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Read the latest information PCB Design from the industry's leading experts.
What is Burn-in Testing for Electronics?
Once you’re planning for production of any new board, you’ll likely be planning a battery of tests for your new product. These tests often focus on functionality and, for high speed/high frequency boards, signal/power integrity. However, you may intend for your product to operate for an extreme period of time, and you’ll need some data to reliably place a lower limit on your product’s lifetime. In addition to in-circuit tests, functional tests
PCB Via Current-Carrying Capacity: How Hot is Too Hot?
One common question from designers, particularly new designers that are learning about industry standards, is regarding the current-carrying capacity of conductors in a PCB. Trace and via current-carrying capacity are legitimate design points to focus on when designing a new board that will carry high current. The goal is to keep conductor temperatures below some appropriate limit, which then helps keep components on the board cool. While the
Bluetooth 5.1 SoC vs. Module: Which is Best for Your Design?
The list of features available in Bluetooth just got a little longer since the release of Bluetooth 5.1. Component manufacturers have taken this mobile technology to the next level for IoT devices by integrating wireless comms with an MCU for embedded processing. This is just another step in the continuous push to pack more functionality into a smaller footprint. If you want to incorporate a Bluetooth 5.1 SoC into your new product, you have two
PCB Mountable Connectors: SMD vs. Through-hole
When I designed some of my first boards, I was always working at DC or low speed, and any signal integrity problems from my connectors were an afterthought. These initial boards were for low frequency measurements of an electrochemical sensor. The only circuitry involved was a low-pass filter circuit with through-hole passives, a PCB mountable connector for a lab-grade power supply, and a parallel connection to an SMU. After learning the finer
Designing Pressure Tolerant Electronics: It's All About Mechanics
After a recent inquiry from a customer about a high power board that must withstand high gas pressures, my team suddenly realized we needed to do some research on designing pressure tolerant electronics. This area is not as popular as designing electronics for ambient pressures, but the design techniques used here enable important scientific expeditions and industrial applications in high pressure environments. Whether the board will be placed in
High Voltage SMPS PCB Layout to Minimize Heat and Noise
Whether you are performing AC-DC conversion or DC-DC conversion, switching power supply layouts are common in high voltage design and must be constructed carefully. Although this system is quite common, it will easily radiate EMI due to the fast changes in voltage and current during switching. Designers can rarely adapt existing designs into new systems as a minor change in one area can create an EMI problem that is difficult to diagnose. With
How to Select an Inductor for a Buck Converter
An SMPS is one of those quiet (yet electrically noisy) devices that makes your favorite electronics run smoothly. They sit in the background quietly doing their duty, yet your board wouldn’t operate without them. As part of DC-DC converter design for power-hungry applications, component selection is quite important for ensuring stable power delivery to a load with high efficiency. Among the numerous DC-DC converter topologies, a buck converter
Driving Haptic Vibration and Feedback in Wearables
Augmented reality, virtual surgery, limb replacements, medical devices, and other new technologies need to incorporate haptic vibration motors and feedback to give the wearer a full sense of how they are interacting with their environment. Unless these cutting-edge applications include haptic vibration and feedback, users are forced to rely on their other four senses to understand the real or virtual environment. Low cost components to support
Modeling Copper Foil Roughness in Altium Designer's Impedance Profiler
Advanced transmission line models for long interconnects require that designers include copper foil roughness calculations in order to determine accurate impedance. Without the right models or design software, you’ll be left to estimate the skin effect impedance, dispersion, and parasitics in your PCB. These models can be difficult to work with by hand if you’re not mathematically inclined, but the right design tools can be used to quickly
High-Speed Signal Routing: The 5 Important Constraints
Your modern digital board is most likely classified as high speed, regardless of whether you looked at the datasheets for your components. Designing your board successfully will take some important steps when you begin your design. Aside from floorplanning and stackup design, your routing strategy will need to operate within some important constraints. After you capture your schematic as an initial layout and create an initial component
Debugging Power Supply Noise to Reduce Signal and Clock Jitter
Low level components need ultra-stable power, and high speed digital signals need to have repeatable edge transition times. The two aspects of digital signalling are related, and you’ll need to suppress all aspects of power supply noise to reduce jitter in a digital system. During a design debug, you’ll need to gather measurements throughout your board if you want to isolate and eliminate sources of power supply noise. Here’s how you can isolate
How to Take a Phase Noise Measurement for High Speed Signals
There are plenty of noise sources in your PCB, and phase noise can be one of those sources that is difficult to pin down in a real board. If you’re debugging a high speed board with high BER, then you’ll likely need to gather a phase noise measurement from the failing board section, or from your clock. Without getting too deep into the IC side of a system, phase noise may be an inherent property of the component you are using, such as the PLLs
PCB Trace and Pad Clearance: Low vs. High Voltage
High voltage/high current designs carry safety requirements which need to be met by designers. Similarly, high speed designs need to have suppressed crosstalk in order to ensure signal integrity. The key design aspects that relate to both areas are your PCB trace clearance and pad clearance values. These design choices are critical for balancing safety, noise suppression, and manufacturability. The IPC 2221 standards provide guidance for
PCB Via Current-Carrying Capacity: How Hot is Too Hot?
One common question from designers, particularly new designers that are learning about industry standards, is current-carrying capacity of conductors in a PCB. Trace and via current-carrying capacity are legitimate design points to focus on when designing a new board that will carry high current. The goal is to keep conductor temperatures below some appropriate limit, which then helps keep components on the board cool. While the recommended
Amplifier Stability at High Frequencies and Stray Capacitance
Amplifiers are one of those critical components that make modern life possible. From wireless communication to power electronics, amplifiers need to run stably and predictably for these products to work properly. Stability analysis is one of my favorite topics in physics and engineering, and it always tends to crop up in places you would least expect. One of these places is in amplifiers. Any time-dependent physical system with feedback and gain
Near-field vs. Far-field EMI: What's Causing Noise Problems in My PCB?
If you’re an antenna designer, then you’re likely familiar with all aspects of near-field vs. far-field radiation. Given the litany of radiated EMI problems that cause noise within and outside of an electronic device, one might suddenly realize their new product is acting like a strong antenna. To understand how EMI affects your circuits, it helps to understand exactly how near-field vs. far-field radiation from your PCB affects your ability to
The Great PCB Layout "Rules of Thumb" Debate Rages On
To this day, I still see many PCB layout “rules of thumb” that first became common nearly 20 years ago. Do these rules still universally apply? The answer is a firm “maybe.” Many of the conversations you’ll see on forums regarding PCB design rules devolve into an always/never discussion, causing some designers to use or ignore common design rules in situations where they may not apply. In some cases, this will not cause a board to fail. As some