Telescope on an old map depicting precision

Effortless Evaluation: Choose Better and More Quickly with Precision Converter Tools!

As systems become more complicated and demanding, and design timelines dwindle, one key to success is the quick identification and evaluation of ICs and circuits. In the past, system designers would have to check the latest printed databooks to find new products and compare based on the electrical specification tables. System designs were a series of prototypes and revisions, costing money and, more importantly, time and resources. Recently, this has been improved with web searches, product selection tables and guides, and online articles and examples. While this has vastly improved the selection and design process, it still requires evaluation boards and lab time for basic proof-of-concept. This blog entry will survey the latest tools and capabilities for product selection and VIRTUAL prototyping, giving product designers a low-effort way to skip ahead to the final design. 

The latest product selection and system design innovation is web and PC-based tools for interactive selection and virtual evaluation of products and systems. These tools, such as the ADC Driver Tool, are easily accessible at Analog Devices and include easy-to-configure ADC + amplifier precision and performance estimations. 

 Figure 1: Tools are easily found on the Analog Devices website

Figure 1: Tools are easily found on the Analog Devices website 


I would group these tools into categories: 

  • Product Information and Selection 
  • Initial Evaluation and Comparison 
  • Detailed Evaluation and System Design 
  • Additional Evaluation and System Development Resources 

 For product awareness and selection, the Product Selection Tables are indispensable. These are available at Analog Devices and cover the thousands of products available from Analog Devices. This can be a bit overwhelming, so it helps to choose a product category, such as Precision Converters, and downselect as much as possible with required specifications or features such as number of channels, size, or power. Here it can be crucial to under-specify near any grey areas to allow for products that are not EXACTLY what is desired but may well do the job, to stay on the list. Looking at a more reasonable number of choices, it is then helpful to compare the various columns, which include key specifications, package availability, and more.  

Once a reasonable number of products are left, the Product Pages (such as this one AD4630-24) give additional information on each. This includes product descriptions, associated products, solutions, available Evaluation Systems, and applications articles. This information can be used to narrow the selection, but also to bring up possible questions or additional solution opportunities. While this is quite helpful, it doesn’t nearly finish the task, so from here, it is on to… 

Initial Evaluation and Comparison, which can be done with a variety of tools. These tools can be found on Analog’s website in the Precision Studio which includes several tools for the evaluation of all things analog and mixed-signal. It is helpful to remember that up to now, this is where a customer would need to order several evaluation kits, fire up a bench system, and put in a lot of time and effort to get some basic data. No More! Precision Studio has virtual evaluation tools that are low-commitment and highly informative. In a few minutes, without the need for purchase, expenditure, or shipping delay, it is possible to try products in various configurations and circuits.  

  Figure 2: Guide to Precision Studio Tools for Product Selection

Figure 2: Guide to Precision Studio Tools for Product Selection

Looking through Precision Studio, there are tools for the full Analog Front End (AFE) signal chain: Photodiode Tool, In Amp Tool, Analog Filter Tool, In Amp Tool, ADC Driver Tool, and Noise Tool. There are also Drive-side tools: DAC Tool (A DAC error budget calculator), and DDS (Direct Digital Synthesis). Finally, there is Virtual Eval, a way to use a product evaluation kit without having that kit powered up on your bench. These tools use behavioral models to quickly give performance and functional evaluations of individual products and full AFE circuits. In the case of “smart” products, such as data converters with integrated PGA, various output data formatting, configurable sample rates, etc., the Active Functional Model can be used to evaluate configurations on a variety of performance metrics. This tool is especially useful for learning the basics and not-so-basics of converter products. 

More to come in future posts on the details. The circuit-based tools, including ADC Driver Tool and Noise Tool, can output LTspice® netlists for the next step: 

Detailed Evaluation and System Design. Once you’ve chosen a circuit architecture, product solution, or configuration, it’s time to breadboard or prototype. But why wait for PCBs? Drop the circuit into LTspice, a free SPICE simulation tool available here. This tool can do the heavy lifting for real circuit performance. 

Now that you know WHAT the tools are, and WHERE to find them, let’s talk about what they DO, and HOW in the next blog post. Until Next time…