Marcel Pelgrom consults on analog IC design.

Opinion

The design enigma

Reading time: 3 minutes

Any form of product design – be it an IC, a car or a bridge – primarily has to deliver the required functionality. But it is the myriad of boundary conditions that makes the design puzzle really interesting. A bridge connects the two shores of a river, but it truly becomes a challenge to build one at a height of 342 meters, as is the case for the Millau Viaduct.

Every designer has to maneuver through his own application-specific limitations and find original solutions that avoid undesired behavior while strengthening the demanded performance. Electronics designers combine components in a semiconductor technology into a relevant function. They’re confronted with the specifications defined by the application, but also need to adapt to the technological limits such as trading off speed gain versus the continuous reduction of power supply voltages.

For more than half a century, the only tool that designers of PCBs and integrated circuits were using is a simulator in combination with parasitic extractors. Mastering designs at the limits of the technological boundaries with little CAD support is not simple and requires years of experience. It’s not surprising that successful designers of advanced electronic circuits experience a certain reverence.

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