Usually <20% of the design effort in electronics is in the schematic capture and the PCBs … the other 80% is in the SW, and designing a good test program. RF is an exception here, though, since it’s one of the few areas where the actual PCB layout is the most difficult part of the process, and it can take many revisions to get the best results out of the RF front-end.
Unfortunately, there’s also very little good (or at least accessible) information out there on PCB layout for RF. One of the best (rare!) resources, though, is the Microwave Encyclopedia from microwaves101.com. Need some information on microstrips (probably the most common bit of know how you’ll need designing RF PCBs), they’ve got you covered. Trying to figure out how to use a spectrum analyzer to debug RF problems? They’ve literally covered almost everything, well organized in A-Z format. It’s an amazing resource, so if you’re interested in RF, definately have a look!
RF has always been fascinating to me — there’s something magical about sending and receiving bits and bytes over the air at high speed, through walls and concrete, out into space and back, etc. While RF has a reputation for being complex — and it can get messy depending on what you need to do — there are a number of platforms, products and tools out there that make RF more accessible for hobbyists than it’s probably ever been before. This quick holiday gift guide will hopefully highlight some of the tools you have at your disposal if you want to get started sending bits and bytes over the air yourself! (more…)
If I had to come up with a list of the top 5 technical resources ever, the CC-Antenna-DK kit from TI (formerly Chipcon) would definitely place pretty high up there. Antenna design is a time consuming, repetitive task requiring an excellent attention to detail and understanding of the materials you’re working with, more than a few calculations, and a dash of trial and error. $49.00 for more than a dozen pre-rolled, easy to test, easy (and legal!) to steal antennas is seriously one of the best deals I’m yet to come across. Heck, they even throw in short, load and open boards if you’re in a pinch and need a cheap way to calibrate your VNA! The frequencies are a bit biased towards Europe with a lot of 868MHz boards (no surprise since Chipcon was Norwegian), but if you’re looking for an excellent primer in antenna design, including complicated ones like mixing 868MHz and 2.4GHz in the same antenna, you’ll definately benefit from reading some details on this excellent board. See Design Note DN031: CC-Antenna-DK and Antenna Measurements Summary. And if you’re interested in RF at all, seriously … buy one now before someone at TI wises up and starts charging the $495.00 this board is really worth!