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Factors to Consider with Mixed-Signal Design

Creating a mixed-signal, printed circuit board (PCB) has many advantages, particularly for clients who need smaller components to have more power and versatility.

Mixed-signal design doesn’t only help to create more versatile and powerful small components… it is also highly effective in reducing any type of electromagnetic interference. During the process, a noise-immune system is designed to reduce any issues with internal noise and to block out any interference.

Of course, with the miniaturization of the systems, it is more important than ever for design components to be carefully evaluated and tested for system compatibility. Taking the time to thoroughly test each component in the early stages of design and development can save time, money, and frustration—especially when trying to work out problematic areas once the PCB has been produced.

The Digital and Analog Circuit Problems

In mixed-signal design, it is important to consider the potential problems of each type of circuit and how using both digital and analog circuits in the same system will impact the whole.

In general, digital circuits are easier to configure and use since they operate within the same voltage that the receiving component maintains. These circuits have a higher natural immunity to noise because of this feature, however, they also create more noise than an analog circuit.

Analog circuits are different from digital circuits in that they provide the specific voltage required by the receiver, not a threshold level for operation. This means that even slight amounts of interference can impact the circuit and the performance of the component.

To make matters even more complicated, radio frequency (RF) signals also occur in mixed-signal design systems. In fact, the RF signal is most vulnerable to interference or noise, particularly from digital circuits.

A Collaborative Process

Because of all of the potential problems, it is therefore critical that the design and development of a printed circuit board is thoroughly planned out—from all of the signals to all of the circuits.

Not only must the PCB design maintain the correct distance between the various circuits and signals, but it must also coordinate with the shape of the board. Everything—from placing digital circuits closest to the connectors to choosing the right grounding scheme—will need to be considered as part of the full design and coordinated between the PCB design team and the prototype development team.

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