Bridging the Divide (Part 3): DAC Applications Review

As mentioned in the first and second articles (links below), a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) can be used in a wide spectrum of applications. Because the DAC serves as the bridge between digital and analog domains, it is useful in many important applications.

A common question often asked is “Since technology is moving into digital processes, will DACs eventually vanish from the electronics world?” Absolutely not! While it is certain that IC manufacturers integrate more features every year into a processor or FPGA, there will always be some type of interface required. The world of erratic and dynamic analog signals cannot be handled easily in a pristine 3.3 V digital world. The DAC therefore will maintain an important role in the electronics industry.

While no list of applications is exhaustive, this article looks at a number of common applications, along with a description of the typical function a DAC has within that system. In some applications, the function of a DAC is relatively straightforward. Others, such as calibration, may not be immediately apparent. We will review a few applications in this article: audio DACs in CD Players, calibration, and motor control.

The first article in this series, which originally appeared at the EE Times Europe -Analog web site, covered basic DAC operation and key definitions, along with common DAC topologies. The second article discussed the implementation of DACs, along with issues such as errors and noise. This final article reviews two important DAC applications: calibration and motor control .

  • To read Part 1 of this article, click here.
  • To read Part 2 of this article, click here.
  • To read Part 3 of this article, click here.

About the author
Bill McCulley is a Staff Applications Engineer for National Semiconductor and covers all broad market applications for the Americas region, based in National Semiconductor's Customer Support Center in Texas. He has been with National for nearly five years, and has held positions as an engineer for technical marketing and applications engineering. Bill holds a BSEE (Electrical Engineering) degree, and a minor in Spanish (Latin-American dialects) from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

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