Sometimes I feel that the success that IC vendors have had at packing amazingly good performance and useful features into power-supply regulator ICs -- whether low dropout (LDO) or a switcher -- has worked against them.
Why? As a result of doing such a good job, these critical components often don't get the attention, consideration, or respect they should. After all, without these regulators, most designs would be struggling, trying to work properly with power rails that had the wrong local characteristics (nominal voltage, noise, accuracy, configuration, etc.), even when sufficient bulk power was available on the board.
Bill, I agree. Engineers have become overwhelmed with the number of choices in switchers and LDOs. One conundrum they face is having to pay for features they may not need. Finding that one choice that has everything they want and none of what they don’t want is a daunting task. For years, we’ve solved that problem with custom Power Management ASICs, combining many switchers and LDOs on a single chip.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.