EDA / PCB Design

The world of electronic design automation is broad, covering everything from the simplest PCB to the most complex custom device. But without such tools, designers would be unable to create innovative consumer and industrial products.

In this section, New Electronics provides technical insight on the latest PCB design packages, as well as on the design tools essential to the creation of devices such as FPGAs and ASICs.

Are PCB design skills keeping up with increasing complexity?

It may seem something of an understatement, but Phil Mayo, director of sales for Altium UK, believes: “The PCB is important.” And perhaps that’s one reason why the workshop and conference sessions addressing PCB design at last year’s Electronics Design Show (EDS) attracted record numbers of engineers.

Composite amplifiers can improve performance

It is a familiar situation. An application needs an amplifier with excellent output drive capability, say several hundred milliamps, to drive a large capacitive load. The supplier’s engineering team can fairly quickly recommend a suitable part. But then the designers throw in additional requirements, such as low noise and high DC precision. This time, no single device is available to meet that specification. While you might think that placing a precision amplifier and high-output-current amplifier in series would give designers the best of both worlds, sadly, this turns out to be not the case.

As the IoT unfolds, classical EDA design flows will need to change

For the past 20 years, the rhetoric of integrated circuit design has been one of increasing exclusivity, despite the falling cost of transistors with each jump in process node. The rise in mask and software tool costs over those same generations has forced many would-be chipmakers to settle for off the shelf microcontrollers and programmable logic.

Linear Technology's Bruce Hemp and James Wong bring ease of use to microwave radio design

Bandwidth is rapidly expanding in the next generation wireless access to cope with the ever-increasing Internet traffic. At the same time, the current available spectrum in use simply cannot support the needed bandwidth. So higher frequency spectrums are being evaluated for suitability. Multiple options are considered, ranging from unlicensed 5.8GHz terrestrial stations, to fleets of low-orbit satellites that blanket the earth. The path to higher bandwidth lies with new higher frequencies to deliver on that promise. New mixers with improved performance will be needed. A new mixer, the LTC5549 from Linear Technology, is launched to support this effort.

Can 3D printing transform PCB prototyping?

The hardware and software powering today’s electronic devices have evolved at breakneck speed, but one crucial bottleneck remains – prototyping, in particular unforeseen and costly delays during PCB development. In response 3D printing is now being deployed in the production of professional PCBs delivering benefits in terms of time savings, costs and innovation.

3U VPX module wins PCB design competition

Form factors, new technology, thermal management and the need for more voltage rails are some of the challenges which face those designing board level products. While software is helping to address the challenges, the success or otherwise of the design comes down to good, old fashioned team work and skill.

Expect broader application of software-driven hardware verification in 2016

The system and semiconductor worlds are in transition. In the past, the focus in verification used to be on bug identification. Today, the electronic design industry is seeing a shift towards greater efficiency in finding bug root causes and in bug remediation. To that end, SoC providers have been looking to provide software with their products. While this higher value speeds design in time, it has the tendency to increase verification complexity and moves the responsibility of hardware-software verification to the SoC provider. As a result, in 2016, we can expect to see broad application of software-driven hardware verification methodologies.

Squeezing the performance out of ATCA through virtualisation

It is more than 10 years since the release of PICMG 3.0, the standard which defined the Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (ATCA). Deployed in many parts of the ‘network’, ATCA is now beginning to be adopted in markets such as military and aerospace, where highly reliable computing is a hard necessity.

Programmable matter could make evolutionary hardware a reality

First realised 20 years ago, evolutionary hardware design continues to fascinate a small group of researchers. The attraction is not difficult to understand; instead of trying to design behaviour or structure into a system manually, you let the system determine for itself how it should work. Just like biology – only you need it to happen in less than a few million years.

1D to 3D HMI solutions

Just a few years ago Touch revolutionised input: mechanical buttons, keyboards and sliders were replaced by static plastic or metal surfaces. It meant that operator interfaces could be incorporated into a device, and unobtrusive and modern design became increasingly common on the factory floor. Capacitive touch is based on a capacitor whereby the human finger acts as the actuator for the capacitor. Ingenious designs also enable proximity switches to be implemented as well. In this case the control system is only active shortly before it is activated, reducing energy consumption. This is known as ‘1D’ input.

Minimising costs for wire-to-board connections

Wire-to-board connections incur high costs when handling large quantities in mass markets. However, using the right connection technology this expense can be prevented. It's often worth considering the use of tried-and-tested technologies that enable cables and circuit boards to be connected at little cost.

Monetising innovation

Electronics continues to find itself integrating deeper and deeper into the lives of consumers, and the ubiquity of smartphones, electric cars, entertainment systems, and energy-efficient homes and lighting should be creating a boom time for the industry. Indeed, it is hard to find products where the electronics is not now firmly the glue that makes everything work and come alive.

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