You need to test, we're here to help.

You need to test, we're here to help.

20 August 2014

Go Back to School on Signal Integrity

No matter how much we might think we know about signal integrity, there's always more to learn. The laws of physics never change but we might come across new scenarios in which to apply them. Circuits with higher levels of functionality are constantly being squeezed into smaller, more portable spaces; the closer together we pack active components and transmission lines, the more acute their sensitivity is to electromagnetic energy. Everything's either a transmitter or a receiver in some sense and everything has effects on other components, intended or otherwise.

A great deal of what any oscilloscope user is concerned with revolves around signal integrity. Often, engineers are tasked with quantifying and/or eliminating SI problems like reflections on transmission lines, ground bounce, and crosstalk. You have your aggressor nets and your victim nets, your impedance mismatches, and other issues that in one way or another degrade the performance of the system. Oscilloscopes and network analyzers are the primary tools for understanding these SI parameters. The more users know about SI, the better equipped they are to take advantage of the capabilities of test and measurement tools.

Continuing education is important in all fields of endeavor. In the signal integrity realm, one such resource is Signal Integrity Academy, the online home of an ongoing series of video classes conducted by renowned SI expert Dr. Eric Bogatin. SI Academy offers a wealth of material on SI for everyone from beginners to grizzled veterans. Of particular note is a compilation of presentations, Essential Principles of Signal Integrity, in which Bogatin covers basic SI concepts as well as topics such as differential pairs, reflections and terminations, reflections and routing topologies, ground bounce, crosstalk, and more. We're talking some 16 hours of presentations in this section of SI Academy alone. Subscribers should start with the Essentials Principles course, as the subsequent sections of the Academy build on these basics.

A second collection of related talks is Advanced Gigabit Channel Design, which homes in on the problems associated with interconnects in the range of 1 to 40 GB/s. Here, you'll learn about the design techniques, materials, and technologies with which to reduce Gigabit channel problems to acceptable levels. Also covered are analysis techniques and tools you can use to accurately predict signal quality at the channel's receiver.

In the section of SI Academy labeled "S-parameters for SI," Dr. Bogatin strips away the layers of FUD surrounding S-parameters. Looking behind the complicated math, Bogatin delves into essential principles of S-parameters. Fundamentally, S-parameters are used to describe the interactions of sine waves and interconnects. This course extends S-parameter concepts into the time domain, examining both single-ended and differential interconnects. Rather than being intimidated  by S-parameters, this course shows you how to make them a useful and relied-upon tool.

A fourth section of SI Academy delivers some 30 hours worth of Dr. Bogatin's videos, recorded presentations, and webinars on a host of SI-related topics. Here, you'll find tons of material on how the concepts and principles of SI are applied to real-world scenarios.

There's an old maxim that says, "Education costs, no matter how you get it," and it applies to SI Academy. There's a cost associated with subscriptions, but when you consider that a subscription gets you anytime virtual access to a world-renowned SI expert's knowledge, it's a worthwhile investment. Having said that, each section of SI Academy contains a number of videos that can be viewed without a subscription, so take a look and decide whether a subscription would be of use to you. 

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