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Are Analog Circuit Design Engineers Still Relevant in the Electrical Engineering industry?

January 17, 2020 by Sam Holland

Continuous-time variables—sound, pressure, temperature and so on—make up our world. Engineers, especially electronic and electrical engineers, take these variables and manipulate them in the making of analog electronic devices.

Analog: The Building Block of Complex Electric Circuits

Electronic and electrical engineers primarily use basic electronic components like resistors, capacitors, transistors, and operational amplifiers in their circuit designs. These basic components are analog components, the building blocks of any circuit design. For example, diodes come into action in the rectification of AC to DC when designing an unregulated power supply, capacitors and inductors are used as filters in audio circuits, transistors are used in a wide range of amplifier circuits, and Zener diodes are used in voltage regulator circuits.

With new advancements in technology, analog components are still in use. In the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), analog sensors are incorporated into designs to acquire data from the real world. Such designs usually need an analog to digital converter (or ADC) where an operational amplifier (or op-amp) is used.  In addition, one major component used in LED display technology is the photodiode.  

Bipolar junction transistors (BJTs) and metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors (aka MOSFETs) are mostly used by engineers in current and voltage amplifier circuits. These two components are also used in universal gate circuits and digital logic circuits.


A motherboard.

Close up view of dual in-line package ICs on a circuit board. 


Specializations of Analog Circuit Engineers in the Industry

Analog circuit design is difficult and analog circuit engineers are highly in demand in the industry. In the telecommunications industry, for example, RF engineers are in demand for development of reliable, efficient and high-performance receivers for smartphones, tablets etc.

Research that is focused on the advancement of technologies like IoT enables analog circuit engineers to design systems for sensing and measuring real-world data for use in the medical, automotive, manufacturing, and military industries.

Field engineers and experts in mixed-signal help to design data converter systems. These have applications in system-on-chip (SoC). Engineers also develop solutions with mixed signals for mobile phones, medical, and application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC).

Furthermore, analog circuit engineers also major in reduced instruction set computers (RISC) with the design of analog microcontrollers. 


Production and Market Trends of Analog Design Products

With the high demand for solutions from analogue circuit designs, analog IC in very large scale integration (VLSI) technology is commonly produced and packaged to be included in designs. Texas Instruments, Analog Devices, Maxim Integrated, and Microchip are leading companies in the analog IC design market.

Analog ICs are available in different packages for engineers to use in their designs. These packages include the dual in-line package (DIP), small-outline integrated circuit (SOIC), the quad flat package (QFP), the quad flat no-lead package (QFN) and so on. These packages allow easy placement of components on PCBs and for prototyping.

One of the major market developments on analog components is the AFE7700 manufactured by Texas Instruments for use in RF applications. Considerations for low power consumptions are made in the designs of analog components. The AD8468 by Analog Devices use up to 2mW when supplied with an input supply voltage as low as 2.5V.

The compound annual growth rate of the analog IC market is forecasted to be 5.5% between 2020-2025. In 2018, Texas Instruments tops the list of leading companies of analog IC suppliers, boasting an analog components sale of about $10.8 billion and a market share of 18%. Analog Devices comes next with a market share of 9%.

With more applications in ADCs and DACs, the data converter market in Europe is expected to grow from $561.0 million in 2018 to $906.5 by 2027 with a CAGR of 5.6% from the year 2019 to 2027.


A circuit board.

A prototype of an analog electrical circuit.


Sustainability in Analog Design

Over the years, leading companies in analog circuit design have been carrying out research on analog circuits and working to develop new products in the market, and with the said compound annual growth rates for the major aspects in analog circuit designs, there will be high demand for analog circuit products in years to come. The medical, automotive, telecommunications, and military industries are just a few of the many major areas where analog circuit products will remain in demand with the manufacturing of microelectromechanical sensors, data converters, SoCs, and many more.

Sustainability in analog circuit design can also be achieved by training electronic and electrical engineering students to become field applications engineers in RF design, mixed-signal applications, automotive, and so on. 

All in all, digital technology has not put a stop to the development of analog circuits as analog circuits still have a wide range of applications, and research is still ongoing to sustain it. 

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