SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- National Semiconductor Corp. this week is expanding its online engineering workbench to include a phase-locked loop (PLL) simulator, an enhanced power simulation tool, and a one-of-a-kind thermal analysis system for evaluating board designs with "virtual prototyping" capabilities.
National said the enhanced Webench 2.0 system will not only speed development of products by chip customers, but it will also enable designers to try out more options to improve the performance of products. "Engineers often take a safe, reliable approach for good designs that are not necessarily the best designs," said Phil Gibson, vice president of National's Web business. "This can leave a window open for competition to create incrementally better designs."
To give designers the ability try more options in less time, National has added more several new tools to the free interactive Web-based workbench launched last year for power management applications (see Oct. 25, 1999, story). The updated design flow integrates Switchers Made Simple software that gives engineers a four-step process to build power supplies from over 2,000 components from dozen of vendors.
According to National, the new capabilities of the Webench 2.0 system will save the company's customer base about $50 million a year, based on the current usage level of its Web site. With the new capabilities, National figures more customers will begin using the new free Web-based tool set.
"With the push of a button, the Webench delivers 5 million calculations, including the new thermal simulator," Gibson said.
National has worked with Flomerics Corp. of the U.K. to add the new thermal design and analysis tool to its site. According to National, the WebTherm software produces an accurate thermal picture of the board design by calculating heat transfer and interaction between components on the board and the environment. This information is used to determine the junction temperatures at the die level and the overall thermal conditions for the board design.
"The other approach involves building a prototype and imaging heat with infrared camera images. The WebTherm tool takes one-and-a-half minutes to create an image for a 'virtual prototype,'" explained Gibson. The system can be used by designers to adjust environmental and airflow parameters while optimizing heat dissipation and electrical performance.
Users of National Webench will also be able to generate a bill of materials for designs, based on pricing information provides through the RosettaNet industry consortium or suppliers linking data to the system. "We are getting much more automated about linking the backend of the supply chain process," Gibson said. "This allows us to give customers a bill of materials estimate much earlier in the design cycle, when engineering decisions are still being made."