PCB

Michael Dunn
Editor in chief
In-depth technical design information, product advancements, and technology and tool updates for engineers, engineering managers and system architects responsible for designing, specifying, selecting or connecting printed circuit boards (PCBs) for electronics applications. Topics include layout tools, IC and board connectivity, connectors, board to board connectivity, signal integrity, power, signal and ground routing, conformal coatings, passive device integration, 3D modeling, and board and system concurrent design.

A lifetime designing PCBs: From design to software

One foot in PCB design, the other in CAD software development. Something’s gotta give. Read More...

Connectors: Not just schematic symbols

At a presentation for the Central New England IEEE EMC Society chapter, Colin Brench showed how at high-speed connectors can result in EMI emissions, affect signal integrity, and create thermal problems. Read More...

So, where’s pin 1 on those common 0.156” connectors?

A whole range of commonly used 0.1” & 0.156” SIL connectors (e.g., Molex) have never defined which end is pin 1. Confusion ensues. Read More...

A lifetime designing PCBs: Switching to eCAD

Early PCB CAD systems prove to be an uphill battle, but things eventually work out. Read More...

Nixie clock: Tearup

Enjoy this photo essay of a Nixie clock build, and a look at the design. Read More...

Teardown: Smart switch provides Bluetooth power control

GE's Avi-on product line does networked power control with a mesh Bluetooth twist. Read More...

A lifetime designing PCBs: Job shopper to service bureau

Our PCB hero starts his own service bureau, tastes success, but then, somehow, things go horribly wrong. Read More...

Use copper to temperature-compensate high current measurements

Measuring high currents via cable voltage drop is an economical solution, but how can the large copper tempco be compensated? Read More...

RF devices: Reliability is critical

Package designs are important in device reliability, something circuit designers may not think about. Read More...

Conductive paint is not just a toy

Conductive ink’s fluidity—both literally and figuratively—adds an unconventional process to circuit building that may open up a host of possibilities in how to incorporate electrical circuit into system design. Read More...

A lifetime designing PCBs: Early design adventures

PCB design was all about creating proper interconnects between components so when the power was applied it would behave and perform as the engineer imagined. Read More...

Speak up, your job depends on it

At EDICON 2017, Scott McMorrow told engineers to bet your job every day. Stand up and tell the truth. We're all temporary employees anyway. Read More...

Teardown: The DOCSIS 2.0 cable modem falls out of favor

DOCSIS 2.0 cable modems may not be state of the art, but they're still sufficient for many cable Internet customers' needs. And they're also fairly interesting inside. Read More...

Beware the TO-220

“When is a TO-220 not a TO-220?” is your Zen exercise today. Take care this package variation doesn’t bite you. Read More...

Optimize mixed-signal Circuit/PCB design using noise modeling, part 1

An in-depth tour of ways to model and reduce noise in analog, digital, and mixed circuits & PCBs. Read More...

Keysight BERT now supports 64 Gbaud NRZ

An upgrade to the M8040A adds signal analysis and BER testing to the latest NRZ speed, used for 400 Gbps Ethernet and other standards. Read More...

Chinese PCB shop spam is a thing

I try to fool the PCB spammers, but they get the last laugh. And… Rev. 2 of my powered speaker. Read More...

EMC Band plays first outdoor gig

Besides playing the usual songs from the 70s, the EMC Society Band added Bach and a Mandarin Chinese song, all outdoors along the Potomac River. Read More...

Old wine in new glass ID system

Keeping track of your glass, or, finding new uses for old components. Read More...

Whipping a cheap LED PSU into usable shape

You get what you pay for, and sometimes not even that, but even a cheap Chinese PSU can be improved with some judicious tinkering. Read More...

Simple trick lets you see your parts

Here’s a funny little trick that will make almost-invisible part numbers printed on component packages visible. Read More...

Home reflow sees the light

There are many home reflow oven projects out there, but this one is blindingly good. Read More...

An IBIS-AMI Simulator for the rest of us

IBIS-AMI doesn’t have to be the domain of the wizards any longer. Get this free software and start experimenting and designing! Read More...

Picotest announces power integrity workshops in 6 cities

Learn how to design and test power delivery networks and improve system performance. Read More...

>> SEE ALL

Use copper to temperature-compensate high current measurements

Measuring high currents via cable voltage drop is an economical solution, but how can the large copper tempco be compensated? Read More...

Improve RFID by killing noise

RFID is great technology, but noisy power and other aggressors can ruin performance. Use this trick to solve the problem, for RFID or any RF or sensitive subsystem. Read More...

