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Online design tool for op amps — Life just got easier

National Semiconductor Corporation announced its Amplifiers Made Simple tool, the industry's first online design tool created to speed the selection, design and testing of many types of operational amplifiers for medical, scientific, industrial and automotive applications.

The Amplifiers Made Simple tool uses a powerful component selection tool (developed by National engineers) to rapidly and accurately search among the company's portfolio of analog amplifier products; each with hundreds of different electrical characteristics. The tool lets users select from standard topologies and enter system requirements. It then searches among National's products to recommend the most appropriate op amps for the solution and creates a customized circuit. As with all the tools in National's WEBENCH? design environment, the Amplifiers Made Simple tool is available free of charge at www.national.com.

“Today, designers may use the Amplifiers Made Simple tool to design with 60 National op amps in 4 different applications to create more than 450 circuits.” said Phil Gibson, vice president, Web Business. “Over the coming year, we plan to expand this capability to include the entire National offering of 420 op amps in 30 applications, and more than 4,000 potential circuit designs.”

“National's new Amplifiers Made Simple design tool is a breakthrough that extends WEBENCH tool capabilities into an entirely new range of solutions, dramatically simplifying product design with amplifiers,” said Erroll Dietz, product line director, Amplifier Products Group at National. “In a few keystrokes and mouse clicks, an engineer can now accomplish what used to take hours of work and years of knowledge. The result is the best possible design.”

“Using the Amplifiers Made Simple design tool, I was able to exercise several op amp circuits and compare devices very quickly,” said Robert Burnham, Advanced System Architecture, Visteon Corporation. “As it expands, this has the potential to solve some real problems and become a valuable design tool.”

National's Unique Portfolio of Operational Amplifiers
National offers a complete portfolio of op amps ranging from building-block chips to application specific standard products (ASSPs), including precision, high-speed, low-power and low-voltage amplifiers. The company has a long history of innovations in the op amp market, including the first low-voltage op amp (the LM324), the “Amp in a Mic (LMV1014)” and the world's fastest laser diode driver.

National also has led the market in op amp packaging innovations with the introduction of revolutionary Silicon Dust? and micro SMD packaging technologies. In addition, National's patented VIP10 process technology enables it to create the industry's broadest suite of high performance op amps available today. The Amplifiers Made Simple tool enables an engineer to instantly sort through this vast array of products, specifications and package types to select the ideal part for an application.

The Global Market for Amplifier Products
Analog operational amplifiers are one of the key building blocks of practically all electronic systems. They convert and condition real-word analog information into signals that can be read and understood by digital systems. National is one of the world's largest manufacturers of amplifiers and comparators, with a 12.9 percent market share of a $2 billion global market, according to research firm iSuppli. National is the number one supplier of low-power op amps. The company is also the fastest-growing amplifier provider among the top five, with a 7.6 percent increase in market share between 2001 and 2002. National ships more than 500 million operational amplifiers per year.

Amplifiers Made Simple: A Seamless Suite of Online Tools and Resources The Amplifiers Made Simple tool eliminates the need for a design engineer to perform tedious hand calculations. The tool offers instant access to the latest SPICE models, parametric data and package information, and lets designers simultaneously compare the performance of multiple devices. Overnight delivery within 24 hours is available on all of National's products with WEBENCH design tool capability.

The Amplifiers Made Simple tool is designed to work seamlessly with National's other WEBENCH tools, including the recently announced interactive product selector Solutions.National.com and online distance learning facility, Analog University. To try National's WEBENCH design tool for amplifiers, go to http://amplifiers.national.com

Over the past four years, National has achieved several other online design tool breakthroughs for analog products, including WEBENCH tools for wireless and power. Today, 60,000 visitors to the National site have registered to use the WEBENCH toolset. Those users create 14,000 designs per month currently using these tools. Usage of National's WEBENCH tool set continues to double every year.

www.national.com

Amplifiers are big, really big business — more than $2B according to DataBeans. Unfortunately, that means that there is a plethora of choices from an abundance of suppliers. National Semiconductor recognized this good-bad dilemma and has worked hard to bring to fruition a tool that will make you smile, because suddenly your job just got much easier. Amplifiers Made Simple is so slick that I can see other companies scrambling to come up with stop-gap measures to keep their customers from howling about how hard it is to find the right op amp on their sites. This tool is available now and you can run simulations today for a wide assortment of applications, and even more amazing, get the parts the next day!

