Spring Signals New Opportunities

April 20, 2011
In addition to the changing of the seasons, this time of year is marked by preparations for the annual IEEE MTT-S event; this year's installment will take place June 5-10 in Baltimore. Spring, of course, is something of a "rebirth" for nature, as lawns ...

In addition to the changing of the seasons, this time of year is marked by preparations for the annual IEEE MTT-S event; this year's installment will take place June 5-10 in Baltimore. Spring, of course, is something of a "rebirth" for nature, as lawns turn green and trees begin to bloom. It can also be a time for an engineer to take stock of his or her surroundings, way of doing things, or perhaps even choice of substrate laminate material for a printed-circuit board (PCB).

Engineers tend to be creatures of habit, and we also tend to return to things that have worked in the past. But we are also part of a highly dynamic industry, where things can change in a hurry. Not too long ago, for example, transistors based on silicon carbide (SiC) or gallium nitride (GaN) were at best experimental devices, to be found in some research and development laboratories. Now they are commonplacestandard products that have largely made amplifier designers forget about silicon bipolar transistors.

Spring serves as a reminder that embracing change isn't a bad thingprovided that change brings benefits to a design or customer. PCB laminates, for example, have gotten much better in terms of electrical consistency and thermal/mechanical characteristics than circuit materials of just 10 years earlier. Measurement equipment has gotten better, now generating and analyzing complex modulated waveforms to keep up with the needs of modern communications systems. Similarly, modeling software has improved, as antenna designers will attest.

Spring is that time to decide if a new start is in order. That new start can begin by re-evaluating the ways we perform measurements, design circuitseven the components we specifyand simply asking: Is there a better approach for the money?

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