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dacs, microcontrollers and ground planes

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by Hank, Jun 12, 2004.

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  1. Hank

    Hank Guest

    I want to interface a ADS1256 24 bit delta-sigma dac to a atmel mega128
    microcontroller. The data sheet for the 1256 recommends:

    "It is recommended to use a single ground plane for both the analog and digital
    supplies. This ground plane should be shared with the bypass capacitors and
    analog conditioning circuits. However, avoid using this ground plane for noisy
    digital components such as microprocessors."

    Only the SPI serial lines (Din, Dout, Sclk, CS) need to be connected between the
    uC and the dac. What would be the best way to arrange these two ground planes
    between the dac and the uC?

    It is a very cool chip...I was searching for something around 16 bits, but this
    8 channel 24 bit device that operates up to 30khz sample rate and has a PGA
    really caught my attention. I just want to make sure I don't ruin it with a
    crappy layout :)


  2. Guy Macon

    Guy Macon Guest

    Check the app notes and see if they have a reference layout using a
    uP or uC.

    Also, depending on your application, you may be able to deisign
    in such a way that no digital lines are changing state during your
    ADC sample.
  3. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    That's not a dac, it's an ADC!

    I'd just ground everything hard to the ground plane of the board (I
    assume it's multilayer!) The ADC inputs are differential, so they
    truck off to whatever your signal source is, with all due respect for
    ground loops and magnetic loop area and stuff like that. Delta-sigmas
    are pretty forgiving, especially if you use an integration time that
    rejects AC line hum.

    This board has eight AD7710s, each fronted by an INA129
    instrumentation amp. It also has a 68332 uP and a VME interface, all
    sharing a common ground plane on a 6-layer pc board.

    Works fine. The pic is of a prototype, so the board is ugly green. We
    usually do blue boards in production.

  4. Hank

    Hank Guest

    Uhg, I meant ADC...had dacs on my mind when I posted. Impressive board, btw.

    So why do all these companies (atmel, ti/bb) tell you to use separate planes? I
    looked at past posts on SED and sure enough everyone seems to recommend just
    using one ground plane for everything. Anyone ever mention this to the folks
    who write the app notes and data sheets???


  5. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    It seems to me that they consider their part to be the center of the
    universe, so they ask for stuff like separate analog/digital grounds
    meeting under their chip, and sixteen bypass caps, stuff like that.
    Most don't explain how this can be accomplished with even two of their
    parts on a board, much less a lot of other stuff.

    I've bought a few manufacturer's eval boards lately for really fast
    (2-10 GHz) stuff, and they don't split planes.

    A lot of appnotes are nonsense. The utility of appnotes is that that's
    where they often reveal the bugs. If they say "for optimum operation,
    Vcc should come up 2.653 milliseconds before Vdd at temperatures above
    13C" or whatever, look out. "Optimum" usually means "might not

  6. Klaus Bahner

    Klaus Bahner Guest

    They don't! If you read the application notes and the EVM manuals
    carefully, you will find a lot of remarks that there is no simple answer
    to this question. Furtehrmore on TI's 2004 Precision Data Acquisition
    Application seminar they also said that "it depends".

    In my experience it depends largely on your application. There is
    certainly a difference, whether you want to use the ADC for a single
    ended thermocouple with voltages in the uV range or for differential
    voltages in the 5V range. It also depends on for how many ENOBs you are
    heading. I think there is a difference whether you are heading for 23 or
    18 ENOBs from the ADS1256. Not to forget your environment, at the
    above seminar the had a nice demonstration of the same circuit but with
    two different layouts (both were "reasonable" in my opinion), both
    worked very well "most of the time": The difference was what happened
    when you switched a cell phone on - one continued with the same high
    resolution, the other one's ENOBs decreased by 4-6 bits while the phone
    started its network search.

    If you are able to place your digital and analog stuff in such a way
    that the return currents are not crossing each other then a solid ground
    plane is equally good as a split plane design. If the return currents
    don't cross each other than this is basically a split plane design.
    If there is no natural "split plane" design, I prefer a physical split
    plane. For example in a current design I'm working on, also using the
    ADS1256, I have also a bunch of reed relays, which in my experience
    certainly calls for a split plane design. Another thing which comes to
    my mind is that the ATmegas's have very fast (a few nanoseconds
    risetime) ports which high current capability. In most situations this
    is one of the lovely things about the ATmega, but it caused me also some
    headache in conjunction with precision analog stuff.

