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Computer program for balancing power plane pin currents in a printed wiring board

Imported: 13 Feb '17 | Published: 18 Jan '11

Hubert Harrer, Andreas Huber, Thomas-Michael Winkel

USPTO - Utility Patents

Abstract

A computer program for balancing power plane pin currents in a printed wiring board (PWB) provides for reduction in pin counts required for power plane (including ground plane) connections and/or reduction in requirements for connector current handling per pin. One or more slots is introduced in the metal layer implementing the power plane that alter the current distribution in the power plane. The per-pin current profile for connector pins connected to the power plane is equalized by tuning the length of the slot(s). The slots may be dashed or made internal to the power plane metal layer to avoid weakening the metal layer for laminated multi-layer PWBs and may be shaped around a connector end when the power plane pin allocation is not uniform at the connector ends. The resulting equalization reduces either pin count required for carrying the power plane current or reduces connector pin current requirements.

Description

This Application is a Division of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/050,602, filed on Feb. 3, 2005 now U.S. Pat. No. 7,418,779.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

The present invention relates generally to electrical and electronic circuits and systems fabricated on printed wiring boards and more specifically to a computer program product embodying a method for balancing power plane pin currents and printed wiring board having balanced pin currents.

2. Description of the Related Art

Printed wiring boards (PWBs), also referred to as printed circuit boards (PCBs) have been in use for decades for fabricating circuits and entire systems. The PWBs provide the interconnects for discrete and integrated components and subsystems and provide power paths or power planes for interconnecting the components to power supplies.

Power distribution in PWBs has always been a concern and in particular, high current systems such as today's processing systems and interchangeable processing sub-units (“blades”) require the handling of very high currents per PWB on some power supply connections, which can generate substantial voltage drops within the PWB conductor(s) and require multiple connector pins or other connector contacts connected in parallel to carry the amount of current supplied to a particular power supply distribution net.

To alleviate the voltage drop problem (and also provide electromagnetic shielding), processing systems and subsystems integrated on a PWB typically use specific layers of a multilayer PWB to carry the power supply voltages and returns or may include a few other connections, but will primarily be power supply layers. A layer dedicated to power supply distribution may actually include multiple power planes distributing two or more separate power supply outputs or may be dedicated to distributing a single power supply output.

The large metal areas typically used for power planes reduces the voltage drop to the connector pins or other terminals used to connect the PWB to a power supply. However, differential voltages exist between the power supply terminal connections, even with a continuous metal plane, because of differing resistive path lengths between the terminals and the current sinks or sources (e.g., a large current consumer such as a processor) and the individual terminals. Additionally, the current distribution in the power plane metal, which is not uniform, contributes to the differential voltages between the terminals, and the differential voltages cause non-uniform distribution of terminal currents. In general: 1) terminals that are closer to the current sources and sinks (i.e., the device power terminals) on the PWB carry more current due to the shorter paths; and 2) terminals that are toward the outside of the terminal array carry higher currents due to the decreased current density away from the center of the connector length (because of lowered voltage drop per unit length along the paths passing through lower current density regions). Both of the above-recited factors superimpose to yield a particular terminal current distribution for each power plane and for each PWB/terminal configuration.

In present-day systems, such as large scalable server systems operating at relatively low voltages, the current levels per PWB and per-terminal are very large. As such, a significant amount of power is dissipated in the connectors due to pin resistance and in the PWBs themselves due to the finite conductivity of the metal layers used to implement the power planes. The use of thin laminated PWBs having many layers also increases the effective resistance of the paths between devices on the PWB and the connector terminals, leading to an increase in the terminal current distribution described above.

The disparity in terminal currents leads to a need to over-specify a connector for pin current handling, which is typically set by the maximum power dissipation through the pin and the overall tolerable pin resistance (dictated by the maximum voltage drop(s) to the components on the PWB). Alternatively, an increase in the total number of terminals required to couple the power supply to the PWB power plane(s) is required.

