Keysight Technologies, Inc., and ROHM Semiconductor, jointly announce a PathWave Advanced Design System (ADS)-compatible workspace that enables designers to perform pre-compliance testing on virtual prototypes of switched-mode power supply (SMPS) designs. This capability saves time and cost by catching errors early in the design before they become a big problem.

Demand for SMPS is driven by the need for greater efficiency, increased power density, and lower cost. Fast, low-loss switches made from silicon carbide (SiC) and related materials will power future applications due to the high performance and efficiency they enable. However, unwanted side effects from high-speed switching include voltage spikes ("ringing"). In addition, it is more difficult to meet conducted and radiated electromagnetic interference (EMI) specifications in higher speed designs. Pre-compliance analysis of a "virtual prototype" or "digital twin" is ideal for managing this challenge, but previously required expertise to build and use the necessary design information, called a "workspace."

To address this, Keysight teamed with ROHM to create the "twin" of ROHM's reference design (model P01SCT2080KE-EVK-001) available to mutual customers via Keysight's web site at

Virtual prototypes are complementary to physical prototypes. Physical prototypes are the gold standard for compliance and measured characteristics, but have several drawbacks including: expensive and time consuming to design, build and measure; are vulnerable to catastrophic failure (the infamous "smoke test" that produces actual smoke); and it is hard to get a measurement probe onto interior nodes.

In contrast, virtual prototypes are easy to change and while they do flag device overstress as warning messages during simulation, they never emit real smoke. The voltage, current and fields at every spatial point in the 3D grid and every time step in the simulation can be recorded and made accessible for plotting, even points that are physically inaccessible in the real world such as inside a semiconductor package.

"Many of our customers struggle to deal with layout effects when current slew rate in the switched loop exceeds 1A/ns because even tiny parasitic inductances cause ringing. Suppressing EMI is also a big challenge for them," said Ippei Yasutake, Group Leader at ROHM. "The digital twin gives our customers the insights they need to make changes without running into problems."

"This is going to be a big timesaver for anyone wanting to get the most out of designs that use wide bandgap power devices. The layouts can be hard to tame, and EM extraction is key. This workspace and application-specific tool like PEPro makes things much easier," said Steve Sandler, Managing Director, Picotest.

"SMPS engineers tell me they are all struggling with is designing in this the high di/dt era," said Yang Zou, Director of Emerging Business at Keysight's PathWave Software Solutions division. "They really see the value when I explain the pre-compliance 'virtual prototyping' capability of this new workspace."