De-embed transmission lines with FIR filters

This DI uses MATLAB to design de-embedding filters which clean up high-speed signal measurements. Read More...

Avago Tech Note: 5MBd Digital optocouplers targeting low power/low supply voltage applications

Digital optocouplers provide high voltage insulation and noise rejection for data transmission, with very low power usage. Read More...

Short circuit tracer/finder uses low power

Build this bench tool and become a master at pinpointing shorts. Read More...

Avago Tech Note: 14.2mm wide Creepage and clearance optocouplers for high-voltage applications

Not any optocoupler will do for applications requiring extra-high-voltage isolation. Read More...

Milliohm Squawker great at finding shorts and reverse engineering PCBs

This well thought out tool for “listening to” low resistances really speeds troubleshooting & tracing. Read More...

Music keyboard inductively senses position & velocity

Technologies to measure key position, pressure, and velocity go back almost a century. Now, an inductive sensing IC offers another solution. Read More...

Water & vandal-proof keypad uses piezoelectric disc as sensor and buzzer

An ingenious and low-cost method to create a rugged “UI”. Read More...

Safety flasher warns of high voltage

A low power circuit warns the user that high voltage is present. Read More...

Best Design Ideas of 2013Q3

We present the best Design Ideas of the last quarter! Read More...

Soldering iron driver bridge controls temperature

With a power supply and a replacement soldering handle you can implement this temperature-controlled soldering iron driver. Read More...

Reduce acoustic noise from capacitors

Adding parts or cutting PCB slots can make a difference. Read More...

Make a quick-turnaround PCB for RF parts

Parts get smaller, but the laws of physics don't change. Your designs must change to compensate. Read More...

Capacitive touch switch uses CPLD

Using an Altera MAX IIZ CPLD, you can implement a touch-switch decoder with no external components. Read More...

>> SEE ALL

Automotive adhesive secures high-rel electronics

UA-3307-B reworkable edgebond adhesive from Zymet enhances board-level reliability in automotive and other harsh-environment applications. Read More...

Keysight BERT now supports 64 Gbaud NRZ

An upgrade to the M8040A adds signal analysis and BER testing to the latest NRZ speed, used for 400 Gbps Ethernet and other standards. Read More...

High-voltage relays target electric vehicles

Fujitsu’s FTR-E1 series of DC switching relays offers 13% higher voltage switching at 77% less power consumption than similar relays. Read More...

2.4 GHz antenna adheres to metal

About the size of a quarter, Laird’s mFlexPIFA flexible adhesive-backed antenna mounts directly on metal surfaces without detuning. Read More...

Picotest announces power integrity workshops in 6 cities

Learn how to design and test power delivery networks and improve system performance. Read More...

ECAD virtual assistant lends a hand

EE Concierge from Upverter allows engineers working with any ECAD or EDA tool to request any part be built, verified, and delivered on-demand. Read More...

Mentor tries the low end, again, with PADS Maker

For the second time, Mentor offers up a low-cost PCB CAD package. And there’s even a free version! Read More...

Low-loss laminates target high-speed designs

Rogers’ RO1200 circuit materials provide enhanced signal integrity, as well as reduced signal skew and crosstalk for demanding applications. Read More...

Thermoset laminates outperform FR-4

Kappa 438 glass-reinforced thermoset laminates from Rogers serve as a more reliable alternative to FR-4 laminates in wireless circuit designs. Read More...

Desktop PCB startup on-track

BotFactory's desktop Squink is ready to make your boards. Read More...

JTAG offers mapping tool for Altium Designer

JTAG Maps for the Altium Designer tool suite lets engineers assess JTAG/boundary-scan resources on their design, before committing to layout. Read More...

Altium Designer 17 release adds ActiveRoute

Altium has launched the latest version of its PCB design software, Altium Designer 17. Among other upgrades, it aims to reduce the time spent on non-design tasks. Read More...

System tests PAM4 signals to 56 and 64 Gbaud

Anritsu combines three instruments into an integrated system for making BER measurements up to 56 Gbaud PAM4 while generating signals to 56 Gbps PAM4. Read More...

FlexLogIC is actual printed electronics

PragmatIC has been developing a technology for printing electronics with elements including transistors and other active devices on flexible substrates, with the aim of producing very low cost devices for areas such as wearables. Read More...

System design comes to Xpedition

Mentor joins the system-design club with its Xpedition offering. Read More...

Advanced PCB & die-mounting technologies combined for dimension shrinks

PCB design and manufacturing company AT&S has brought together a range of technology options for miniaturization on all interconnection layers, including embedded component packaging, HDI, & bare-die packaging. Read More...

