Okay, so though the title might make this sound like a Steven King story, rest assured there are no buckets of blood or homicidal clowns lurking about. Yet the words “Feature Creep” can ruin a perfectly good day for power supply designers of electronic devices for the Automotive, Industrial, or Healthcare markets (to name just a few.)
These engineers already face requirements to reduce the size, power consumption, and cost of their design - without compromising performance. Their challenge is compounded by something called the AVL, an acronym for Approved Vendor List. In most places an engineer needing a part cannot simply go on Google, find a part and order it. Companies and design houses will first vet a supplier to satisfy themselves that the products the supplier offers meet several criteria, such as reliability and conforming to safety standards. However, even when a supplier has been vetted, the individual product models are also then subjected to rigorous testing. It takes time, but now the vetted product can be used by all the company’s designer in any project, resulting in faster time to market. Vetting products down to the individual component provides the “warm and fuzzy” confidence a company needs when it’s time to sell the finished product to its customers.
Feature creep adds one more challenge to all the others just described. Like the steady drip-drip-drip of a faucet, features can get added to a product while in development (designers reading this blog are now groaning in agreement). These additions can originate from a customer “Hey, it would be great if your product could also do the following…” or from management “Hey, we just learned the competition’s product can do the following...” Since everything a product can do requires a specific amount of power, additions to the product’s features ups the power requirement. If the designer is lucky the swapping of just a few discrete parts (like a resistor or capacitor) can address the power need of the updated circuit. Unfortunately, it is often the case that one or more integrated circuits must be replaced because the existing power supply cannot be so easily tweaked.
Analog Devices’ new LTC3376 is a power management solution on a tiny chip which can relieve the stress of feature creep because it offers four configurable power outputs. This flexibility can eliminate the need to install a different power management IC, which means added time and cost re-qualifying the new part. The added time and cost increase if the required power management IC is from a company not yet vetted and approved.
This new power management IC sits inside a small package that saves board space and consumes less power than larger solutions which have much less - if any - configurability. The LTC3376 also generates less heat than those larger solutions (a major concern because heat can affect overall reliability) while delivering enough power to drive demanding solutions such as rugged industrial PCs, laptops and bar code scanners as well as portable medical devices, among many others. It’s also the most accurate power manager in its class, a critical need especially in those medical devices.
For technical details and other information (including how to order free samples) on the new LTC3376 power management solution please visit our product page here.