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National Semi boosts op amp design process

Posted: 29 Sep 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:national semiconductor? vip50c? bicmos?

As the consumer market continues to drive advanced features into smaller form factors that require high-performance amplifiers with lower power and smaller footprints, National Semiconductor Corp. caters to such demands with the release of its new process technology for operational amplifiers. The VIP50 process technology is a silicon-on-insulator BiCMOS process that allows amplifier products to be created in a 0.9V to 12V-supply voltage range. This supply range covers standard DC line voltage standards of up to \5V split supply that is common in precision amplifier applications and battery chemistries.

National Semiconductor, a major player in the operational amplifier market, continues to invest in various process technologies that enable higher performance levels in its analog products. With the introduction of the VIP50 process, the company hopes to not only extend its precision amplifier portfolio in general, but also to strengthen its position in the market by providing new industry standards in bandwidth-to-power ratios.

Offering advantages over other conventional bipolar or CMOS process technologies, the addition of vertical PNPs enables the implementation of well-balanced amplifier output stages with better speed-power characteristics. "We have added three metal layers to this process," said Carlos Sanchez, technical marketing manager for the amplifier product line at National Semiconductor. "This allows us to increase the density of our layout design," he added.

By doing this, designers now have the liberty to put more operational amplifiers on a wafer. However, cost-efficiency issues may pose a challenge. "Ultimately, we need to be competitive," said Sanchez. "The VIP50 process allows us to manageably compete in performance, packaging and cost. We can put more functionality in a smaller area, keep our costs down and ensure that we do not transfer additional costs to our customers," he added.

"The demand for operational amplifiers is high in Asia," said Kwok Kai Wu, Asia-Pacific product-marketing manager for amplifier products at National Semiconductor. Wu believes that Asian engineers will welcome this new process technology and is confident that it will have a positive impact on the industry. "As consumer electronics continues to proliferate with newer functionalities, the need for a robust power amplifier would truly be required," adds Wu.

The VIP50 process, according to Sanchez, will be released in the Asia-Pacific rim, particularly in regions such as China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and the Philippines. In terms of adaptability, Sanchez said, SOI is relatively not a new process. "National Semi is spending a lot of time educating analog designers about new process technologies, either through conferences or online help and we believe these are some of the avenues where Asian engineers can develop and improve their analog design skills," he said.

The initial amplifier products implemented in the VIP50 process show its speed-to-power ratio, low-current operation and precision aspects. The LMV651, for example, offers 12MHz of bandwidth and consumes 110?A of supply current. Compared to the industry-standard LMV321 (130?A and 1MHz bandwidth), there's an improvement in speed-to-power ratio of more than 15.

Meanwhile, the LMP7701 combines a MOS rail-to-rail and eliminates large offset glitches associated with conventional CMOS rail-to-rail amplifiers. Moreover, the high input impedance of the LMP7701 combined with the low input offset voltage less than 300?V maximum temperature makes it suitable for sensor-interface applications. The maximum supply voltage of 12V further eases the use of this part in industrial applications.

Another VIP50 process-enabled product is the LMV791, which offers a MOS input stage with low noise!less than 5.8nV/Hz?!and a high bandwidth of 14MHz. This combination makes the part suitable for accurate readout of many photoelectric sensors and operates off single supply voltages down to 1.8V. Other products released by National Semiconductor!the LMP7711 and LPV751!also provide the same speed-to-power ratio and are currently available in the market.

The VIP50 process enables both amplifier solutions geared toward small-footprint consumer applications and extreme high-precision amplifier solutions focused on automotive, medical and industrial applications.

Moreover, National Semiconductor also announced that the VIP50 process technology will be released through the company's online design environment tool!the Webench!in the near future, allowing designers to have easy access for future amplifier designs.

Rey Buan Jr.

Electronic Engineering Times!Asia

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