Also, overall power dissipation is increased by a disparate terminal current distribution. Because the power dissipation per terminal (both in the power plane and the connector pin) is a function of the square of the current through the terminal, the average power dissipation in a connector is not constant over all the possible terminal current distributions, but is at a minimum when the terminal current distribution is equal. For example, for two terminals carrying a total of 4A, if the pin currents are equal, the power dissipation in watts is 8R where R is the resistance of the pins. If the pin currents are 1A and 3A respectively, the power dissipation in watts is 10R. Equalizing the terminal current distribution minimizes the power dissipation in the connector, as well as generally minimizing average power dissipation in the power plane metal area.

It is therefore desirable to provide a method for PWB power plane design and a PWB power plane implementation that equalizes the connector terminal currents for power supply connections.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The objective of equalizing terminals currents at a PWB connection is provided in a method for PWB design and a PWB design that alters power plane current distribution to equalize the current distribution among multiple terminals commonly connected to the power plane. The method is embodied in a computer program product for PWB design.

A slot is introduced in the power plane or between two power planes to alter the current distribution in the power plane(s) so that current through power supply connection terminals commonly connected to the power plane(s) is equalized.

A slot may be introduced beyond each physical end of a connector and the slot lengths tuned to equalize the currents between the power plane and terminals of the connector connected to the power plane. The slot may be dashed to reduce structural weakening at the edge of the PWN for thin laminated PWBs, in particular to reduce bending or tearing during lamination of metal layers with dielectric layers. The slot may also be shaped around a connector end when connector column lengths are not equal or when the power plane terminals are not evenly distributed across rows of the connectors at an end of a connector.

Multiple power planes within a single layer of a PWB may have connection currents tuned in the above manner and/or multiple layers having power planes within a single PWB may be likewise tuned.

The foregoing and other objectives, features, and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following, more particular, description of the preferred embodiment of the invention, as illustrated in the accompanying drawings.

DESCRIPTION OF ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENT

With reference now to the figures, and in particular with reference to FIGS. 1A and 1B, advantages of the techniques of the present invention are illustrated by pictorial diagrams that show the current distribution between terminal lands 12 of a connector mounting area 10A, 10B. In FIG. 1A, a standard PWB current distribution is shown, with the brightness of terminal lands 12 indicating the current level at that terminal when the connector terminals are commonly connected to a power supply output. A solid copper layer is generally used to implement a power plane (including ground planes) and the voltage rise at terminal lands 12 is typically higher toward the center of the connector or in locations where the highest current consumers (or providers for return planes) are located. For this example, a high current consumption is assumed parallel to the center of the connector, but the techniques of the present invention may be applied to any terminal current distribution. The increased voltage rise leads to less actual current being provided or accepted by the power supply output as shown by the darker (lower current) terminals, resulting in an unequal distribution of current among the power supply terminals at a connector. The amount of current drawn by a terminal is a function of both the path length and the current density along the path from the power supply connection of the devices mounted on the PWB to the terminal. Since the current density is higher toward the center of the connector, but the path length is lower (assuming the device are centered on the PWB), the lowest current terminals are disposed toward the center of the connector and toward the edge of the connector mounting area farthest from the devices, as shown in FIG. 1A.

It is highly desirable to equalize the current distribution among the terminals, as the maximum current per terminal generally determines the minimum number of connector terminals for a given power plane. Alternatively, or partially in conjunction, the minimum current handling for the terminal pins, maximum voltage rise for a terminal pin or wiring/backplane from the power supply if individual runs are employed, and the individual current handling of individual runs can be relaxed if the terminal current distribution is equalized. Further, due to the square-law relationship of power vs. current, overall power dissipation in the connector and the PWB is reduced when terminal currents are equalized.