    Just my two cents
  7. Bill Sloman

    Bill Sloman Guest

    I've had the experience of copying an Analog Devices applcation note
    for an A/D converter slavishly, and finding that the reference voltage
    buffer circuit oscillated (albeit at a very low amplitude) probably
    because my tantalum capacitors had a lower ESR than theirs - an extra
    resistor and capacitor on each buffer solved the problem.

    One thing that Hank could do would be to put an opto-isolator or two
    into the SPI link between the A/D converter and the digital hardware.
    This means that no digital current flows through the star point
    connecting the analog and digital ground planes, which can make life a
    great deal simpler in complicated systems. It isn't a cheap solution -
    for that you need a rudimentary pulse transformer with a Schmitt
    trigger on the receiving side to reconstruct any DC component of the
    serial signal - but it is usually painless.
  8. Ken Smith

    Ken Smith Guest

    Also going through a single ended to balanced and back to single ended
    buffer set will keep the logic currents from flowing away from the ground
  9. Ken Smith

    Ken Smith Guest

    I don't.

    If you are working with ADCs and digital on the same PCB, you are better
    off to consider the path the ground and Vcc currents follow and control
    what happens. This often means that the ADC section's ground plane is
    divided from the digital ground plane at some point. All the logic and
    VCC that connect the two must run over the neck of ground plane that hooks
    the two together.

    No logic current should be allowed to run through the signal or reference
    ground of the analog section. This can be done by adding a ground plane
    section to another layer and using that as the analog circuit's ground.
    In some cases you end up with 3 ground planes over each other. These are:
    (1) digital ground, (2) analog signal ground and (3) op-amp supply bypass
    ground. The anlog signal ground (2) would be a copper fill on the
    component side of the board.

    In a mixed anlog / digital board, you often find that the digital part
    demands more layers than the anlog part. Smart use of these extra layers
    in the anlog section can greatly improve matters.

    Ideally, the Vcc conection to the ADC should run through an impedance at
    the neck point and be bypassed on both sides. This prevents other logic
    signals currents from flowing in the ADC's bypass capacitor.

    Ideally the analog input should be differential. Even if it is single
    ended, it can be very worthwhile to run the signal and ground from the
    transducer's output through a twisted pair to the analog section of the
    PCB. On the PCB, the signal ground wire is treated as a differential
    input. This reduces the noise effects of the differences in ground
  10. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    Assuming everything's on the same board, using optos or diff
    conversion will add a heap of parts "isolating" things just a few
    inches apart. Everything will use the same ground and Vcc, so the
    whole thing usually reduces into an expensive piece of wire, or maybe
    an expensive R-C lowpass filter.

    It's surprising how many people think optoisolation is some sort of
    magical noise preventer, like using garlic to keep vampires away. If
    the grounds are local and common, there's no reason to optoisolate.

    I sometimes use source termination (as for, say, a bunch of flash ADCs
    feeding an FPGA) to reduce the ground bounce that might result from
    driving a lot of digital lines from an ADC. It probably helps.

  11. Guy Macon

    Guy Macon Guest

    I had one design where the digital outputs of the uC had a lot of
    noise on them which was getting into the ADC. I put in a 74HC
    buffer running off of a filtered +5V supply and the noise stopped
    at the input to the buffer.
  12. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    It usually helps the gate the buffer, so the constant flailing of the
    data bus isn't always present at the ADC or DAC. The bus data *is*
    noise, irrespective of the source of Vcc.

    Most dacs - serial or parallel - have a serious amount of
    digital-to-analog feedthrough.

  13. Hal Murray

    Hal Murray Guest

    It usually helps the gate the buffer, so the constant flailing of the
    Is that feedthrough from the data/clock signals, or from the
    digital power supply?

    How much do I gain by:
    Filtering the digital supply to the ADC chip?
    Turning off the serial data/clock?

