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National adds precision amps and filter tools to simple online design environment

Posted: 20 Dec 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:national semiconductor? webench? online design environment?

Every six months or so, National Semiconductor adds to the options available in Webench!its increasingly popular online design environment!where engineers can create new products with the click of a mouse. This program results in roughly 3,000 amplifier design turns a month, out of 20,000 total designs monthly.

Phil Gibson walked me through the five-step active filter design process online: Select it, Design it, Analyze it, Build it and Test it. Gibson suggested that even I, who couldn't manage to get my tape recorder to work for the interview without some assistance, could succeed with Webench. "Anyone can implement multi-order, multiple-amplifier, precise active filter circuits, without having any theoretical knowledge of how this is done," he said.

After checking the program out, which included integrated animated voice-over help tutorials to talk the user through the process, I decided that National does indeed have something special. The Webench design environment appears easy to use. Now, whether or not I could actually design something using it!is a horse of a different color. Nonetheless, the fact that even the remotest possibility existed in my mind, that I might be able to do this was impressive to me.

In addition, National is expanding its precision amplifier family offering with three new products!the LMP8270, LMP8271 and LMP8272 high common mode difference amplifiers, which will be available via Webench.

Precision amplifiers are a fairly new playground for the company. National made its foray into the precision amplifier market in October with three devices!the LMP2011, LMP2012 and LMP2014, which are said to improve accuracy in industrial, medical and automotive applications.

National is competing with the likes of Analog Devices Inc., Linear Technology Inc., Maxim Integrated Products Inc., Texas Instruments Inc. and others in the precision amplifier arena. National hopes to differentiate itself in the precision amplifier market by guaranteeing most precision amplifier electrical specifications!including offset voltage and offset voltage drift over a wide temperature range of -40<C to 125<C.

Extremely critical specifications, such as the temperature drift of the LMP8270, will be guaranteed through production temperature testing. Gaining share in this market is about hitting high performance consistently, especially in extreme environments like automotive applications where component performance can be impacted by elements such as weather, Verhoeven said.

The LMP8270 fixed-gain differential amplifier replaces discrete current sense solutions, which would normally require external resistors that are exactly equal!better than .01 percent accuracy, Verhoeven said. These costly precision matched pair resistors are integrated in the LMP8270 family. "This is the first time National is integrating highly accurate matched resistor pairs into its amplifiers," he added.

Products that are driving demand for these high-speed, precision amplifiers include instrumentation, automotive, and computer applications, Verhoeven said.

The company is also including the ability to build complex filters via the addition of its active filter designer software into the Webench online design environment for data acquisition and signal conditioning applications. Filters go hand-in-hand with precision amplifiers since the amplifiers can be used to optimize filter performance by reducing noise and cleaning up the signal with high accuracy and no drift over time, Gibson said.

Previously, Webench users could build basic, low-pass filters. Now, however, designers can build complex filters of many types including Bessel, Chevycheb, Butterworth, and Eliptical architectures!2nd, 5th, 7th up to an extremely complicated 9th order; any type or range of options is easily configured. National doesn't imagine there are too many users who will want to build anything beyond 9th order filters, Gibson said.

To date, Webench includes power supply design, amplifier and active filter design and audio and wireless design. The next product sector addition to Webench will be data conversion, Gibson said.

National also plans to unveil a new IC process that will be used to build future precision amplifiers, Gibson said. "This new state-of-the-art precision process will be disclosed in detail soon."

- Bettyann Liotta


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