FIG. 1B shows an equalized current distribution across terminals 12 in connector mounting area 10B of a PWB in accordance with an embodiment of the invention. The overall shading of terminals 12 compared to terminals 12 in FIG. 1B shows that the current per pin has been equalized over that of FIG. 1A. The connector terminal lands in the central rows of connector mounting area 10B, and in particular those farthest away from the PWB devices (toward the left of the figure) are carrying more current than the same terminals in the PWB illustrated by FIG. 1A. The terminal lands toward the ends of connector mounting area 10B are carrying less current in the PWB illustrated by FIG. 1B than in the PWB illustrated in FIG. 1A. In general, the minimum and maximum terminal currents are much closer in FIG. 1B than for the terminal currents depicted in FIG. 1B and therefore, the power dissipation in the connector and PWB is significantly lower. The reduction of the maximum terminal current permits increased terminal current handling margins, reduced terminal specification requirements and/or a reduced number of terminals required for the power plane connections.

Referring now to FIG. 2, a power plane 20 (single metal layer) of PWB in accordance with an embodiment of the invention is shown. Two slots 22A and 22B are introduced in power plane 20 that alter the current density near the ends of connector mounting area 24 and having tuned lengths L1 and L2, respectively that are adjusted to substantially equalize the connector terminal currents. Other features of power plane 20 include through holes 26B for passage of signal and other connections not connected to power plane 20, and power plane terminals 26A for receiving blind vias or leads that connect to power plane 20. Also illustrated is an integrated circuit package mounting area 28 such as a processor that is a high current consumer that generates the “current crowding” problem solved by the present invention.

While FIG. 2 illustrates only one power plane 20, it should be understood that the technique applied to power plane 20 can be applied to every power plane in a PWB, permitting equalization of terminal currents in groups corresponding to each power supply output connected to an associated PWB power plane. The slot lengths can be determined individually for each power plane based on the amount of correction needed for the particular plane in order to equalize the terminal currents for each and all planes.

Referring now to FIG. 3A, another type of slot 22C that can be used to alter current density and equalize terminal current distribution is shown. The dashed line form of slot 22C is used to avoid reducing the strength of a metal layer, especially toward the edges, where tearing may occur during handling or lamination of built-up PWBs.

Referring now to FIG. 3B, yet another type of slot 22D that can be used to alter current density and equalize terminal current distribution is shown. The bent line form of slot 22D is used to permit critical signal traces 30 to be routed around the ends of connector mounting area 24, as the impedance and electromagnetic coupling of signal trace 30 would be affected by a slot such as slot 22A of FIG. 2, which would cross signal trace 30.

Referring now to FIG. 3C, still another type of slot 22E that can be used to alter current density and equalize terminal current distribution is shown. The jogged line form of slot 22E is used when the terminals of a connector are unused (as depicted, there are no connections to two locations), or when the power plane terminals in the row(s) at the end of the connector are not evenly distributed. The jog in the line alters the current distribution in both directions of the connector, permitting equalization of the terminal current distribution even when the terminals are not evenly distributed to the power plane.

Referring now to FIG. 4, a metal layer 40 of a PWB having multiple power planes on a single layer is shown. Such a PWB is illustrative of an application where there are multiple processors on a PWB, each having an individual power supply output providing their power. Rather than slots placed at ends of the connector, the multi-power plane solution of the present invention provides for use of a gap 42 between the power planes as a tuning mechanism for altering current distribution among the terminals connecting each power plane to its corresponding power supply output. The position and/or width of gap 42 can be altered, as shown, to make changes in the current distribution of each power plane where required, yielding an equalized terminal current distribution for each of the power planes. Additionally, slots such as slot 22F having a tuned length as described above with respect to FIG. 2, may be used to equalize the terminal current distribution(s) on one or more of the power planes with respect to the connected terminals.

Referring now to FIG. 5, a method in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention is depicted. First, a PWB metal layer is set up for simulation by introducing one or more slots (step 50). Next, the current and potential across the metal are simulated for known circuit conditions (step 52). Then, from the distributions computed in step 52, the terminal current distribution is determined (step 54) and the distribution is tested for equality and/or convergence criteria (decision 56). If the criteria are not met, the slot lengths are adjusted (step 58), a slot may also be removed, added or relocated and then steps 50-56 are repeated. Other techniques may be used in accordance with other embodiments of the invention, including determination of the current/potential distribution by actual measurement and/or calculation of initial slot dimensions from empirical models applied to actual or simulated terminal current distributions or condensed statistics such as the current deviation. In general, the techniques of the present invention provide a mechanism via the slots, by which the current distribution is equalized as best as possible by tuning the slot lengths.

