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Power management

Strengths and weaknesses of common resistor types

May 31, 2010 | Yuval Hernik | 222900765
Yuval Hernik, Director Application Engineering, Vishay Intertechnology, examines the key parameters of this vital passive component and how they trade off against each other
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The electronics industry has evolved at a remarkable rate over the past two decades. New techniques and advances have helped shrink equipment size and have put pressure on manufacturers of discrete components to develop devices that approach the ideal in performance.

Among these devices are chip resistors, which remain in high demand today and are among the basic building blocks for many circuits. They are more space efficient than discrete encapsulated resistors and require less preparation prior to assembly. As they have grown more popular, their capabilities have also become more important. Key parameters include electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection, thermal electromotive force (EMF), temperature coefficient of resistance (TCR) and self-heating properties, long-term stability, power coefficient, and noise.

In the technology comparisons to follow, wirewound resistors are discussed for their use in precision circuits. But it should be remembered that wirewound resistors are not available in true chip form (chip without a molding), and therefore are not usable in applications where weight and size limitations demand precision in the chip resistor format.

Although the overall system performance is improved by upgrading each component or subsystem, it is nevertheless true that overall performance is still determined by the weakest link in the chain. Each component comes to the system with built-in tradeoffs that limit overall performance, with particular concern over short- and long-term stability, frequency response, and noise. In the discrete-resistor industry, advances have been made in wirewound, thick film, thin film, and foil resistor technologies, with each offering various tradeoffs in performance per unit cost.

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