We're lucky to live in an era with such dramatic and revolutionary developments in embedded electronics. Unfortunately, all too often, much of the attention paid to advanced technology focuses on the software and logic involved in the system.
It's important to remember that no matter how sophisticated the software and how fast and powerful the logic, without the discretes, passives, and magnetics on the board, the board itself, and the wires and packaging connecting and protecting it, none of it would work. Every component is a critical link in the chain of functionality of a system.
Discretes and Passives
When it comes to discretes like diodes, transistors, and other semiconductor devices on the board, the industry is in a state of disruptive growth, fomented by both material and topology advances. This evolutionary change is taking place in every sector, from power to sensors to software, leveraging one another upwards. For example, the advances in wide-bandgap semiconductors are fomenting growth in both passive and magnetic component performance as well as overall power circuit topologies.
The passives and magnetic components on the board are also often overlooked in their importance to the overall solution. Component size and performance is directly related to issues like power density and solution footprint. The benefits in reducing component size, provided by the migration to higher operating frequencies, are balanced by the challenges to the operating performance of those smaller components.
Proper Connections and Packaging
These components and devices must be mounted to a circuit board that offers the necessary connectivity and dielectric performance demanded by the advanced systems to optimize their operation. In addition, the vias, wires, cables, and busbars involved must be the optimal solution for their role in the circuit. Power efficiency is directly tied to thermal management, and a board with poor parasitic performance adds to the waste energy in the system involved.
This includes both the packaging and the related cable connectivity as it relates to environmental resistance, shock and vibration tolerance, and overall performance. It extends to the related subsystems like mounting and racking. No matter how great the solution, if it isn’t properly deployed on good mounts on capable racks, with good packaging and protection, they're guaranteed to fail at some point.
The important thing to remember is that embedded electronic systems are a gestalt of all the components, magnetics, wiring, and packaging used, and any compromises in these vital devices can significantly negatively impact the resulting product or system. Only by paying proper attention to the selection of every component on the board and the related support subsystems can the result represent an optimal solution for the given application.