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Tips for Designers to Read Electronic Component Datasheet

What is a Datasheet?

A datasheet is a reference guide of what makes the component work and operate. You don’t need to read through a datasheet, but you need to know what capabilities and tolerances that make the particular component works. So when “reading” datasheets you should really look at the tables that show the range and the I/Os that allow you to connect the components with other components. This will allow you to complete a design layout. Once you get the finer details, your first board level layout can then be confirmed by referencing the datasheets. That also confirms you have made the right choices to get your device to work. This is why our suggestion is not to try to read the datasheet from beginning to end, but to pick out specific sections in the datasheet to begin designing your device.

Datasheet is a Must-Have Reference Material

Product Design (photo credit: flickr)

Every component manufacturer will have a comprehensive datasheet for their components. If you don’t get a comprehensive datasheet from a component maker, you probably should not use the component. As you pick each component to create your product design, think of each datasheet as reference material to make sure all your components will work well together.

When first looking at all the various components you choose in designing and laying out your electronic product, you may feel confused to understand and select what you really need and what exact components you should use. Do not expect datasheets to tell you a story or have a beginning or end. A datasheet is to be looked upon as getting specific information in order to make sure you combine other components in making your design work. This is why when you read a datasheet, you should focus on the tables and specific numerical data that show the component needs, range of safe operation, what not to exceed or what makes the component work best in the environment you are placing it in.

Datasheet Helps Your Design Achieve Stability

Datasheets become your dictionary of how the system comes together. With that in designing new IOT devices, don’t over think it. Start off by looking at the power requirements that are in the datasheets that are table oriented. If you start by looking at the power tables, this will help your design achieve stability. This is important cause as stated before in previous blog (EMC and EMI – The Issues You Should Never Skip in Product Development). EMC and EMI in any electronic design product is all about managing the power going in and the efficiency of the use of the power to all the components.

Datasheet – Power Tables
Datasheets always provide you with the power requirements needed and the thermal ranges and characteristics of the components you are using. This is why these usually are the first tables in a datasheet. Take the Winbond memory IC datasheet for example. When designing, simply look at the first part of actually how to make the component(s) power up and work. By doing so, you are setting the basic foundation of having the system platform. The datasheet will also have specific tables with I/Os and how other components can be designed to work together with the components chosen. If they are memory type components or CPUs, you will also see the type of software specifications in these datasheets. By first focusing on the power specifications on how the hardware works and then looking at the software side of how the component(s) can communicate with each other. It’s what we call system integration when you combine HW/SW together. All devices especially in the IoT industry require HW/SW.

Power Example – Why you need to read Datasheet
A prime example of how to understand the importance of Power is this. Designers always have to start off with what type of power if they should use? AC (Alternating Current) or DC (Direct Current). It is true for most designs that we discuss for projects in the IoT industry the obvious choice is DC. DC devices are associated with low Amp consumption and also for the fact that DC is often termed as “clean” power. AC (Alternating Current) devices are associated with high Amp projects for power hungry devices. There is a true saying that “Voltage doesn’t kill you, Amps do”. This applies to components in the same way. Too much Amps applied to a system will most likely “fry” component(s) or hopefully before that happens cause a circuit breaker to pop. Because DC components have gotten extremely efficient the ability for them to handle higher amp loads is quite impressive. So for most designers the choice is easily made when creating their system using DC components. The power supply is the component is where the consideration of the AC to DC conversion take place. There are many references on power supplies that will meet all of your designing needs.

DC Electrical Characteristics on Winbond Memory Datasheet

Memory and CPUs – Specs
For components such as memory and CPUs, the operation of these type of components integrated to your device require you to properly provide these components with good clean power and stable power. If you “overclock” a CPU, which often happens in early designs and you don’t understand what the real impact on power is. The result from doing so in the long term will decrease the MTBF time of the system. To rectify this, often designers will add on heat sinks and/or cooling fans to maintain temperature balance but this leads to inefficiencies and increase BOM (Bill of Material).

Then What to Start with in Designing?

What you should be looking for is a reference design to start with. It doesn’t matter if you are new or well seasoned designer. Start looking for a reference design. From a reference design, the existing system has the basis of components that have been tested and developed for consideration of a project. Using this as the first step will also allow you to read the datasheets by referencing the tales with the information needed to design your system. TechDesign should be where you should start from. We take you from the beginning step by step to achieve success. We provide reference designs, expert consultation and backs it up with certified components that meet all your design needs.

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