Structured Electronic Design

color coded resistors

Structured design of analog electronics offers strategies, methods, and techniques for designing electronic circuits.

The complexity of analog electronics

Many people consider analog electronic circuit design complex: designers can implement many performance aspects in various ways. In other words, there are many degrees of freedom for obtaining the desired performance of an electronic circuit. Theoretical concepts, circuit topologies, electronic devices, their operating conditions, and the system’s physical construction together constitute an enormous design space in which it is easy to get lost. For this reason, analog electronics often is regarded as an art rather than a solid discipline.

Experienced designers and intuitive design

At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be a straightforward way to design analog circuits: experienced designers, intuitively, use all these degrees of freedom to modify and combine known solutions into new ones. However, intuition is knowledge of which the origin has become unclear. It is the result of a personal internalization process. Therefore, it cannot be shared with novices and cannot be a basis for design education. The design of electronic circuits can be taught, shared, and understood if presented in a structured way. It requires a distinct formulation of design goals, techniques, and strategies and a clear distinction between theoretical concepts and their physical implementations.

Structured Electronic Design

Rather than taking numerous existing solutions to known problems as a starting point, it is much more effective to start a new design with a clear understanding of:

  1. Its application
  2. The required functionality
  3. Physical operating mechanisms that are at the disposal of the designer
  4. Theoretical concepts, design methods, and design techniques

All this be combined such as to exploit the possibilities of the implementation technology maximally.

As a matter of fact, “Structured Electronic Design” can be regarded as systems engineering applied to analog electronics.

“Structured Electronic Design” places analog electronics design in the perspective of information processing. It provides a hierarchically structured top-down design method with a bottom-up awareness. A design approach, identical at each hierarchical level of the design.

Important questions driving the design process are:

  1. How is the information to be processed by the application embedded in the electrical signals?
  2. In which way and to what extent is the application sensitive to all kinds of information processing errors?
  3. Which physical resources are available to implement the information processing functions, and to what extent are they available?
  4. Do the fundamental physical limitations of information processing (addition of noise, the limited availability of power, and the limited rate of change of signals), as they manifest themselves in the implementation technology, or do limitations of the physical operating mechanisms in the technology, cause show-stoppers?
  5. Which design methods and techniques are available to maximize the performance-cost ratio of the design?

The first two questions emphasize the top-down approach, the next two illustrate bottom-up awareness, while the last one shows the conceptual design approach.

“Structured Electronic Design” uses proper sequencing and orthogonalization of design steps, based on solid principles from physics, information processing, control theory, and network theory. It helps the designer efficiently and effectively obtain the desired performance-cost ratio and provides a solid foundation for analog design education. Moreover, it also forms the basis for analog design automation.

“Structured Electronic Design” has been developed and educated since the 1980s at the Delft University of Technology.