Power Electronics

Online Design Center Eases Development of Electronic Utility Meters

Microchip Technology, a provider of microcontroller and analog ICs, has created an online Utility Meter Design Center that guides engineers through the development of energy, water, gas and heat meters. The design center features charts that take the user through all of the building blocks and considerations in creating a utility metering design, whether for gas, water, heat or electricity. Naturally, the site provides details on relevant Microchip components as well as its metering reference designs, application notes and development tools.

On the main page of the design site, visitors can access an “Introduction to Utility Metering." This PDF document offers what Lucio DiJasio, Application Segments Manager, describes as a “10,000-foot” overview of the type of problems engineers face in designing electronic utility meters. This overview also discusses the benefits of migrating from mechanical meter designs to electronic-based solutions, and outlines the types of solutions provided on Microchip’s Web site.*

Beyond the introduction to electronic utility metering, the design center presents four high-level blocks that link to more in depth information on electrical energy, heat, gas and water meter designs. For instance, clicking on the “energy” link summons a block diagram of an electronic energy meter, along with a list of recommended microcontrollers and supporting ICs needed to implement the functions shown in the diagram. In addition, lists of related development tools and application notes are provided. With each document listed, there’s a link to further information or the document itself.

Furthermore, visitors can click on the various blocks in the energy meter block diagram to find more information on the requirements for each block and the types of devices Microchip offers to implement those functions. DiJasio notes that Microchip’s list of recommended devices includes not only newer devices but also some “mature” components that the company’s customers are using heavily in their metering designs.

Bryan Liddiard, vice president of marketing at Microchip, explains why the company created the design center. "Microchip continues to see a growing opportunity in electronic metering applications worldwide—and our new Utility Meter Design Center helps simplify the metering design process and speed the design cycle for our engineering customers."

Along with its unveiling of the design center, Microchip recently introduced the MCP3905 and MCP3906 stand-alone energy-measurement ICs that output average and instantaneous real power. These energy-measurement front-ends can be paired with a PIC microcontroller to build a single-phase energy meter for residential and industrial applications.

These chips are supported by evaluation and reference design boards specifically tailored for the creation of metering designs. The MCP3905/MCP3906 Energy Meter Reference Design Board (Part # MCP3905RD-PM1) is available for $45, and the MCP3905/MCP3906 Evaluation Board (Part # MCP3905EV) is offered for $75.

*For more information on metering components and designs from Microchip and other vendors, perform a keyword search on “electronic energy metering” at www.powerelectronics.com.

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