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Engineers Can Ditch Datasheets With Flux Generative AI Tool

July 27, 2023 by Barbara Vergetis Lundin

The newest addition to Flux’s Copilot can fully understand datasheets, so users don’t have to.

For electrical engineers, one of the most time-consuming aspects of design is reading through component datasheets. Specifically in the field of power electronics, where tolerances are tight and could mean the difference between success and catastrophic failure, a large aspect of the engineer’s job is to meticulously read through datasheets to select the right components


Datasheets

Image used courtesy of Adobe Stock

 

Flux is a browser-based PCB design tool that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to change the narrative. Specifically, the design tool’s generative AI assistant can fully comprehend component datasheets on behalf of the user. 

EEPower caught up with Flux Co-Founders Matthias Wagner and Lance Cassidy to learn about the features firsthand. 

 

Datasheets for Power Electronics

When designing power electronics, a significant portion of the job involves selecting the right components for the application. To this end, reading datasheets is a primary responsibility of any design engineer.

Whether choosing a power MOSFET rated to the correct voltage or understanding the boot-up timing sequence for a power-management IC, the key to success is often found in component datasheets. 

“When you’re designing something like a DC/DC converter, all it takes is for one component to not be properly rated and the entire system either blows up or, if you’re lucky, it just doesn’t work,” Wagner told EEPower.

Still, anyone who has designed an electronic circuit before can tell you that while reading datasheets is invaluable, it can also be particularly daunting. 

“Datasheets are meant to be a source of knowledge, but they often end up being so dense and confusing that even the most experienced engineers struggle to find the information they need,” Cassidy told us.

For a company like Flux which is keen on making hardware design more accessible to the masses, datasheets represent a real pain point for designers of all experience levels.

 

Flux and Copilot

Flux is a browser-based PCB design tool created to make PCB design more accessible and less complicated. Flux achieves this with a community-based approach where users can share designs and parts to reduce new project startup times. 

 

A DC/DC converter layout in Flux

A DC/DC converter layout in Flux. Image used with permission courtesy of Flux

 

Flux recently took things one step further with their Copilot tool. 

Flux Copilot is the industry’s first AI-powered design assistant integrated into a PCB design tool. A chat-based design assistant that lives in Flux projects, Copilot understands the context of a project and can provide design feedback and suggestions and even implement schematic wiring for the user. 

“Copilot was created to reduce the barrier to entry for hardware design by equipping every Flux user with their own personal design expert at their disposal,” Wagner explained to EE Power. “Copilot is generative AI for hardware, being able to actually take action and wire up schematics for users.”

 

New Addition: Ditch Datasheets With AI

Today, Flux announced a new feature to its Copilot tool, which it believes will be a game changer for EEs: The ability to more accurately and reliably read datasheets. 

With Flux, every part has a field where users can enter the URL to the part’s datasheet for easy access. Leveraging this feature, the Flux team has engineered their Copilot tool to directly access and fully understand each part’s datasheet automatically. 

 

An example of Flux Copilot’s new capabilities

An example of Flux Copilot’s new capabilities. Image used with permission courtesy of Flux

 

“Copilot is able to read through and interpret the entire datasheet for you. Now, if you want to find information from the datasheet, you can just ask Copilot directly instead of having to read through the datasheet itself,” Cassidy explained to EE Power. “The implication is that engineers get to spend less time reading through datasheets and more time doing the design itself.”

A major aspect of the launch is providing engineers with more confidence in their LLMs' answers. To inspire confidence and ensure that the information Copilot provides users is accurate, the team has added the ability for Copilot to give citations for its responses inline, allowing users to fact-check the Copilot response. 

“A major problem with the adoption of AI and LLMs is user trust in the outputs,” Cassidy said. “With our new launch, we’re allowing users to see the source of Copilot’s answer so they can be sure it’s grounded in truth.”

 

“Our goal at Flux has always been to take the ‘hard’ out of ‘hardware,’ and by eliminating the need to read datasheets, we think we’ve taken one step closer to that reality.” – Flux Co-Founder Matthias Wagner


Breaking Down Barriers 

In electronic design, and especially in power electronics, component selection and reading datasheets are one of the most important parts of the job. Unfortunately, sifting through datasheets is all too often difficult and tedious, marking a major barrier to entry for designers of all experience levels.

The team believes they’ve found a way around this challenge with Flux's addition to Copilot. 

“Our goal at Flux has always been to take the ‘hard’ out of ‘hardware,’ and by eliminating the need to read datasheets, we think we’ve taken one step closer to that reality,” Wagner concluded.