.

Did you guys ever face this issue before? Or was this something commonly known by everyone?

PS: The Black Line indicates a negative in electrolytic capacitors. Never Ever connect it in the reverse direction. I have learned this the hard way having gotten the part blown to bits. 🙂

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