Precision Technology Platforms: Smoothing the Precision Design Journey

Precision Technology Platforms: Smoothing the Precision Design Journey

Successful analog semiconductor products tend to stay on the market much longer than their digital-focused counterparts. This means that, over the years, a huge catalog of precision analog products has accumulated. In the analog world, Analog Devices maintains one of the largest portfolios of products. This is a good thing, of course: the choice of specialized products means that a designer can normally find a part which closely fits the needs of any type of application. And this portfolio has been built with the benefit of understanding the criteria that engineers apply to component selection and design implementation along with the insights that ADI has gained over more than 50 years into the evolution of analog technology.

Accurate and reliable analog solutions are as important as ever to electronics designers, and this calls for judicious selection of parts from the huge range available. Indeed, the superior performance of high-precision analog technology is a key differentiator in both new and traditional applications. But leading-edge analog products are more complex than ever before, and the number of potential combinations of devices along a precision signal chain is much higher. But analog is not a one-size-fits-all domain: every application has unique requirements which require a unique signal chain.

At the same time as the signal chain design engineer is faced with a growing range of solution options and more signal processing complexity, time-to-prototype and time-to-market pressures grow ever higher.

All these factors create the need for much faster selection, evaluation, and adoption of high-performance technology.

An easier pathway through the precision signal chain design process

ADI continues to push the boundaries with respect to the performance of, but also accessibility to our technology. As part of Analog Devices’ commitment to solving the greatest signal processing challenges, we also make it our mission to make the industry’s leading technology easy-to-select, evaluate, and deploy for the engineers designing with ADI products.

This has prompted Analog Devices to develop a targeted suite of application-oriented component combinations, along with evaluation tools, design-in tools, and guides, all bundled into its Precision Signal Chain Platform offerings.

The aim is to put ADI’s large portfolio of high-performance precision signal chain components at the service of every design engineer, no matter how experienced and familiar they are with the products.

Drawing on knowledge from across the organization – from experts in components, systems, applications, and design tools – these precision signal chains give design engineers a range of solutions, optimized for various key criteria. They enable engineers to select complete signal chains which offer industry-leading performance, as they will previously have done at the individual component level.

To illustrate how the new approach affects every aspect of the engineer’s design process, let’s look at the example of the Precision Narrow Bandwidth category. Narrow bandwidth applications are characterized by their requirement for measurement accuracy, stability, and repeatability. Narrow bandwidth signal chains are commonly required in market sectors such as process control, scientific instrumentation, electronic test and measurement, and semiconductor fabrication equipment.

The new ADI approach to designing precision narrow bandwidth circuits starts with a suggested component selection tuned for the application. Here’s an example circuit for highly accurate voltage and current measurement:

Precision Narrow Bandwidth Adaptable Voltage Measurement Low Latency Signal Chain

If the application requirement is for fast settling in low-latency applications, the online tool shows a recommended component selection, based on the AD4630-24, a 24-bit SAR ADC which offers industry-leading accuracy and stability at a high sampling rate.

But a different voltage and current measurement application might require higher DC precision and stability rather than a faster settling speed. The online tool takes account of this as well, offering a different component selection, based on a 32-bit AD7177-2 sigma-delta ADC.

In the Precision Narrow Bandwidth category, other applications are catered for as well, each with its own component selections and a wide choice of optimization options. They include:

  • Adaptable voltage drive
  • Sine wave voltage generation

And every aspect of precision signal chain design is covered in other categories, including Precision Wide Bandwidth, Isolated Gate Drive and Sense, and Precision Low Power.

Suite of tools to support circuit designers

The selection of components is just the first of the ways in which the analog circuit designer’s work is made easier. Each Precision Narrow Bandwidth application is backed by guidance from knowledgeable Analog Devices engineers – videos, tutorials, technical articles, and application notes provide a multi-level education on key signal chain topics.

As the design engineer moves into component evaluation, Analog Devices supplies models and reference designs, such as the Programmable 20-Bit, Linear, Precision, Bipolar ± 5V DC Voltage Source based on the AD5791 20-bit, ±1 LSB INL, Voltage Output DAC. A precision DAC error budget online tool is complemented by a growing line-up of evaluation boards which provide a ready-made hardware platform for component evaluation.

Once the components for the application have been chosen, the support continues through the design and integration phase, with the provision of high-performance tools such as LTspice, a filter wizard, power management tools, the ADI DiffAmp CalcTm tool, and IBIS models.

Need design support? Go to the Precision Technology Signal Chains forum to find resources, ask a question, and connect with engineers and ADI product experts. At every point of the design process, support, guidance, and tools are on hand.

A user-friendly philosophy embedded in product designs

The belief that analog design should be no more difficult and complex than necessary even extends as far as the design of Analog Devices’ precision signal chain components. An excellent example of this is the latest AD4630 family of SAR ADCs. The outstanding performance of these products gives designers greater headroom in error and power budgets than ever before: the 24-bit AD4630-24 (used in the voltage and current measurement application above) features maximum INL of ±0.9 ppm over the entire operating temperature range, consumes just 15 mW per channel at 2 MSPS, and has a typical dynamic range of 106 dB.

But in addition, the AD4630-24 has various ease-of-use features built-in: a simplified and generalized analog input interface, a simplified reference input interface, and the FlexiSPI output interface. FlexiSPI offers multiple serial data outputs, giving a wide time window for clocking data outputs, and enabling the use of a lower-frequency serial clock.

Smoothing the design process from evaluation to final production

The design of precision signal chains will always be a technically demanding task, requiring broad knowledge and the application of well-informed judgment to the trade-offs between performance, size, cost, and power.

But this process should not be made more difficult than necessary. With ADI Precision Technology Signal Chain Platforms, a comprehensive suite of tools, resources and components are now available to analog design engineers, helping them to focus their time where they want – on optimizing their designs.