    The chip that started this discussion has a max of 30K
    samples/sec. Is that slow enough so that all the normal
    digital noise averages out?
  14. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Hi John,

    Agree with everything except one: Garlic does have benefits. Not for driving away vampires though. When I was in Asia several old folks independently told me that any day in my life where I don't take in any garlic will substantially shorten my life expectancy. Must have been a good point because many over there were in their 80's and had smoked heavily most of their life. They didn't even have back pain or a anything else.

    So, I figure garlic ought to be good. I guess Jim Thompson would agree :).

    Terminations: Gentle AC termination instead of Thevenin also helps a lot with noise. A whole lot.

    Regards, Joerg
  15. Ken Smith

    Ken Smith Guest

    Well the garlic works doesn't it. There aren't any vampires around here.
    I'm sure many people have needlessly used optos and the same sort of

    Depending on the flash it may of it may not. If the latch in the flash is
    strobed after everything is decided, the spike on the ground doesn't get
    to effect the comparitors. If it is a pipelined ADC, the strobe can line
    up with some comparing.
  16. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    With the parts I've worked with, the data and clock made a lot more
    noise than the supply, although DACs and ADCs certainly deserve clean
    supplies. Whenever possible, I try to wiggle converter pins as little
    as possible, because the same piece of silicon is used for the analog
    and digital stuff. So, for example, a triggerable ADC should be
    triggered, and a timeout used to wait for it to be done before reading
    it out, as opposed to polling a "done" bit, which would keep thwacking
    the poor thing. Besides, if "done" never comes up, your program hangs!

    Delta-sigmas are relative immune to digital noise, but it's still best
    not to put them on a shared data bus, especially if you're after 20
    bits of data or so.

    Some, I guess, might as well.
    A lot, in my experience.

  17. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    The point here - I think - is that the output data pattern changes
    every clock, and the chip has to drive 8 to 14 or so data lines, that
    means a lot of Vcc and ground current is needed to drive the data
    lines, and it appears pretty much like random noise, which can mess up
    other samples being taken or processed. Source termination makes the
    load on each pin look twice as high as the line impedance, or even
    more if you cheat a little. This can (I think) reduce chip substrate
    bounce. I say "I think" because I've done it a number of times, and
    the boards worked well, but they might have worked OK anyhow.

    Sometimes you just do stuff that seems like a good idea, and it works,
    so you declare victory and keep doing it. This is called
    "superstitious learning". A lot of engineering works this way.

  18. Ken Smith

    Ken Smith Guest

    ASCII art
    Imagine this:

    ........*...!........!........!........... 1 billion amps
    *******.***!****.***!****.***!*********** <- Icc
    ............!........!........!........... not much current
    ! Comparitor decides here.

    So long as the impedance of the ground is very low, the spikes on the Icc
    don't effect the voltage when the comparitors are deciding. The flashes I
    played with way back when tried to make this true.
  19. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    Well, it's hard to quantify. I like source termination for other
    reasons, so it's pleasing to think that it improves analog s/n too.

    I've definitely seen serious data-bus-line noise induced into SAR
    adc's, cured by adding gated buffers in the data lines. And DAC
    feedthrough is the nemesis of my otherwise-perfect life.

  20. Bill Sloman

    Bill Sloman Guest

    The catch with sigma-delta A/D coverters is that any digital noise
    synchronised with the sampling frequency will alias down to a DC
    offset. Everything else should average out (if it is isn't big enough
    to drive the input channel into non-linearity, which can make it a bad
    idea to drive the A/D converter close to either end of its range,
    though sigma-delta A/D converters are designed to handle "out of
    range" input levels at the sampler -it can be worth the trouble to
    find out how much headroom you've got).

    Filtering the digital supply to the the A/D converter chip is often
    worth the trouble - when I've been in problem-avoidance mode, I've
    used a separate linear three terminal regulator to provide the ADC
    with its own private digital supply tapped off the analog positive
    supply, via a passive filter to block any high frequency noise goig
    either way.

    As John Larkin says, this route is usually less important that the
    path through the digital output pins of the A/D converter but it can
    end up as the critical path on your system.

    In precision analog design, paranoid anxiety can be a virtue.
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