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Did you know that February was among the last two months (along with January) to be added to the Roman calendar? According to Wikipedia, the Romans originally considered winter to be a“month-less” period. NFL fans experience a similar feeling on the morning after the Super Bowl, which, coincidentally, is in February. Maybe it’s the time of year. As our astute readers are well aware, February with less than 30 days is not only the shortest month, it is the only one in which the number of days fluctuate every fourth year. Let’s face it; time in February is short and unreliable. This month, more than any other, exemplifies how time is working against us, especially when a deadline is looming.
On the upside, February is the month we turn our editorial attention to the technology of printed circuit board design for RF and microwave applications. Over the years, we have published many papers on transmission line theory, techniques and applications in RF PCB, MIC, LTCC, SiP and hybrid design. As the technology and available mediums have evolved, we have reported on these advances and how innovative “off-chip” design has steadily improved performance, reduced size and cut costs. What we have not reported on so much, are the gory details of what it takes to tackle some of the very real engineering challenges in RF board design and product development. Since our readers sweat these details every day, we thought the time was right to put our spotlight on this often grueling experience.
When it comes to product development, time (or lack thereof) plays a central role. Engineering deadlines or what marketing folks refer to as “time to market” can become a real source of stress when some unforeseen problem brings a development project to a grinding halt. If the problem has been encountered before, engineers may find the solution quickly from among their bag of engineering tricks. Unfortunately, novel designs often yield novel challenges not readily solved with some previous work around. At this point one needs a bigger bag of tricks, usually acquired through the engineering process and experience. When a development project begins to resemble a research effort, time—that most precious commodity—is consumed at an alarming rate.
And yet, thanks to the component vendor eco-system, there are support networks readily in place that can provide near-instant design expertise. This is the subject of our cover article from Richardson Electronics, a real-life case study of their field application group working with an international customer on an engineering project with an extremely aggressive development cycle. As this case study demonstrates, sometimes it takes a global village to raise a product, especially when the clock is ticking.
Complementing the intensive hands-on effort demonstrated by the Richardson Electronics field organization, this month at MWjournal.com we introduce our readers to Transim, a new online design services company that is entering the RF/microwave space. Transim works directly with the application groups of some major component vendors to create reference designs that can be simulated and modified directly on the component vendor’s web site. By combining a powerful component search algorithm, interactive online schematic parameter entry, simulation and performance plotting with bill of materials generation, Transim partners with component vendors to offer a unique point of entry for design engineers to test out real components and submit a request for actual samples based on their results. This is a big leap from static data sheets and could change the way we initiate designs and are introduced to new components. Read all about it at www.mwjournal.com/transim.
We are also pleased to present Ansoft Designer/Nexxim version 5.0 as our MVP for the month of February. This high-frequency design software, which has been targeting advanced signal integrity and RFIC design applications for years, is now available in different product configurations to meet the specific needs of various RF/microwave applications. The capabilities that have made these products popular with the signal integrity world will serve our industry well as the lines between high-speed digital and microwave electronics blur, especially at the complex board level where both types of signals reside. Speaking of board simulations, we hear from Sonnet’s Jim Rautio with a technical article on EM simulation of anisotropic substrates (co-authored with J. Reynolds and A. Horn III of Rogers Corp.) and in our monthly online executive interview.
Even though it’s a short month, February has plenty of good content for our readers both in print and online; certainly enough to get us to March if not all the way to baseball’s Opening Day.
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