The Amplifiers Made Simple product provides the ability to evaluate products without having to gather the components and build the circuits to ensure everything works. It's a convenience that you just can't ignore. National says the Webench environment for power and PLLs has grown to be a 60,000 user community and these engineers create about 14,000 designs every month. As for the technology, Spice modeling and a back-end engine performance have become good enough so that simulations can be done real time. Additionally, CPU horsepower and web technology have improved and the ability to deliver a real time solution over the Internet is a reality. When you finish you can order a prototype that you can get tomorrow. And, National means tomorrow because it integrates everything with its supply chains.

The reason behind the development of this product is simple: most designers use op amps but they don't use them more than a few times each year, so they aren't experts. To make it more challenging there are several types of amps including low voltage, low power, high speed and high precision types. Additionally, within each group there are many flavors to make the decision process even more frustrating. This new tool gives you the ability to slice and dice the parametrics to help you find the right component for your design. It allows you to dig down and sort by any restraining parameters. It also allows you to select the lowest cost, lowest power, or even the best general purpose part. Without this new tool your alternative is to use a parametric selection guide and then get several data sheets to compare snap shots of each amplifier's capability.

You are also able to constrain the amplifier in a particular application. It could be an integrator or low-pass filter that you may want to compare amplifiers across circuits with real world components. This tool allows, under the same conditions, to see how the part will perform in a given application.

Will this tool prevent someone who is a poor designer from not making bad designs? Probably not, because you still need some engineering knowledge. But it will help engineers who don't create designs with op amps every day make the right selection. Also, if you make some wrong assumptions it will help you flush out the design and find the best part.

The company offers several application to work with and will add many other application circuits over the next year. The idea is to create a data book that has many application circuits so the engineer could look at them to determine if specific circuit is close to something they want. The tool lets you take a circuit and run a simulation on-line to see how it works, and then modify values to get closer to the solution you need. It means you don't have to put the part on the bench and analyze it. National says they check the application circuit with the parts to ensure the circuit works correctly.

What will it look like for you, the end user? You set up your application task and add your particular constraints, and the tool presents several solutions from which you can pick. Once you select the components you want to simulate the tool will compile the circuit and apply it to some actual products and give example components for everything in the bill of materials.

You can use default recommendations or you can select alternates. You can custom define the parametrics and specifications for every component you want to simulate in the system. You can also look at any parameter for the architecture. For example, you can look at the voltage parameters, calculate the gain for the circuit, or adjust the parameters and calculate the results of the component value.

You can step into the simulation for the design and the tool will present you with that architecture loaded into Spice and the net list, and then exercise and simulate that environment. You can also start a new simulation and add new components to see any parameter that is exercised around that circuit. There are demo windows with audio describing the results. A demo could show the simulation and ranking, for example, between two capacitor waveforms.

How much confidence can a designer place in these simulations? National says the tool was built from the ground up and it has currently completed 60 models and aims to have models for all 420 of its op amps. The company bench tested every component to get the performance of each component,then it exercised the simulation model from the Spice tool to verify that the waveform was accurate.

It's not finished yet but the plans are for more applications every quarter with all the basic functions operating by February 2004 and by August to have multi-amp simulations available. You need to try this, especially if your boss wants results by tomorrow.

National's amplifier product is a real production environment tool. The main difference between National and its competitors is the content integration with online help, and the ability to drop the results right into an order form and get them tomorrow. Welcome to the world of the web and the realization of what it can do for you.

Take it for a test drive here.

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