EMC and Signal Integrity with Dan Beeker

April 16, 2019 Judy Warner

Our guest today is Dan Beeker, Senior Principal Engineer at NXP Semiconductors, who is well known for addressing EMC and signal integrity in a really fresh way. Dan has presented twice as a Keynote Speaker at AltiumLive, both in San Diego and Munich. The information shared in this talk is extremely practical and valuable. Listen in, this information will impact the designs you do every day! Remember, it’s “all about the space”.

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Show Highlights:

  • Dan started out with Air Force electronics training followed by his role as Motorola’s microsystems Group Test Repair Technician, and now Dan is the Senior Principal Engineer with NXP.  
  • You’ve presented twice at AltiumLive events as a keynote speaker, called “It’s all about the space” What does it mean, it’s all about the space?
  • The real key to successful engineering is the realisation that it is energy moving through space. It’s critical to design the spaces. The concept that the energy moves through wires, is what led us to where we are today. In the past where switching was very slow, it didn’t matter, however, as technology changed and switching sped up, we saw higher failure rates in EMC.
  • We reduced the size of the antenna required by an order of magnitude, practicing circuit theory without realising that energy moves through the laminate (the space). Energy also moves through the board space from one dielectric layer, up to a higher one.      
  • Why do you think engineers and designers alike lose this perspective along the way? It’s somewhat confusing, because geometry cannot be imported. Many still believe that the energy transfer is instantaneous. If that were the case there would never be signal integrity problems because energy transfer is much slower.
  • This is also happening because the physics side of electronics engineering is made out to be something that’s quite difficult. There is a lack of cohesion between the science of energy and its reality and what we’re teaching people.
  • The fundamental concept is we design products that generate, manage and consume electromagnetic field energy, not electrons. This field has to be in a space.
  • Physics trumps theory!
  • Five minutes into that class I knew that everything I had ever designed, had worked by accident! Rick (Hartley) became a friend and a wonderful mentor.
  • Ralph Morrison taught me the importance of physics and that the energy was in the spaces and not the traces. He said: ‘People travel through the halls and not the walls, signals and energy travel in the spaces not the traces,’ which inspired my song.
  • The geometry of the spaces has proven to be extremely successful with the help of my mentors.
  • Finding great mentors is crucial.
  • If you’re still in school, pay attention, take the extra time to talk to your professors and connect the dots of the behaviors of the electromagnetic field.
  • Electronics is a world of three’s: You can store energy, you can move it or you can convert it into kinetic energy - that’s it, the entire electronics world!
  • This is not an extremely complicated world for managing electromagnetic fields. You have three components: a conductor, a dielectric, and a switch. This isn’t rocket science, this is plumbing!
  • You have to have to start using ground as a pointer object within your board stack. The conductor from the source of the energy to the place where that energy is consumed, next to a dielectric, so that the ground and the dielectric next to it, is unbroken from the source of the energy to the destination.      

Technical conferences where you can see Dan Beeker speak:

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About the Author

Judy Warner

Judy Warner has held a unique variety of roles in the electronics industry since 1984. She has a deep background in PCB Manufacturing, RF and Microwave PCBs and Contract Manufacturing with a focus on Mil/Aero applications in technical sales and marketing.

She has been a writer, contributor and journalist for several industry publications such as Microwave Journal, The PCB Magazine, The PCB Design Magazine, PDCF&A and IEEE Microwave Magazine and is an active member of multiple IPC Designers Council chapters.

In March 2017, Warner became the Director of Community Engagement for Altium and immediately launched Altium’s OnTrack Newsletter.
She led the launch of AltiumLive: Annual PCB Design Summit, a new and annual Altium User Conference.

Judy's passion is to provide resources, support and to advocate for PCB Designers around the world.

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