Despite its critical nature in high-speed circuitry, printed-circuit-board (PCB) layout is often one of the last steps in the design process. There are many aspects to high-speed PCB layout; volumes have been written on the subject. This article addresses high-speed layout from a practical perspective. A major aim is to help sensitize newcomers to the many and various considerations they need to address when designing board layouts for high-speed circuitry. But it is also intended as a refresher to benefit those who have been away from board layout for a while. Not every topic can be covered in detail in the space available here, but we address key areas that can have the greatest payoff in improving circuit performance, reducing design time, and minimizing time-consuming revisions.

Although the focus is on circuits involving high-speed op amps, the topics and techniques discussed here are generally applicable to layout of most other high-speed analog circuits. When op amps operate at high RF frequencies, circuit performance is heavily dependent on the board layout. A high-performance circuit design that looks good “on paper” can render mediocre performance when hampered by a careless or sloppy layout. Thinking ahead and paying attention to salient details throughout the layout process will help ensure that the circuit performs as expected.

Reproduced with the permission of Analog Devices, Inc.