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68 DESIGN007 MAGAZINE I FEBRUARY 2022 Design and manufacture of PCBs for radio frequency (RF) technology is a unique animal. RF had been considered a niche, thought of only in terms of television broadcasts, com- mercial airline phones, and military radar systems. Now, light industrial and consumer applications ranging from remote meter read- ing to home security systems are just the tip of the RF iceberg. More and more new applications are now relying on RF, meaning PCB designers increasingly need to become fluent in the use of high-speed low-loss PCB material used in the production of boards for RF applications. Sooner rather than later, you'll probably find yourself designing a board manufactured with these less familiar materials, so it's important to understand challenges and best practices associated with them. Are the benefits to high-speed, low-loss PCB materials worth it for my design? Yes, these materials are what enable innovation and have been vital to the creation of 5G wireless net- works, autonomous vehicle development, and the internet of things (IoT). RF boards are The PCB Design Secret Sauce for RF Applications more expensive to prototype, but if you adhere to best practices for working with the materi- als and specifications required for RF applica- tions, you'll have more success and be more cost-effective in the long run. High-Level RF PCB Design Practices Best practices begin with focus on manufac- turability. With RF boards, the materials cho- sen will impact every element of your design, from thickness to layout to surface mounts. is makes the decisions about materials critical for cost-effective prototype and manufacturing. Designers accustomed to concentrating on circuit speed and density must adjust their thinking and focus on potential issues with fre- quency. RF boards should be made from mate- rials that minimize energy loss and maintain dielectric (Dk) uniformity. To do both, design- ers have to choose among dozens of different controlled-Dk and low-loss materials. What you choose will depend on your outputs, bud- get, and design requirements. And your design needs to be cost-effectively manufacturable by your chosen PCB fabrica- Connect the Dots by Matt Stevenson, SUNSTONE CIRCUITS

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