Power Supply Schematic Design in Altium Designer

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: March 22, 2021
Power Supply Design in Altium Designer

Whether you’re designing a bench power supply for an electronics lab, or you need to design an embedded power supply for an IoT product, you’ll need some world-class PCB design tools. Altium is here to help you floorplan your power supply and create a set of detailed schematics with powerful circuit design and simulation features. With the schematic design features in Altium Designer, you can create and simulate your new power supply design. You’ll also have the features you need to source components and prepare your new power supply for manufacturing. No other PCB design platform gives you this many features for success.


A professional PCB design software platform that integrates circuit design features with a powerful PCB editor and simulation features for power supply design.

Every circuit board needs a power supply. Your power supply design strategy can involve integrated circuits when working with low level signals, but higher power designs need discrete components to provide the required power output and regulation. Whether you’re creating a simple regulator using multiple converters and an LDO, or you’re designing for high current output, you’ll need a powerful schematic editor to create your power supply circuit. Take a look at our comprehensive power supply design guide to see how you can use the design tools in Altium Designer for your new board.

Planning Your Power Supply Design

Your power supply and regulation strategy involves several stages, and it requires considering your input power source when planning your new design. AC-AC conversion is quite simple and only involves step-up or step-down regulation, possibly with a power correction factor circuit to increase efficiency. If you’re planning a power supply for AC-DC conversion, your power supply design will be similar to the block diagram below.

Power supply design rectifier, EMI filter, PFC, and buck converter in Altium Designer

AC-DC power supply design block diagram.

Once you’ve converted your AC input to DC, you can follow the typical DC-DC conversion and regulation strategy to output stable DC voltage at the desired current. DC-DC conversion requires implementing the right power supply topology. The most common topologies are buck, boost, and buck-boost conversion, but related power supply topologies can be used for DC-DC conversion and regulation. Note that the flowchart shown below is also used with unregulated DC power sources to generate stable DC power for your components.

Power supply design rectifier, EMI filter, PFC, and buck converter in Altium Designer

DC-DC power supply design block diagram.

Each stage in the regulator needs to be built from discrete components and/or integrated circuits that provide each function. You can create a power supply from passives and power regulator ICs, or you can use discrete components. Different stages can be isolated to prevent a high voltage from reaching the output port, which eliminates an important safety hazard. Once you’ve determined your power conversion and regulation strategy, you need to choose your components and create schematics.

Schematic Design for a New Power Supply

The conversion and regulation stages shown above are well-known and are available as reference designs from a number of manufacturers. You can also find many examples of different regulator and converter designs on Altium’s PCB Design blog. The schematic editor in Altium Designer allows you to find the components you need for your board with the Manufacturer Part search panel. These components will have verified schematic symbols, PCB footprints, and 3D models, as well as current sourcing information with updated quantities and prices.

Power supply design rectifier, EMI filter, PFC, and buck converter in Altium Designer

Rectifier, EMI filter, PFC, and buck converter sections of a power supply design in Altium Designer

Designing Each Regulator Stage

When selecting components for your power supply design, pay close attention to important specifications in datasheets. Input and output voltage/current levels are quite important, but you also need to consider other components for regulation. If your input power source will vary during operation, you’ll need to have a strategy to ensure the output from your power supply remains stable during operation. This is perhaps the most important point in designing a power supply to accommodate different input power sources.

Your regulator stages may need to have feedback with a regulator controller IC, which then uses a PWM signal to ensure the output from your regulator is maintained at the desired voltage. The idea is to maintain the regulator stage output above the dropout voltage for the final LDO (see above), or to set the regulator output at a specific value. Controller ICs are available for these tasks, and they can be easily added to a regulator design in the feedback loop.

Evaluating Your Power Supply Design with Simulations

Once you cascade your regulator stages and determine how your input power signal will behave, you’ll need to verify the functionality of your design before you create your layout. This is the best time to examine your power supply design with a SPICE-based simulator. When your schematic editor includes an integrated simulation tool, you’ll be able to instantly run DC and mixed-signal simulations directly from your schematic data. Once you’ve evaluated your design, you can use an integrated schematic capture tool to start your power supply layout.

Schematic editor simulation results in power supply design with Altium Designer

MOSFET simulation outputs generated from the schematic editor in Altium Designer

The Best ECAD Software for Power Supply Design

From the schematic editor to the powerful CAD tools, Altium Designer has everything you need for power supply design. The schematic editor includes a circuit simulator for evaluating circuit functionality, and the PCB editor allows you to instantly import your schematic into a new layout. You’ll remain at your most productive when you use Altium Designer.

Complete Your Entire PCB Design in Altium Designer

Although the schematic design and circuit simulation features in Altium Designer are ideal for power supply design, you won’t be limited to building regulators and converters. The schematic and layout design features in Altium Designer can be used to create powerful new products in any application. From high-speed/high-frequency design to power distribution systems, you’ll have a complete set of tools for all aspects of electronics design.

Altium Designer is also the only platform that gives you the features you need to prepare a board for full-scale manufacturing. Altium Designer makes this process easy by integrating all your design data in a single location. You won’t have to use separate programs to create bills of materials, Gerber files, drill files, or assembly drawings. You can prepare everything you need for prototyping and full-scale manufacturing in Altium Designer.

Power supply design in an integrated environment helps you stay productive and create higher quality products. If you’re just getting started using an integrated PCB design environment, Altium gives you the resources you need to design successfully. You’ll have access to the AltiumLive forum, webinars and podcasts with industry experts, a huge knowledge base with plenty of design tips, and design tutorials. No other PCB design software company is this invested in your success.

Altium Designer has set a new standard in circuit design, PCB layout, and simulation. You can implement the power supply design guidelines presented here and create other powerful products when you use Altium Designer.

Altium Designer on Altium 365 delivers an unprecedented amount of integration to the electronics industry until now relegated to the world of software development, allowing designers to work from home and reach unprecedented levels of efficiency.

We have only scratched the surface of what is possible to do with Altium Designer on Altium 365. You can check the product page for a more in-depth feature description or one of the On-Demand Webinars.

About Author

About Author

Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. He currently provides research, design, and marketing services to companies in the electronics industry. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University and conducted research on random laser theory, materials, and stability. His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental sensors, and stochastics. His work has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written 2500+ technical articles on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, American Physical Society, and the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA). He previously served as a voting member on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee working on technical standards for quantum electronics, and he currently serves on the IEEE P3186 Working Group focused on Port Interface Representing Photonic Signals Using SPICE-class Circuit Simulators.

Related Resources

Back to Home
Thank you, you are now subscribed to updates.