SnapEDA launches on-demand PCB symbols

If the symbol & footprint you need isn't already in their library, you'll have it within 24 hours. Read More...

PADS update integrates more analysis

The latest PADS integrates DDR & AMS modules. Read More...

Low-cost PCB soldering and inspection station

A good looking soldering platform and microscope combination for those on a budget. Read More...

HyperLynx release targets SI & PI

HyperLynx has evolved into a comprehensive SI/PI simulation environment. Read More...

Oscilloscope probes fit tight spaces, come with S-parameters

The P7700 series of probes from Tektronix let you probe high-speed signals, put the amplifier at the tip, and let you compensate for losses through unique S-parameters for each probe tip. Read More...

Candlestick sensor monitors thermal conditions

Offered in three heights, candlestick-style sensors from ATS simultaneously measure air temperature and velocity inside electronic systems. Read More...

PCB signal integrity analysis for multi-gigabit interfaces

Cadence Design Systems’ Sigrity 2016 technology portfolio can, the company says, improve product creation time with an enhanced PCB design and analysis methodology that is suitable for multi-gigabit interfaces. Read More...

USB Type-C connectors curtail EMI

TE Connectivity offers USB Type-C connectors with enhanced EMI shielding on the receptacle shell to help eradicate unwanted EMI leakage. Read More...

600-V MOSFETs gain power package option

Vishay now offers its 600-V E series power MOSFETs in low-profile, surface-mount PowerPak 8×8-mm packages that are halogen- and lead-free. Read More...

>> SEE ALL

Teardown: Smart switch provides Bluetooth power control

GE's Avi-on product line does networked power control with a mesh Bluetooth twist. Read More...

Teardown: The DOCSIS 2.0 cable modem falls out of favor

DOCSIS 2.0 cable modems may not be state of the art, but they're still sufficient for many cable Internet customers' needs. And they're also fairly interesting inside. Read More...

Teardown: Router hardware provides flexibility

A mainstream 802.11ac router design offers plenty of mysteries and surprises, along with sleight-of-hand enhancement opportunities. Read More...

Teardown: Reverse engineering an ultrasonic cleaner

Opening up a failed ultrasonic cleaner allows for reverse engineering to create a schematic, probe the PCB, and lay out a replacement. Read More...

VoIP phone teardown

This 2011 VoIP office phone shows some thoughtful acoustic and mechanical design. Read More...

Teardown: Inside a DSL gateway

An aversion to integrated gateways presents a teardown opportunity and a good look at the PCB that makes the unit go. Read More...

Teardown: 12V AC adapters – The Horror

A dark side of Chinese manufacturing is uncovered in this teardown of really bad power supplies. Read More...

Teardown: FLO TV didn’t fail because of its hardware

In addition to its impressive electronics integration, the PTV350 personal TV receiver contains one of most solid hinges ever experienced in a device like this. Read More...

Teardown: Amazon Dash Button keeps you connected

Amazon's Dash Button is the ultimate in consumer convenience and it costs only $4.99. So, how much hardware was Amazon able to squeeze into such a diminutive bill-of-materials budget? Read More...

Teardown: MoCA adapter succumbs to lightning strike

Another autumn brought another round of lightning-zapped electronics equipment. This time, an Actiontech MoCA adapter goes under the knife. Read More...

>> SEE ALL

Optimize mixed-signal Circuit/PCB design using noise modeling, part 1

An in-depth tour of ways to model and reduce noise in analog, digital, and mixed circuits & PCBs. Read More...

An IBIS-AMI Simulator for the rest of us

IBIS-AMI doesn’t have to be the domain of the wizards any longer. Get this free software and start experimenting and designing! Read More...

PAM-4 PCB best practices

Guidelines, calculations, and simulation will help lead to PAM-4 PCB success. Read More...

High-speed signals jump over PCB traces

A class of interconnects bypasses the losses that occur in PCB traces, improving signal integrity. Read More...

FPGA Follies

"Simple" upgrades rarely are. Author Glen Chenier tells about his migration miseries when replacements for obsoleted parts don't work as planned. Read More...

Spread-spectrum clocking in PCI Express

EMI-reducing SSC isn't always up to snuff. Read More...

Properly ground your circuits

You may think that having separate analog and digital ground planes will yield maximum performance and minimal EMI, but you'd be wrong. Read More...

PXI-Express PHY: Essential PCB design considerations

Designing for PXI-Express (or PCIe)? Make sure you’re following these guidelines. Read More...

