Be the MacGyver in your company: Understanding Power design basics even when using integrated modules and software

My first engineering manager taught me to make sure that my power supply design would work first on paper and then I could breadboard it. That was in 1973 before there were high-integration ICs and modules along with excellent software tools that are available to power system circuit designers in today’s design community. My first power supply design was a fully discrete, high current ECL power supply at -5.2V for VEE (How many of you remember ECL logic?)

Do you want to be that designer who is the versatile go-to MacGyver engineer in your company when something goes wrong with a power supply or do you want to be the person who asks, “Hey, where is that old guy who knows about power supply design? Did he retire?” Oh well, better order another module—what’s the lead time?

I recently attended a Texas Instruments Power Supply Design Seminar in Phoenix, AZ. I was very impressed with the in-depth technical knowledge of the presenters, one of whom is from the elite TI Power Design Services team that I had worked closely with when I was at Texas Instruments and the other was a former Unitrode power application engineer, and then became a TI Analog and power application engineer; since 1978 he worked with Bob Mammano.

This seminar just started in September of this year and will run into 2017. You can see more details and register here. I highly recommend going to this seminar in your area because the content and the expert presenters will absolutely make you a better power supply designer. This blog is not an advertisement for this seminar, but I feel so strongly regarding what it can do for you, the design engineer, so my recommendations come from my extensive industry experience.

It does not matter if you are not a power supply designer by trade, but if you do need to use modular power supplies or to design your own power supplies, then you will definitely benefit from this seminar content which has in-depth power supply tutorial presentations and also a separate section with an evaluation board session that is attended by TI power experts to answer your questions about the various ones on display and more.

The TI PMLK Power Management Lab kit was one of many power solutions on display.

The TI PMLK Power Management Lab kit was one of many power solutions on display.

The seminar covered the following power architectures in depth:

  • The design of a high-frequency series capacitor buck converter.
  • Bidirectional DC/DC converter topology comparison and design. (HEV /EV and server applications)
  • Under the hood of a non-inverting buck-boost DC/DC converter
  • Design review of a 2 kW parallelable power supply module

Also, as an in-depth bonus, presenters will give you a look inside the power architecture at some critical design areas:

  • Flyback transformer design considerations for efficiency and EMI
  • Switch-mode power converter compensation made easy
  • Applying SiC and GaN to high-frequency power

And finally, we each got a book entitled “Unitrode Magnetics Design Handbook” by Lloyd Dixon, who was a co-founder of Unitrode in 1958 with Bob Mammano. Know magnetics, know power. No magnetics, no power.

This seminar taught us such basic tenets of flyback transformer details regarding effects by DC bias, core loss mechanisms, wire skin effect including how layers of wire and their proximity effect on each other can help with a more efficient power design, and even with considering the use of stranded or Litz wire for better performance to squeeze out that last percent of efficiency. Other mechanisms are discussed to reduce leakage inductance by interleaving wires or the effect of clamp levels. EMI optimization techniques are taught as well and much more.

So even if you have a fully modular power supply in your design or if you have designed your supply with discrete and some power ICs, this in-depth understanding of the power supply architectures and what makes them accurate, efficient and thermally viable for a reliable and robust power solution, can make you a MacGyver and a very valuable asset to your company or business and not the engineer who relies on others.

Please share your thoughts on this issue with our audience in the comments section below.

Other blogs on this topic

Women In Engineering & “The Next MacGyver”

Use MacGyver’s Methods, Part 1

2 comments on “Be the MacGyver in your company: Understanding Power design basics even when using integrated modules and software

  1. natha123
    October 24, 2016

    One of the reasons that I appreciate this blog. I have always followed the new article on this blog. Sources of interesting idea, all right!

  2. David_Ashton_EC
    October 26, 2016

    Had a look at the link and while it seems they are planning some of these for China, Japan and India, nothing for Australia.  Comes of living “Down under” I guess.  Pity though, I'd love to go to one of these.

    BTW Steve, the first two comments look like the ones that usually tout URLS….maybe the URLs only have been removed but the entire comments should be deleted….

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