Reference boards are turning into components

Article By : Majeed Ahmad

Reference designs facilitate knowledge in areas where engineers aren’t highly skilled, putting design implementation within their reach.

EDN and EE Times are conducting regular reviews of our editorial coverage, seeking to fill the gap between our offerings and our readers‘ appetite for information. Our brain trust for this project is the EDN Editorial Advisory Board, a panel of industry luminaries — CTOs, executives, and university professors — who will help us understand where the electronics industry is heading, and unearth the knowledge the engineering and business communities need to keep abreast of during this time of rapid changes.

logo for the EDN editorial advisory board

If there is a single thing that engineers need to beware today, it’s design velocity. That’s why design engineers want information quickly, and they are increasingly relying on automation tools. It was the crux of the EDN Editorial Advisory Board conversation with David Dwelley, CTO of Maxim Integrated.

That’s primarily because of time-to-market pressures that demand engineers develop products quickly, which, in turn, is increasingly leading to highly-automated design flows. Dwelley noted, however, that defining a design is still a creative process. “It’s the literal design that’s becoming more like a software flow and less like a classical electronic design process.”

photo of Maxim Integrated CTO David Dwelley
Maxim Integrated’s David Dwelley believes the industry is moving toward a more complete circuit design model.

When asked where engineering knowledge comes from in this highly-automated design world, Dwelley said solutions to problems like bandwidth and noise calculation are mostly wrapped into reference designs. A reference design includes the automation of components as well, so the design is thoroughly checked.

That’s why design engineers are more inclined to buy complete circuits instead of individual components. In other words, designers want to have bigger building blocks at hand as opposed to individual components. Not surprisingly, therefore, component suppliers like Maxim Integrated are turning into reference design shops.

So, while reference boards are turning into components, how can publications like EDN help? For a start, we can ensure that a specific reference design can actually deliver by reviewing this basket of components built around a hybrid delivery mechanism, outlining performance parameters, and ensuring that it performs as a unified product.

EDN aims to provide coverage of reference designs and boards as a singular product and determine how useful and accessible they are to the electronics design community. It will also demonstrate how these reference boards help engineers finetune and customize their designs while focusing on differentiating their products.

Read a more detailed interview with David Dwelley on our sister publication EE Times.

This article was originally published on EDN.

Majeed Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief of EDN, has covered the electronics design industry for more than two decades.

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