The PCB is the most important component of your design

This is a look at the importance of the printed circuit board, including cautionary tales and advice from veteran engineers. CAD helps, but beware of auto-routers. Read More...

Thermal design: Get the heat out of the electronics

Whether you are designing an LED lamp or an electric drag racer, know your options and the need to get the heat out of the electronics. Read More...

Decoupling’s effect on EMC

This article discusses the impact of PCB decoupling on simultaneous switching noise (SSN) and electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) by performing post-layout power integrity simulation and characterization of SSN and radiated emission of prototype PCBs. Read More...

Flex primer for IoT & wearables

It's a brand new ballgame with flex circuitry and wearable/IoT devices, so you have to add to your existing knowhow of conventional PCB design. Read More...

Solving signal integrity problems at very high data rates

Asking a PCB to function at 56 Gb/s can be an exercise in futility. Read about a way to break through this roadblock. Read More...

Key high-speed connector layout techniques

Learn some PCB layout techniques to improve high-speed connector performance. Read More...

Will there still be PCBs in 60 years?

PCBs may be replaced in the next 60 years, but what should we expect in the near future? Read More...

Decoupling’s effect on PI & SSN

A demonstration of decoupling’s effect on power and signals in a system with numerous related clocks. Read More...

PCB layouts for switchers

Look at proper layout techniques for buck, boost, and SEPIC converters. Read More...

DesignCon 2016 in photos

DesignCon 2016 offered technical sessions, teardowns, mentoring sessions, a trivia challenge, and much more. See what you may have missed at the event with this collection of photos. Read More...

Eric Bogatin: Meet DesignCon’s Engineer of the Year

Engineer and educator Eric Bogatin has been attending DesignCon from the beginning and this year he was voted the DesignCon Engineer of the Year. Read More...

Product-level architectural validation is the missing link of design flow

Complex product designs benefit from tools that support system-level architectural control and validation. Read More...

Thermal analysis of SO packages

How thermal analysis tools can be used for testing and evaluating the small outline packages found on reduced-sized PCBs in modern consumer devices. Read More...

3D chip/package/PCB co-design optimizes systems: Product how-to

Today’s complex and dense systems require a holistic design approach, from chip to PCB level. Read More...

Design rule checking for SERDES PCB layouts

In addition to manual inspection to be sure the SERDES bus traces on a routed printed circuit board are error free, use of an automated design rule checker makes such tasks easier. Read More...

Getting the heat out of PCBs demands intelligent simulation

Thermal simulation is necessary for many designs, and tools take different approaches to the solution. Read More...

PCB Layout: Design in-house, or outsource?

PCB design. For some companies, it’s an in-house affair. Others outsource. But for those on the fence, this quiz will help to decide which way to go. Read More...

>> SEE ALL

A lifetime designing PCBs: From design to software

One foot in PCB design, the other in CAD software development. Something’s gotta give. Read More...

Connectors: Not just schematic symbols

At a presentation for the Central New England IEEE EMC Society chapter, Colin Brench showed how at high-speed connectors can result in EMI emissions, affect signal integrity, and create thermal problems. Read More...

So, where’s pin 1 on those common 0.156” connectors?

A whole range of commonly used 0.1” & 0.156” SIL connectors (e.g., Molex) have never defined which end is pin 1. Confusion ensues. Read More...

A lifetime designing PCBs: Switching to eCAD

Early PCB CAD systems prove to be an uphill battle, but things eventually work out. Read More...

Nixie clock: Tearup

Enjoy this photo essay of a Nixie clock build, and a look at the design. Read More...

A lifetime designing PCBs: Job shopper to service bureau

Our PCB hero starts his own service bureau, tastes success, but then, somehow, things go horribly wrong. Read More...

RF devices: Reliability is critical

Package designs are important in device reliability, something circuit designers may not think about. Read More...

Conductive paint is not just a toy

Conductive ink’s fluidity—both literally and figuratively—adds an unconventional process to circuit building that may open up a host of possibilities in how to incorporate electrical circuit into system design. Read More...

A lifetime designing PCBs: Early design adventures

PCB design was all about creating proper interconnects between components so when the power was applied it would behave and perform as the engineer imagined. Read More...

Speak up, your job depends on it

At EDICON 2017, Scott McMorrow told engineers to bet your job every day. Stand up and tell the truth. We're all temporary employees anyway. Read More...

Beware the TO-220

“When is a TO-220 not a TO-220?” is your Zen exercise today. Take care this package variation doesn’t bite you. Read More...

Chinese PCB shop spam is a thing

I try to fool the PCB spammers, but they get the last laugh. And… Rev. 2 of my powered speaker. Read More...

