An Applications Engineer’s Perspective of IMS2013, Day 3

Even though the third day is the shortest of the show, at least on the exhibit floor, there was still some very good conversation with my fellow engineers at IMS2013. I also had some relevant questions around gigasample converters. I'd say I had my most intriguing question on the last day. We also had several engineers drop by the booth for general discussion.

It is such a small industry, and it is always interesting to see a familiar face pop up at a new company. It is not necessarily the new company piece that is interesting but the fact that the show lends an opportunity to keep networks alive with other engineers as we move along our different career paths.

The overall exhibit floor traffic was not as busy as it was on the first and second days of the show, but that is typically the case as most folks are winding down. Also, the folks who came to the show and received exhibit-only badges typically use those badges for the longer days on the exhibit floor. Since the last day ends at 3:00 p.m. instead of 5:00 p.m. (Tuesday) or 6:00 p.m. (Wednesday), it is not as good value in the sense of exhibit-only badges. But even though it was the shortest day, I did have a very intriguing question come up.

The questions I had from some of the engineers I talked to revolved around gigasample ADCs. Generally, the questions were about the push in the direction of higher sample rate converters and the advantages and challenges of these types of converters. As I've mentioned in some of the articles I've written, there are many industries that can benefit from higher sample rate converters. I've focused on that from an interleaved converter standpoint, but it is true regardless of the converter architecture (interleaved or not).

In communications applications there is a desire for higher sample rate converters to allow for multi-band, multi-carrier radios. In addition, there are wider bandwidth requirements for linearization techniques like DPD (digital predistortion). In military and aerospace, higher sample rate converters allow engineers to design multi-purpose systems that can be used for communications, electronic surveillance, and radar. Designers of measurement equipment are looking to increase measurement bandwidth by using higher sample rate ADCs so that higher speed signals can be measured adequately and accurately.

Along these same lines, I had what was probably the most intriguing question that I faced while at the show. I had a customer come by the booth with a conceptual design, trying to figure out how to take a converter (or converters) and extend the analog input bandwidth. So we set about drawing some block diagrams on a few notebook pages. I'd be willing to bet that some of the best product designs out there probably originated on the tattered and worn pages of an engineer's notebook and eventually made their way into our homes or our workplace.

We sketched out a few ideas using some demodulators to down convert signals into the usable bandwidth of the converter. The core issue here is that the converter not only needs a higher sample rate but a higher analog input bandwidth to take advantage of the higher sample rate. It comes down to a system design question to figure out what Nyquist zone of the converter is needed. Does system bandwidth mean that operation into the third or fourth Nyquist zones is needed? Or is the first and second Nyquist zone sufficient? If the answer to the first question is yes, then there may need to be some things done to effectively extend the system bandwidth.

All the questions I received during the show sparked some interesting conversations. The exhibit floor traffic was energized and brought many visitors by the booth. Seattle played a great host with its unique culture and tasty restaurants. Several vendors held evening events that allowed for the engineers to do a little social networking and unwind a bit. Overall, it was a great show. I am looking forward to the show in Tampa next already. How about you?

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