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Online Tool for Developing Sensor Signal Path Systems

September 22, 2008

WEBENCH Sensor Designer tool from National Semiconductor enables engineers to move from concept to simulation to prototype in a few keystrokes.


SANTA CLARA, CA -- National Semiconductor Corp. (NYSE:NSM) introduced the industry's first sensor signal path design tool that enables engineers to quickly move from concept to simulation to prototyping of common sensor solutions used in medical, industrial and high-end consumer products.

The WEBENCH Sensor Designer tool significantly reduces design time and cost by configuring a complete sensor signal path solution with just a few keystrokes. Prior to this design tool, an engineer would have to consume valuable development time matching sensor characteristics and performance with an operational amplifier's (op amp's) DC performance and an analog-to-digital converter's (ADC) resolution and accuracy. Additional time would then be required for circuit evaluation and prototyping.

The WEBENCH Sensor Designer tool streamlines the sensor interface and data conversion design, allowing the engineer to focus on the other parts of the overall system. With a few keystrokes, National's WEBENCH Sensor Designer tool matches the industry's leading bridge pressure sensors, photodetector sensors and thermocouple sensors with National's PowerWise energy-efficient op amps and pin- and function-compatible 8-, 10-, 12-, 14- and 16-bit ADCs.

For example, the WEBENCH Sensor Designer tool can combine the PowerWise LMP7731 precision amplifier with the new ADC161S626 16-bit, 250 Ksps differential input ADC. The LMP7731 features low input voltage noise of 2.9 nV/sqrt Hz with a 1/f noise corner of only 3 Hz, while the ADC161S626 provides signal accuracy of +/- 0.003 percent over the –40°C to 85°C temperature range. Each signal path solution amplifies, conditions and digitizes the sensor output to directly link to a microcontroller or digital signal processor (DSP). The tool also allows users to order a customized evaluation kit for prototyping their simulated WEBENCH solution in the lab.

How WEBENCH Sensor Designer Works
After selecting the appropriate sensor type, engineers click the "create a design" button. If a particular sensor is not pre-loaded in the tool, users have the ability to create a custom sensor and save it to their work space. The WEBENCH Sensor Designer tool then generates a design schematic, bill of materials (BOM) and performance summary, including a detailed error analysis, and presents this information on-screen in a matter of seconds. The tool also allows engineers to quickly make performance-to-price trade-offs and easily optimize their analog design for their particular sensor by choosing a different op amp or ADC, or by modifying system values.

Using the 'Build It!' option, designers can generate solutions they can use for evaluation and prototyping. Customized prototype kits can be shipped within 24 hours to accelerate test and validation. These kits interface directly to any system with a digital input. For engineers that would like to interface directly to a PC, a separate communications evaluation board (supplied with either an SPI or I2C to USB interface) and software is available. The software analyzes the sensor signal path to aid engineers with fine-tuning the design's overall performance. To begin a design with the WEBENCH Sensor Designer tool, go to www.national.com/sensors.

Sensor manufacturers and distributors interested in being featured in the WEBENCH Sensor Designer tool should contact National directly.

The WEBENCH Sensor Designer tool is an extension of National's WEBENCH tools for light-emitting diodes (LEDs), power, signal path design, audio, amplifiers and active filters, and National's Analog University online learning facility.

About National's WEBENCH Design Environment
National's WEBENCH environment eliminates the need for a design engineer to perform tedious hand calculations and includes extensive online tutorials in analog design. The tools offer instant access to the latest SPICE models, parametric data and package information, enabling designers to simultaneously compare the performance of multiple devices in multiple circuit requirements. National's products in the WEBENCH environment ship within 24 hours worldwide.

About National Semiconductor
National Semiconductor creates energy-efficient analog and mixed-signal semiconductors. Its PowerWise products enable systems that consume less power, extend battery life and generate less heat. Headquartered in Santa Clara, CA, National reported sales of $1.89 billion for fiscal 2008 which ended May 25, 2008.


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