EMC Band plays first outdoor gig

Besides playing the usual songs from the 70s, the EMC Society Band added Bach and a Mandarin Chinese song, all outdoors along the Potomac River. Read More...

Old wine in new glass ID system

Keeping track of your glass, or, finding new uses for old components. Read More...

Whipping a cheap LED PSU into usable shape

You get what you pay for, and sometimes not even that, but even a cheap Chinese PSU can be improved with some judicious tinkering. Read More...

Simple trick lets you see your parts

Here’s a funny little trick that will make almost-invisible part numbers printed on component packages visible. Read More...

Home reflow sees the light

There are many home reflow oven projects out there, but this one is blindingly good. Read More...

Introducing the first 16 nm semiconductor for space applications

Just like the commercial world, FinFET technology offers a lot of potential for the space industry. The RT-ZU19EG will deliver 10× the performance of the V5QV FPGA consuming similar power in the same package. Read More...

I Sing the Capacitor Electric

Most of us with a decent knowledge of components know that ceramic capacitors can sing, or, act as mechanical-to-voltage converters. But metalized film? Read More...

Altium CircuitStudio review: The glory

The Altium CircuitStudio circuit board CAD program is buggy, slow to load, crashes occasionally, and has a new and infuriating user interface, but this engineer loves it. Read More...

Flex circuits: Innovations and processes

The smartphone market has spurred flex circuit manufacturers to adopt new advanced flex circuit solutions to scale production and lower costs. Here’s what you need to know. Read More...

Heidi Barnes: DesignCon 2017 Engineer of the Year

An EE with experiences in RF, ATE, space electronics, signal integrity, power integrity, and simulation is a true DesignCon luminary worthy of this distinction. EDN spoke with Barnes about the award, her career, and where she sees in the SP/PI industry going. Read More...

The world’s smallest schematic

This radio schematic may not be smallest ever, but it has to be one of the smallest meant for production high-volume consumer electronics. Read More...

Make schematic symbols understandable

Schematic symbol preferences are very personal, but it is important to make them understandable. How do your drawings compare to this engineer's guidelines? Read More...

Dealing with heat in CSP LED designs

While the benefits of chip-scale packaging LEDs are many, one problem is the ability to deal with heat challenges in small packages with LEDs mounted ever closer together. Here’s a solution that will make life, and heat management, easier. Read More...

Near-field scanning: useful or misleading?

Near-field probes can help you find the source of emissions, but remember, not all fields propagate. Read More...

TE, Molex to dual-source high-speed connectivity products

Rivals will make it easier for engineers to specify connectors, modules, and cable assemblies. Read More...

PCB manufacturing requires global consistency

The challenge of PCB development lies in ensuring that the laminates and prepregs used for prototyping will be the same as those used in offshore volume production. Read More...

ICs of the 1930s & 1940s

Check out this amazing integration ca. 1940. Read More...

MesoGlue will not replace solder

MesoGlue is a room temperature metallic glue created with some brilliant science, but it’s not ready to replace solder in the engineering world. Read More...

Multi-instantiating a symbol: Free EDA advice #1

In which I offer 100% free advice to EDA companies on how to improve their products. Read More...

How much mode conversion is too much?: Rule of Thumb #32

Differential to common-mode conversion as miniscule as -60dB can cause EMC test failure. Read how to improve your odds. Read More...

How much common current is too much?: Rule of Thumb #31

Watch out for the EMC failure mode caused by mere microamps. Read More...

No one best PCB fab house

The best fab house for you depends what you need and the kind of boards you are making, but here are some engineer recommendations. Read More...

The homes of EDN

Take a tour of EDN's office locations through the years, including the home of the print collection. Read More...

What is the resonant frequency of a cavity?: Rule of Thumb #30

Cavity resonances in PCBs are easily overlooked, and can result in crosstalk and EMI. Read More...

What is the spatial extent of an edge?: Rule of Thumb #29

If you really want to build your engineering intuition about signal integrity, the most important principle you can apply is the Zen approach, “be the signal”. Read More...

PCB assembly & test problems

A nice brief overview of PCB assembly problems you might encounter, as well as some test ideas. Read More...

Near-field scanners let you see EMI

EMI scanners can display the spectral and special view of a circuit's emissions. From those plots, you can quickly see how circuit changes affect emissions. Read More...

Fix poor capacitor, inductor, and DC/DC impedance measurements

Improved measurement technique extends the range and improves the accuracy over standard S-parameters. Read More...

>> SEE ALL

FEATURED RESOURCES