Referring now to FIG. 6, a workstation computer system, in which methods according to an embodiment of the present invention are performed, is depicted. A workstation computer 112, having a processor 116 coupled to a memory 117, for executing program instructions from memory 117, wherein the program instructions include program instructions for executing one or more methods in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

Workstation computer 112 is coupled to a graphical display 113 for displaying program output such as simulation results and power plane and circuit layout structure input, design and verification programs implementing embodiments of the present invention. Workstation computer 112 is further coupled to input devices such as a mouse 115 and a keyboard 114 for receiving user input. Workstation computer may be coupled to a public network such as the Internet, or may be a private network such as the various “intra-nets” and software containing program instructions embodying methods in accordance with embodiments of the present invention may be located on remote computers or locally within workstation computer 112.

While the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to the preferred embodiment thereof, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that the foregoing and other changes in form, and details may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.

Claims

1. A computer program product comprising a non-transitory computer readable storage media encoding program instructions for execution on a workstation computer, said program instructions for determining a shape of one or more metal layers of a printed wiring board (PWB), wherein said program instructions are adapted for controlling a current distribution among a plurality of connector terminals of a connector mounted on the printed wiring board that commonly connect a power plane of at least one of the metal layers to a power supply wherein the program instructions comprise program instructions for:
placing a connector mounting layout for connecting terminals of the connector including the plurality of connector terminals on the printed wiring board;
introducing at least two slots in said at least one metal layer and proximate said plurality of connector terminals for altering the current distribution among the connector terminals;
determining a profile of said current distribution among said terminals by simulating circuit conditions expected on the connector terminals; and
adjusting a length of said at least one slot to equalize said current distribution among said terminals; and wherein the program instructions for introducing introduce two slots, one disposed at a first end of a connector mounting area bearing said plurality of connector terminals and one disposed at a second end of said connector mounting area and wherein said program instructions for adjusting adjust a length of each of said two slots to attain a substantially equal current distribution among said plurality of connector terminals.
placing a connector mounting layout for connecting terminals of the connector including the plurality of connector terminals on the printed wiring board;
introducing at least two slots in said at least one metal layer and proximate said plurality of connector terminals for altering the current distribution among the connector terminals;
determining a profile of said current distribution among said terminals by simulating circuit conditions expected on the connector terminals; and
adjusting a length of said at least one slot to equalize said current distribution among said terminals; and wherein the program instructions for introducing introduce two slots, one disposed at a first end of a connector mounting area bearing said plurality of connector terminals and one disposed at a second end of said connector mounting area and wherein said program instructions for adjusting adjust a length of each of said two slots to attain a substantially equal current distribution among said plurality of connector terminals.
2. The computer program product of claim 1, further comprising program instructions for repeating said determining and adjusting until said current distribution is substantially equal.
3. The computer program product of claim 1, wherein said plurality of connector terminals are terminals of a multi-row connector, wherein said plurality of connector terminals are not evenly distributed across rows of said connector at an end of said connector, wherein said at least two slots are located at ends of the connector and further comprising program instructions for shaping said slot to improve equality of current distribution across said rows at said end of said connector.
4. The computer program product of claim 1, wherein said program instruction for introducing introduce a plurality of colinear slots in the form of a dashed line, whereby said dashed line improves a strength of said at least one metal layer to avoid damaging said metal layer during said laminating.
5. The computer program product of claim 1, wherein said at least one metal layer is a plurality of metal layers and wherein said program instructions for introducing introduce at least one slot in each of said plurality of metal layers and wherein said program instructions for determining and adjusting operate on each of said plurality of metal layers to equalize connector terminal distributions for each of several power supply outputs connected to corresponding metal layers.