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Online tool leverages skill in analog design

Posted: 25 Jan 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:webench online? analog design? power management simulation? filter simulator?

Gibson: "Using Webench, designers can thus harvest valuable information out of a noisy signal that is online in an easier and faster way."

If you provide analog design engineers an easier way to create, develop and implement a typical analog circuitry, they would do whatever it takes to grab that opportunity. And this was probably the mindset of National Semiconductors when they introduced the Webench online design tool in the market.

National Semi facilitated power management simulations as an introductory phase for the Webench environment in 2000. From then on, National pushed the Webench's online environment by adding more simulations--for PLLs, amplifiers--in response to the demands mostly coming from designers.

Just recently, National Semi once again expanded the Webench facility by adding an active filter designer that aims to speed the creation of sophisticated filters for DAQ and signal conditioning applications. Designed from the ground up, the tool allows engineers to design advanced, highly customized filters for all standard types such as low pass, high pass, band pass and band stop.

"Analog design is not a trivial task," admits Phil Gibson, vice president for corporate marketing at National Semi. "The 2005 release of Webench has added an active filter simulator to assist engineers specify the filter that they want to create. Using Webench, designers can thus harvest valuable information out of a noisy signal that is online in an easier and faster way," Gibson added.

Analog hunger

"The entire Asia-Pacific market is hungry for analog design technology and knowledge," Gibson said. Over the last five years the Webench environment has grown to approximately 90,000 registered users. In Asia, there are about 15,000 registered users and the largest single user base is found in mainland China with 3,500 and South Korea with 3,100. Other Webench registered users in the Asia-Pacific comes from Australia, India and Taiwan. "Though we have more users in mainland China, the largest number of designs we receive, however, are mostly coming from Korea," said Gibson.

National Semi's online distance learning--Analog University--has the largest environment usage in the Asian region. The online courses we offer, Gibson said, are used most aggressively in the Asia-Pacific and the course that reaps the highest demand is amplifier design. "Thus, it is a natural fit to supply a Webench environment for the Asian audience that really wants to have a better support on how to do or improve analog design," Gibson added.

About 35-40 OEMs and ODMs are found in mainland China alone and using a design tool like the Webench would definitely provide these manufacturers the needed leverage in developing their design. In a fast paced business environment, issues like cost-efficiency and faster time-to-market have become a very crucial factor.

Utilizing Webench's facilities, engineers can try out anything and virtually exercise all of the extreme requirements for a typical design without ever having to invest anything other than time. It usually takes about 40-80 man-hours of dedicated time to actually get a functional and operating prototype and Webench eases the process by virtually cutting design time at least 85-90 percent.

A fair warning

It seems so good to be true when one looks at the capability that Webench offers. The orientation and environment may provide engineers the needed support to be able to concretize their design in mind by simply clicking the mouse. But still, Gibson warns that designers should not be hasty in bringing out their design immediately to production without doing physical implementation.

"So far, none of our clients have come back and say things didn't work out the way it should," said Gibson. "However, we should always remember that analog is still a fairly 'cosmic art' and you really need to do a physical implementation first to validate the design you've created virtually," he added.

Analog technology is still fairly new in the Asian region and designers should enhance their skills to be able to compete in the global arena. Throughout the years, analog design has lagged behind digital technology and some even thought it would slowly disappear because of the advent of the digital age. Though many consumer products have evolved to digital devices, the good news is the need for analog is still growing steadily at par with digital.

- Rey Buan Jr.

Electronnic Engineering Times- Asia

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