2023-04-26 BEST

What are the best low-frequency PCB design practices?

Introduction: Low-frequency printed circuit board (PCB) design is an essential aspect of electronic design that has become increasingly important with the demand for high-speed data transfer and communication. To achieve optimal performance and reliability, it is necessary to employ the best low-frequency PCB design practices. In this article, we will discuss these practices and their importance in reducing electromagnetic interference (EMI) and achieving high signal integrity.

Low-frequency printed circuit board (PCB) design

  1. Grounding: One of the most important aspects of low-frequency PCB design is proper grounding. Grounding ensures a low impedance path for return current, which reduces noise and interference. The goal is to keep the ground impedance as low as possible. The ground impedance can be calculated by measuring the voltage drop between two ground points with a known current flowing through them. The lower the voltage drop, the lower the ground impedance. To achieve good grounding, use a solid ground plane and short, wide traces to connect all components. Ensure the ground plane is continuous and free from cuts or voids. In low-frequency PCB design, it is common to use a two-layer board with a solid ground plane on one layer.

  2. Decoupling: Decoupling capacitors are another important aspect of low-frequency PCB design, used to reduce noise and voltage fluctuations. These capacitors are placed between the power supply and ground to provide a low impedance path for high-frequency noise to flow to ground. The capacitor's value is chosen based on the required decoupling frequency and the maximum allowed voltage ripple. To achieve good decoupling, place decoupling capacitors close to the power pins of the integrated circuits (ICs). Use capacitors with low equivalent series resistance (ESR) and equivalent series inductance (ESL) for good decoupling. The ESR and ESL of a capacitor can be measured with an impedance analyzer.

  3. Trace routing: Trace routing is critical in low-frequency PCB design and determines the impedance and capacitance of the circuit. The impedance and capacitance of a trace can be calculated using the trace's length, width, and thickness. The goal is to keep the trace impedance and capacitance as low as possible. Keep trace lengths short, avoid sharp bends or corners, and minimize coupling between traces to achieve good signal integrity. In low-frequency PCB design, it is common to use a trace width of 10 mils or more.

  4. Shielding: Shielding is essential in reducing EMI. The goal is to create a conductive barrier around sensitive components or traces to prevent electromagnetic fields from coupling into the circuit. Use grounded metal shields around sensitive components or traces and ensure that shields are properly grounded. Shielding effectiveness can be measured using a spectrum analyzer.

  5. Crosstalk: Crosstalk occurs when two or more traces are placed close together and interfere with each other. The goal is to keep the coupling between traces as low as possible. To reduce crosstalk, route traces as far away from each other as possible and use differential signaling where possible to cancel out common-mode noise or interference. The coupling between traces can be measured with a near-field probe and an oscilloscope.

Conclusion: Low-frequency PCB design is critical in achieving high signal integrity and reducing EMI. Proper grounding, decoupling, trace routing, shielding, and crosstalk management are all important aspects of low-frequency PCB design that should be considered during the design process. By following these best practices and measuring the relevant parameters, designers can ensure optimal performance and reliability of their electronic circuits.