How to Optimize Your Power Distribution Network in Only Four Steps

June 28, 2016 David Haboud


Modern designers face a problem that we traditionally did not have to think about: Power Distribution Network (PDN) integrity. We have all seen the need for signal integrity for decades, but power integrity has fallen to the wayside for just as long. Traditionally we have had plenty of space to use dedicated power planes that easily supplied our designs with everything they required for operation.

But as we continue to push the physical limits of our designs, squeezing more components into smaller form factors, we need a method to optimize our PDN while maintaining shrinking form factors. What if you could optimize the shapes of your power planes directly in your design environment without ever relying on a physical prototype or simulation specialist?

PDN Analyzer powered by CST® provides a path to PDN integrity within the Altium Designer workspace. The traditionally lengthy and arduous analysis process can now be broken down into several steps that can be completed in your design environment, allowing you to make changes and re-run analysis in real time.

Here’s how you can easily optimize your PDN in only four steps in PDN Analyzer:


Configured PDN Analyzer Setup

1. Define Your Source Power Net, Load Power Net, and Ground Net

You can find all analyzable components in your DC power rail by selecting your power, load, and ground nets. To do this, simply select the nets you want to analyze and PDN Analyzer automatically creates signal paths utilizing existing passive components to bridge the gap between nets. You never have to worry about tracing all the connections between nets.



Defining Source, Load, and Ground Nets in PDN Analyzer

2. Define Your Source Device and Load Device(s) Relative to One Specific DC Power Rail of Interest

All sources and loads are filtered to display only the components connected to all nets of your DC power rail. You can easily identify the important loads for your analysis with no wasted time scouring through all the components in your design looking for the right components.


Defining a Source Device and Load Device in PDN Analyzer

3. Define Source Net Voltage and Maximum Current

Defining the voltage and current from your source is essential to determine how your PDN will operate for analysis. In PDN Analyzer, you can test the upper and lower limits of your design. For example, you can visually see areas of high current density and unexpected voltage drops.

Identifying these areas facilitates optimization of power shapes dimensions by showing you areas that require alteration. You also have the added benefit of determining possible resonant structures to remove from your design.


Defined Source Parameters


Defined Load Parameters

4. Define Load Net Current and Minimum Voltage Levels Relative to One Specific Power Net

You can analyze the necessary voltage and current draws from component loads to ensure their proper utilization in your PCB. Visualizing the voltage and current density flows gives you peace of mind that your design will function as intended and will allow you to easily spot problems with return current in your design.

Making PDN Analysis Accessible to Every PCB Designer


Current Density Plot from Load to Source

With these four steps, designers of every experience level can reap the benefits of PDN analysis, including: reduced power shape dimensions, optimized return currents, and eliminated resonant ground shapes. Want to optimize your PDN at design time? Register now for a PDN Analyzer free trial today

About the Author

David Haboud

David Haboud is a Product Marketing Engineer at Altium. He studied electrical engineering with an emphasis in computer architecture and hardware/software design at the University of Southern California. David began his career as an embedded software engineer in the aerospace industry and has always strived to make it easier for hardware and software engineers to communicate. During his tenure as an embedded software engineer, he focused on firmware development and data acquisition for auxiliary power units. In his spare time, David hosts and performs in improvisational and stand-up comedy nights in San Diego, California.

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