A Steady Approach For Implementing a Reference Design


  • This article focuses on the differences between a reference design and a DIY
  • It also throws light on the process of developing devices based on reference designs

Reference designs are considered as the best sources which can be utilised to develop industrial-grade products. It is a compilation of design fundamentals and tested results which help a design engineer in the development of a quality product.

The key parameters which a designer needs to develop a product from a reference design are –

  • Design features
  • Circuit schematics
  • Bill of material (BOM)
  • PCB design layout
  • Test results
  • Circuit simulations

Identifying the problem

A designer should identify the problem for which a solution has to be developed. Based on the problem, a design list should be made consisting of different designs provided by different manufacturers. For the final selection of the design, two primary parameters are considered which are component cost and design size.


The component cost is determined through the analysis of BOM. It also includes a market survey of available components which are listed in the BOM. The unavailable components need to be replaced by available components with the same specifications.

Design size is calculated according to the areas of application of the designed circuit. The application areas increase with the increasing compactness of the device. It also depends on the integration complexity of the device with other peripherals.

Finding the features and further possible enhancements of the design

A design engineer needs to know all the features embed in the design. This includes inbuilt communication protocols which can help in IOT integrations and the design’s ability to work as a low power device.

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The designer needs to determine further improvements which can be made in the design. This helps in maintaining design uniqueness in comparison to the existing products in the market.

Scope of Improvement in the Design

The designer has to identify the target audience for the developed device. If the target device is a commercial product, modifications and upgrades have to be done in the existing design. This reduces the vulnerability and security threats associated with an open-source design.

The procedure for design development

The first step includes the study of circuit schematics provided in the reference design. This step is followed by the analysis of BOM for the proposed device.

The next step is the fabrication step which includes the study of PCB design and further size reductions. PCB size reductions are based on the target applications of the device. PCB fabrication can be done only after finalising the PCB design size. The components should be mounted on the PCB referring to the circuit schematic provided in the design files.

After the PCB circuit gets ready, the device should be tested for performance characteristics. The measured parameters should be compared with the default characteristics. This determines the accuracy of the device which is developed using the provided design.

These steps can be followed for the steady development of a device based on an industrial graded reference design.

The reference designs for various applications can be downloaded here.




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