Tim's Takeaways: 'Sparks' to the Rescue in RF Design

Do you ever watch old military TV shows or movies, specifically those featuring naval vessels such as battleships, destroyers, or submarines? Well, I do, and I’m betting that I’m not alone. 

In a lot of these old shows, the captain of the ship refers to the radioman as “Sparks.” This tasty little sobriquet dates back to the early days of radio when radiomen were traditionally nicknamed “Sparky” or “Sparks” due to their early use of spark-gap transmitters. In those old TV shows and movies, the radioman, Sparks, was the go-to guy to get the job done. 

It probably wouldn’t occur to some younger people that there used to be a time where we couldn’t just pick up our cell phone and call someone halfway around the world. But in those days, it took the powerful resources of a ship or submarine to power those early radios, and the guy with the know-how to make it all work was good-ol’ Sparks. 

In today’s world of PCB design, we are also dealing with radio, specifically radio frequencies that we classify as RF design. And just as with the early days of radio where Sparks the radio specialist was in demand to get the job done, we now need RF specialists to help us get the job done. The specialists in demand today are circuit board designers like you who working together with electrical engineers to create the intricate designs required for RF circuits. 

You are Sparks, the go-to specialist who will take care of business. But this isn’t standard PCB design; this is RF design with different, unusual design requirements that require specific design tool resources to complete the design. So, let’s take a look at some of the common requirements of RF design, and what specific design software enhancements are needed to help PCB designers to better accomplish their task. 

One of the first things that will help the PCB designer in the RF world is the ability to manually modify their components on the fly as needed. Often the quickest way to get the desired shape in an RF component is to simply do a manual change to the part, and RF specific design tools offer the designer this flexibility. Changes in a pin shape, moving a pin, or adding fill should be able to easily be done at the component level. 

RF specific design tools will also feature many routing enhancements. Among those is the ability to add via fencing automatically. It is very helpful for the designer to be able to specify an area either by selecting a pre-existing object to use as a fence template or by manually drawing in the fence shape that the design tool will then fill in with vias. These via fill algorithms will usually include the ability to specify the via part to be used, the net, the spacing and how many rows of vias are required.

 

To read this entire article, which appeared in the December 2016 issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here.

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2017

Tim's Takeaways: 'Sparks' to the Rescue in RF Design

01-03-2017

Just like the early days of radio where Sparks the radio specialist was in demand to get the job done, we now need RF specialists to work together with electrical engineers to create the intricate designs required for RF circuits. You are now Sparks, the go-to specialist who will take care of RF design business.

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2016

The Basics of Hybrid Design, Part 3

06-16-2016

The world of hybrid design is growing, and we have lots of hybrid-specific functionality built into our software that helps designers meet and conquer the unique hybrid design requirements that they are faced with. And yet many designers out there (and I used to be one of them) have no idea what is meant when people start talking about hybrid design.

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The Basics of Hybrid Design, Part 2

05-16-2016

In the first part of this series, we discussed the basics of hybrid design from the PCB designer’s perspective, and here we will continue that discussion.

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The Principles of Hybrid Design, Part 1

04-25-2016

What exactly is a hybrid design? We are seeing more and more of our customers exploring the world of hybrid design, and we are getting new customers for whom hybrid design is their sole focus. The world of hybrid design is growing and we have lots of hybrid-specific functionality built into our software that helps designers conquer the unique hybrid design requirements.

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2015

Tim's Takeaways: The Utility Belt

05-12-2015

The utility belt is a great thing to have. Batman would be long dead without his, and Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor would be useless without his. But for a circuit board designer, a utility belt is equally important. All of us at one time or another will have questions about the CAD system we use, and one essential tool to have in your utility belt is a list of people you can go to for help. At the top of this list should be your CAD system’s friendly customer support staff (like me).

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DFM: The PCB Designer as Arbitrator

04-08-2015

Design engineering is usually a combination of electrical and mechanical engineers. Although these two groups can have their own dramatic conflicts between each other, they will usually end up working together because they ultimately serve each other’s needs. But the manufacturing engineering requirements usually come from a completely different department or from an outside manufacturing vendor.

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2014

Like it or Not, You're a Role Model

12-24-2014

"During the years that I built my skills as a circuit board designer, many people helped shape my character. Some were impulsively brilliant at laying out a board, while others were steady and consistent in their approach to work, dotting every 'i' and crossing every 't.' But they were all patient with me, answering my questions, showing me the ropes, and setting good examples for me to follow," says Columnist Tim Haag.

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Blink and You Will Miss It

11-05-2014

Tim Haag writes, "Friedrich Nietzsche said, 'That which does not kill us makes us stronger.' Well, that adage certainly proved to be true in my situation. If I hadn't been ripped from my secure position and forced to contract for a short season, who knows how my future would have eventually unfolded. And if it hadn't been for that brief season of hardship, would I have had the strength and flexibility to succeed later on?"

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Tim's Takeaways: Blink and You Will Miss It

11-05-2014

Tim Haag writes, "Friedrich Nietzsche said, 'That which does not kill us makes us stronger.' Well, that adage certainly proved to be true in my situation. If I hadn't been ripped from my secure position and forced to contract for a short season, who knows how my future would have eventually unfolded. And if it hadn't been for that brief season of hardship, would I have had the strength and flexibility to succeed later on?"

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There Are No Stupid Questions

09-10-2014

Many of us who have been designing boards for years have had to deal with annoying questions from "the kids." You know who I mean: The rookies, newbies, greenhorns, or puppies just starting out in their design careers. We've all had to answer questions like, "Why is library development so important?" or "Why is solder mask green?"

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Tim's Takeaways: There Are No Stupid Questions

09-10-2014

Many of us who have been designing boards for years have had to deal with annoying questions from "the kids." You know who I mean: The rookies, newbies, greenhorns, or puppies just starting out in their design careers. We've all had to answer questions like, "Why is library development so important?" or "Why is solder mask green?"

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Design Rule Checks - For Your Protection

07-09-2014

Columnist Tim Haag writes, "I have designed multitudes of PCBs over the years, but I have a confession to make: It can be hard for me to run that final design rule check. I know that it is important, but at the end of a long design cycle, I just want to be done. I don't want to redo anything, and I sure don't want to look at my own errors. Do any of you feel that way?"

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Tim's Takeaways: Design Rule Checks - For Your Protection

07-09-2014

Columnist Tim Haag writes, "I have designed multitudes of PCBs over the years, but I have a confession to make: It can be hard for me to run that final design rule check. I know that it is important, but at the end of a long design cycle, I just want to be done. I don't want to redo anything, and I sure don't want to look at my own errors. Do any of you feel that way?"

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Customer Support: Not Just for Customers Anymore

06-04-2014

Columnist Tim Haag writes, "In my role as the customer support manager, I have seen plenty of examples of customer support. But my point here is not to focus on customer support as a function of a support technician. Instead, I want to explore the concept of how we should all strive to provide the best level of customer support in our jobs, no matter what we do."

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