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May 26, 2001

On Semiconductor SMPS Seminar (Ray Ridley)

The local On Semiconductor SMPS Seminar was held in Irvine California on February 12-13, 2001. About 225 people attended this two day seminar. This seminar was an incredible bargain at $95. Besides two breakfasts, two lunches, a mixer, and sample parts from a wide variety of vendors, it included a copy of Ridley Engineering Power 4-5-6 software for design and analysis of power converters. This software costs $995 and a special edition was available only to attendees of this seminar.

Dr. Ray Ridley of Ridley Engineering was the star of this seminar with a supporting cast of knowledgeable On Semiconductor engineers. Most of the first day was taken by Ray's presentation, PWM Converter Topologies, Modeling, Control and Magnetics. When Ray said he would accept questions from the audience at any time, I cringed. Do the math -- if all 225 in the audience took 5 minutes for a question and answer, the total would be over 18 hours, leaving no time to cover the content of the seminar. I paid my money to hear Ray Ridley and learn from him, not unknowns from the audience. Most engineers don't know how to control the audience well enough to prevent someone from taking over a seminar. Not the case here -- questions got asked and answered, no material was left out of the seminar, and no one took the seminar away from Dr. Ridley.

The supporting cast was not as successful, using the same invitation for questions, one presenter let a single person (I would like to say idiot, but this would be too harsh) take over the seminar for about ten minutes and then someone else from ON Semiconductor had to intervene to get it back on track. Ten minutes of time from 225 people resulted in 37.5 hours of wasted engineering time. As a former manager, this waste of time is what makes me cringe.

One minor disappointment was that an On Semiconductor engineer gave the demonstration of Power 4-5-6. It was a good presentation, but as a long-time user I felt I knew as much about the software as the presenter. Since the author of the software was available, the possibility existed for a good presentation to become a world-class presentation.

Before in this Blog I have used the Transactional Analysis concepts of Parent, Adult, and Child to discuss the styles of the star presenters at the vendors seminars. Laszlo Balogh in the TI/Unitrode seminar was 100% in his Adult, and Bob Pease of the National Semiconductor seminar mostly in his humorous Child with Adult flashes. Ray Ridley used all the assets in his psyche, judgements from the Parent, engineering content from the Adult, with flashes of humor from the Child. This made it easy to listen for most of the day. Another comment on style. Ray followed his viewgraphs, only deviating for questions and short insights. Not in the viewgraphs, he asked the question of the audience how you should touch a circuit. Answers included; only with one hand with the other hand in your pocket, wear shoes with insulated soles, etc. -- answers he accepted, and then added -- with the back of your fingers. If you get shocked, you involuntarily contract your fingers. You don't want to involuntarily grasp the circuit but want the involuntary reaction to remove your fingers from danger. Ray had a lot of comments on safety, things not normally covered in a seminar, but of immense practical value -- as valuable as your life.

The bottom line? This was an excellent two day seminar -- and because of the value of the Power 4-5-6 software, I felt I got paid $500 a day for attending. (Well almost, I already had a copy of the Ridley Engineering version, which I have used for years.)

Now the disclaimer. Ridley Engineering was a past sponsor of this website, hence you are free to discount everything I have said -- but I think I got it right.

Ray Ridley sent an on email August 14, 2001 saying the ON Semiconductor SMPS Seminar Series with Ray has been discontinued after a very successful seminar in Chicago with 230 attendees. This was confirmed on the On Semiconductor web page which stated the 2001 SMPS Seminar Series has been successfully completed in North America and on June 1 they announced that the European part of the Switching Power Supply Design seminars has been postponed until further notice. That now seems a permanent postponement.

Those who got to attend the seminar got one of the biggest bargains in power supply design seminars. Let's hope that these seminars are continued in the future when market conditions improve.

November 20, 2004 Update: You can still download the On Semiconductor version of Power 4-5-6 for design with On Semiconductor parts at their website. Registration is required.

Posted by Jerrold Foutz at May 26, 2001 01:55 PM