Embedded.com Tech Focus Newsletter (10-31-11): Facing the PCB design challenge - Embedded.com

Embedded.com Tech Focus Newsletter (10-31-11): Facing the PCB design challenge

Embedded Newsletter for 10-31-2011

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October 31, 2011

Tech Focus: Facing the PCB design challenge

HIGHLIGHTS

Assuring PCB reliability by building in additional tolerances

Taking on the 0.3 mm ultra-fine pitch device challenge in PCB design

Using co-design to optimize system interconnect paths


Editor's Note

Bernard Cole Bernard Cole
Site Editor
Embedded.com

One of the toughest jobs facing embedded systems developers is printed circuit board (PCB) design. As pointed out by Rob Hinz in an article ten years ago on “PCB design challenges at one gigabit per second and beyond” the issues facing board developers were – and continue to be – daunting and he anticipated worse to come in later years.

It is now ten years later and recent nanometer scale chip fabrication advances have proved him correct. The problems that PCB designers face – thermal profiles, crosstalk, ESD, EMI, and routing issues, to name a few – are even tougher as circuit design moves to VLSI circuit geometries in the 20 to 80 nanometer range.

With more functionality built into the chips, PCB and package designers are faced with finding ways to provide the I/O pins in sufficient number to connect to other devices and to the outside world without sacrificing signal integrity. Because they are required to operate at even lower voltages with tighter tolerances than previous IC generations, moving these signals off chip and across the traces on a PCB board will test the capabilities of even the best PCB designers. For some ideas about how to achieve this goal my Editor's Top Picks are:

Assuring PCB reliability by building in additional tolerances
The 0.3 mm ultra-fine pitch device challenge in PCB design

Fortunately, high level design tools and methodologies are emerging to help the developer. For example, in “Using co-design to optimize system interconnect paths , ” Cisco engineers describe their use of EDA tools from Cadence that focused on bringing the die, package, and PCB data together for optimization to achieve their goals.

But no matter how good the tools, as the articles included here illustrate, nothing can beat the on-the-job experience of designers. If you have ideas and some insights, give me a call or email me. You provide the experience and together we can craft a design article to communicate this to the broader design community.


Design How-Tos

Assuring PCB reliability by building in additional tolerances

In many cases, developers of high reliability PCBs overlook key steps at in their design, fabrication, and assembly in order to save time and money, and get a project out the door on time. Here's how to achieve all three and still achieve high reliability through attention to board tolerances.

Taking on the 0.3 mm ultra-fine pitch device challenge in PCB design

To deal with the printed circuit board design challenges of nextgen nanometer circuits and the demanding packaging constraints of small footprint mobile & embedded apps, Nexlogic's Michael Yu thinks the answer boils down to carefully crafted PCB design, fabrication, and assembly guidelines.

Using co-design to optimize system interconnect paths

Cisco engineers describe the development of an IC, Package and PCB concurrent design methodology that drives a chip´s I/O plan, while simplifying the routability of the PCB such that interconnect paths between components is optimized with fewer layers and better signal quality.

Making embedded system debug easier: useful hardware & software tips

Here are some useful tips and techniques to employ during the initial design & construction of your embedded system design to make it easier to debug both the hardware & software at later stages.

Tips on building & debugging embedded designs: Part 1

In a two part series, Jack Ganssle, editor of “Embedded Systems: World Class Designs,” passes on some tips about embedded systems design gained from his experiences as both a designer and a manager of hardware and software projects.

Layout & bypass guidelines for high performance video amp/filter boards

The authors provide some basic layout and bypassing guidelines when designing high performance video amplifier/filter boards

Tips about printed circuit board design: Part 1 – Dealing with harmful PCB effects

In this three part series, Walt Kester provides a compendium of tips and hints that will help embedded systems developers speed the design of the printed circuit boards upon which their designs are based. Part 1: Dealing with harmful PCB effects.

Ensuring the thermal integrity of your IC package/PC board design

Some basic tests will verify your PCB/IC thermal modeling and reality

Using correct-by-construction techniques and tools to simplify board design

A “correct-by-construction” PCB layout methodology can help designers shorten their design cycles and avoid design iterations between the design and layout stages.

Write your own PCB design rule checker

You don't have to rely on your EDA vendor's PCB design rule checker (DRC). In this tutorial, Intel engineer Luke Chang shows you how to write one that meets your specific requirements, and does a lot more than just DRC.

Addressing EMI test challenges in nextgen high density interconnect PCB design

How to address the testing and EMI conformity challenges of next generation printed circuit board design and what factors should be considered when evaluating a PCB design tool.

Design high-speed PCBs using a parallel design methodology

Kelven Li describes a parallel printed circuit board design methodology for use in many small footprint embedded and mobile systems that can ensure that the project cycle meets the original design requirements without exceeding the available resources.

Printed Circuit Design Challenges at One Gigabit per Second and Beyond

Ever-increasing data rates are putting significant challenges in frontof high-speed PCB designers. This article from Rob Hinz of SiQual discusses the ramifications of high signal rates on PCBs and how these rates impact board design, analysis, simulation, and layout.


Embedded Systems Bookshelf

Excerpts

Embedded Books Reading Room
Bernard Cole's favorite links to book excerpts.

Reviews

Engineer's Bookshelf
Airport fiction blows. A look at books other engineers are reading and why you should read them, too. Recommend and write a review yourself. E-mail Brian Fuller.

Jack Ganssle's Bookshelf
A list of book reviews by Jack Ganssle, contributing technical editor of Embedded Systems Design and Embedded.com.

Max's Cool Beans
Clive “Max” Maxfield, the editor on Programmable Logic DesignLine, often writes about interesting books.


Products

Non-contacting rotary position sensor boosts product longevity

Bourns' programmable magnetic sensor helps increase product life and reliability of applications operating in harsh and high vibration environments.

Semtech enhances controllers with multi-touch support

Semtech's latest SX867X devices deliver “pinch and stretch” gesture recognition in a single-chip solution for four-wire analog resistive touch screens.

Atmel's new ARM processor-based SAM4 MCU family offers highest Cortex-M Flash memory density of 2MB

The SAM4S16 is the first device in the Atmel Corporation's Cortex-M4 processor-based family. Atmel is also unveiling its fifth generation Cortex-M4-based Flash MCUs.

IAR Embedded Workbench for ARM touts major enhancements for ARM Cortex Users

A new version of IAR Embedded Workbench for ARM (IAR Systems) adds significant speed optimizations and several new features.

Unison RTOS V5.2 opens Stellaris to IPv6, USB, Wireless

RoweBots Inc. has just released Version 5.2 of its ultra-tiny embedded Linux compatible Unisom RTOS targeting Stellaris MCU applications for wireless Internet of Things built on 6LoWPAN extensions to IPv6.

Energy Micro adds 100 Cortex-M3 MCUs

Energy Micro has introduced 100 EFM32 Gecko microcontrollers to more than double its portfolio. Pin and code compatible with the existing Gecko and Tiny Gecko products, the ARM Cortex-M3 based Leopard Gecko and Giant Gecko microcontrollers come with memory configurations up to 1MB.

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Commentary

PCBs work flawlessly and then they don't. Sound familiar?

A circuit designer is on the case when a client's PCBs inexplicably can't pass a functional test after three years

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