That's the bad news. But the good news is that increasingly, the vital and critical role of the "supply" for realizing effective and efficient design is getting the attention—and even some of the respect—it deserves. After all, every product needs one or more supplies (whether line or battery operated) for basic operation, driving LEDS and screens, and countless other functions. The supply's size, efficiency and performance establish a foundation for today's ever-more aggressive and high-function products. The growing attendance and interest in APEC is tangible evidence of this change in attitude.
Addressing the need for supply-related training, Texas Instruments (TI) has introduced its Power Management Lab Kit series, a trio of independent evaluation boards covering buck, boost, and even the often unfairly maligned linear/low dropout regulator (LDO), and a buck-boost kit coming soon. The kits are designed for both students in EE programs as well as practicing EEs in industry who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with power supply-related design, issues and tradeoffs.
This is not a "closed box" kit where you supply various signals and power according to a simple cookbook, and then observe the results with little room for exploration. The boards in the series offer unique experiments with an experiment lab book covering four key power topologies plus case studies demonstrating different aspects of power supply design. Users can investigate the effect of physical parameters and operation conditions on supply performance, including modes of operation, efficiency, accuracy, magnetics, control and transient response.
The lab kits were developed in partnership with Nicola Femia, a power expert and faculty member at the University of Salerno, Italy. Prices range from $49 to $99, depending on the kit selected. For more information, go to the TI Educator site, and you can also read the interesting "Power House" hands-on blog by TI Applications Engineer Chris Sarli, which walks through the kits in much more detail: "Power Tips: Shock and Awesome (The PMLK)."