By Brandon Kaplan, Mini-Circuits
Selecting RF components for a system design can be one of the more time-consuming tasks in the development cycle. To begin with, a designer may have to sift through hundreds of possible options for a suitable model. Each model represents a matrix of features and parameters with varying degrees of form, fit, and function compatibility with the design requirements. Evaluating the options may take hours or even days, and once a suitable part is identified, there’s still an element of uncertainty as to whether another model may have achieved better system performance. It’s the proverbial needle-in-a-stack-of-needles problem.
Naturally, some RF component suppliers have built databases of product information and developed search engines to speed up the “plug-and-chug” task of product selection. This technology represents an innovation in customer support in the RF component space, but as with many things, the devils in the details. Component search engines give engineers the speed and efficiency of computing horsepower, but because most simply search supplier specs against customer criteria, they come with inherent limitations, often generating false positive and false negative results, and failing to accurately and completely identify the ideal parts for a given application.
To address this problem, Mini-Circuits developed Yoni2,an advanced, patented search engine for RF components. Its purpose is not only give customers a much faster way to identify parts that meet their design requirements, but also to ensure that search results reflect an accurate and realistic evaluation of product performance within the customer’s application bandwidth. This article will clarify the distinction between Yoni2 and other RF component search engines and explain the advantages associated with the more sophisticated search methodology of the Yoni2 program.
Supplier Specs – A Convenient Reduction
Suppliers provide performance specs as a quick, convenient way to evaluate “ballpark” product performance for a given parameter of interest. These are single values that the manufacturer can conservatively guarantee the product will meet within a reasonable margin across its operating frequency range. This information is widely available on product datasheets and supplier websites, and most parametric search engines for RF components match customer performance criteria against these figures.
The problem with this approach is that in reality, electrical performance is not a single value but a variable dependent on frequency. For products specified over a wide frequency range, the spec may understate or overstate performance within a particular band to better approximate performance over the product’s full rated frequency range. If the customer only intends to use the product within a specific band, searching by performance specs alone may reject a part that actually provides ideal performance for the customer’s intended application – or worse, it may include a part that achieves marginal performance relative to the requirement.
For example, a published spec table shows 11 dB typical gain for Mini-Circuits’ PGA-103+ high-dynamic-range MMIC amplifier, which is specified from 50 to 4000 MHz. In reality, the model’s gain curve exhibits a negative slope when plotted over frequency as shown in figure 1.