14 June 2011
As analogue design gets more complex, what support is available to engineers?
Analogue electronics design is, by common consent, a difficult task. A number of factors conspire to make things more difficult, including time to market, but analogue design is getting harder simply because the components themselves are getting more complex.
Then there's the skills issues. It's generally agreed that analogue designers are a declining breed; their specialist role is being assumed by generalists, compounding the problems.
New Electronics recently convened a roundtable of analogue companies to discuss the issues. The debate – encapsulated on p20 of this issue – was wide ranging, as you might expect.
Our survey before the event found that more than half of respondents select parts primarily on device performance. So how can manufacturers help them pick the right part? A whole raft of things, as it turns out – everything from more definitive datasheets to sophisticated online selection tools.
Manufacturers are also developing more modular components – black boxes, if you like – that ease the design task.
You also said support from distribution is as important as support from the manufacturer. When design engineers need assistance, they can call on help from field application engineers, or FAEs. But the decline in the size of the UK's electronics industry means FAE support isn't as widely available as it used to be. And there is a hint from the survey that FAEs themselves are not getting better at supporting analogue design.
But a telling statistic from our survey is that 45% of respondents believe their analogue design skills are not as good as they could be. It's obviously good to be able to call on FAEs for support or to go to a website, but engineers can also help themselves by keeping more up to date with developments.