Electronic Circuits: An Introduction to the Mixed Signal Design

An electronic circuit is a closed path that is made up of connections and interconnections of electronic components through which an electric current can flow. There are three different types of circuits: analog circuits, discrete or digital circuits, and mixed-signal circuits. Analog circuits are those in which signals vary continuously with time in order to correspond to information being represented; these are used in voltage amplifiers, tuning circuits, televisions, and radios.

In digital or discrete circuits, electric signals take on discrete values independent of time in order to represent logical and numeric values. These circuits are used in applications such as calculators, microprocessors, and digital wristwatches. Mixed-signal or hybrid circuits contain elements of both analog and digital circuits on a single conductor die. The mixed signal design is typically used to convert analog to digital signals so that digital devices can process the signals.

Uses for Mixed Signal Circuits
Usually, mixed signal circuits perform a sub-function in a larger assembly such as a radio subsystem of a mobile phone or read data paths in a DVD player. The mixed signal design can also perform some whole functions. Some mixed signal circuits include:

 * Data converters such as digital-to-analog converters (DACs) and analog-to-digital converters (ADCs)
 * Digital radio chips
 * Digitally controlled sound chips

Mixed signal circuits also enable technologies such as Ethernet. The analog power signal is transmitted alongside a digital data signal on the same wire. This would not be possible without the mixed signal design.

Manufacturing Difficulties of Mixed Signal Circuits
Mixed signal circuits are more difficult to design and manufacture than analog and digital circuits. For instance, an efficient mixed signal circuit has a shared power supply for its analog and digital components. Analog and digital components have vastly different power consumption characteristics and demands, making the designing mixed signal circuits a complicated endeavor.

Further, design approaches comparable to digital circuit design methods are much more primitive in the analog and mixed signal design fields. Analog circuit design cannot be automated in the same way that digital circuits design can; as a result, neither can mixed signal circuit design. Combining the two technologies further complicates the issue. Due to this, choosing a qualified and skilled supplier for mixed signal circuits is imperative.

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