Analogue design needs a totally different approach to solving problems. It makes good sense to rig up the circuit and test, to unravel the mystery associated with a problem. Don’t use simulation tools (pSpice, Saber, etc) to do your design, but only to confirm your design when in doubt or perhaps to do a detailed analysis (tolerance, temperature, etc). Do not blindly copy application circuits from datasheets. If you follow these generic rules, you will be able to break the myth of ‘analogue circuit design is black magic.’
—Basavaraj Garadi, Chief Expert, Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions
1. Keep up-to-date with the basics of analogue and linear circuits.
2. Visualise any circuit you test to the transistor level.
3. Take up your own project and materialise it. This will give you exposure to the real world of analogue design.
4. Try making circuits that work with small signals, sensors and instrumentation. These will let you experience the noise and start working on eliminating it.
5. Become proficient in building and testing an analogue electronic circuit.
—P. Chow Reddy, manager-R&D (Power Division), ICOMM Tele Ltd
As analogue skills are more complex than other VLSI skills, many engineers tend to choose career in easier domains. However, many bright engineers who chose jobs in other domains after graduation, are considering to switch to analogue domain as their current job is no longer challenging. Hence I would suggest bright engineers to choose analogue domain and not just any job after their graduation.
—Somashekhar B., technology manager-analogue/mixed-signal group, Semicon Technology-Systems BU, Tata Elxsi
As far as board designs are concerned, Garadi believes that pure analogue circuit design does not have significant scope at the moment.
“At least not in the league of what used to happen in the good old 80’s and the 90’s. Back then, circuit diagrams would span over several sheets without you encountering a single microcontroller or a logic circuit. But now, the closest that one would be doing is mixed-signal circuit design. On that count, most boards interacting with the real world would certainly have front-end interfaces involving signal conditioning-amplifying, attenuating, filtering or buffering signals,” says Garadi.
However, Garadi believes IC, ASIC or VLSI designs are still the areas of interest to hardcore analogue designers, and look very promising in terms of salaries. Almost all the big names in semiconductor industry—STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, Freescale Semiconductors and Maxim Integrated to name a few—have officesor design centres in India. This sector provides fairly decent opportunities either as an IC designer or as an application engineer for linear ICs.
According to Rajani Rao, for a major semiconductor company to succeed, it has to have a strong analogue design team.
Attributing to the fact that analogue design is indeed more challenging than digital, Somashekhar says, “As analogue skills are more complex and unique, it takes slightly more time to ramp-up. But once a person attains that level, it leads to a stable, long-term and highly rewarding career growth.”
“The design tasks are highly challenging and provide great job satisfaction. It is a pride to claim that you are an analogue engineer—a rare skill to stand out among others,” he adds.
“For analogue board design, a bachelor’s degree in electronics or one of its offshoots like electronics & communication or instrumentation would do. However, for engineers wanting to pursue a career in IC or VLSI design, a master’s programme in microelectronics and VLSI design or its equivalent would be the minimum requirement,” says Garadi.
“A master’s or above degree in integrated electronics is the most desirable. However, nowadays there is exposure to analogue design even at the undergraduate level,” adds Rajani Rao.
Dr S. Karthik, engineering director, India Product Development Centre (IPDC), Analog Devices India, too feels that for analogue design, an M.Tech in VLSI would be preferred. However, according to him, “B.Tech candidates with a strong background and interest in analogue design would also do well.”
Reddy believes that qualification is required just to enter the industry. Catering to designs required by the industry actually depends on the design skills of the engineer, adaptability of technologies and new trends emerging in the field.
More than the educational qualifiction, it is the interest and the opportunity that make someone an analogue designer, points out Binu Raj S.
Dr Karthik informs that entry-level roles mainly include design and verification of analogue blocks. “Their designation would be that of a design engineer focusing on areas like circuit design, layout design and circuit characterisation,” says Somashekhar.
Rajani Rao says, “Candidates would have had theoretical exposure on all these basic blocks in their academic courses. It is now time to actually design them and build on their fundamentals. They would also get an idea of how these building blocks get stitched into a complex analogue top level like a PLL.”