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The LVDS Interface

Key Takeaways

  • LVDS interface is a high-speed, low-power, noise-resistant digital interface used for reliable and fast data transmission via complementary signal pairs.

  • LVDS's electrical characteristics, including low voltage levels, high differential impedance, and excellent common mode rejection, contribute to its effectiveness in maintaining signal integrity over long distances.

  • Notable LVDS interface variants include Multidrop LVDS, suitable for scenarios with multiple receivers sharing a single transmitter, and Multipoint LVDS, designed for bidirectional communication among multiple transmitters and receivers on a common bus.

A digital signal analyzer being used to capture high-speed data

A Digital Signal Analyzer

An LVDS (Low-Voltage Differential Signaling) interface is an important digital interface in today's electronic communication landscape. This high-speed, low-power, and noise-resistant technology is a robust method for transmitting digital data between components. 

An LVDS interface sends data as pairs of complementary signals, where one signal represents the inverse of the other. This balanced, differential signaling approach offers several advantages, including noise immunity and high data rates, making it particularly well-suited for applications demanding reliable and fast data transfer.

Multidrop vs. Multipoint LVDS Interface Variants


Multidrop LVDS

Multipoint LVDS

Basic Concept

Multiple receivers share a single transmitter.

Multiple transmitters and receivers communicate on a common bus

Wiring Complexity

Simplified wiring due to a single transmitter.

More complex wiring with multiple transmitters.

Signal Quality

Potential signal quality issues as the load on the driver increases with more receivers.

Potential signal quality issues as more devices are connected to the bus. 

Use Cases

Useful in scenarios where multiple devices need the same data from a central source.

Useful in scenarios demanding flexible and scalable connections among a network of sensors, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), and actuators.

How Does an LVDS Interface Function?

LVDS operates on a fundamental principle of transmitting data using differential signaling. This means it employs pairs of signals, often referred to as the positive (P) and negative (N) signals, to convey information. On the other hand, typical single-ended signaling uses a single signal referenced to a common ground, making it simpler but more susceptible to noise and interference.

The architecture of an LVDS interface involves a sender (transmitter) and a receiver. When data is to be transmitted, it's encoded differentially. In simple terms, if a '1' needs to be sent, the P signal carries a high voltage, and the N signal carries a low voltage. Conversely, if a '0' is to be transmitted, the P signal carries a low voltage, and the N signal carries a high voltage. This encoding scheme is the basis of LVDS's noise resistance; any noise that is induced into the signals affects both the P and N lines equally, allowing the receiver to easily distinguish between valid data and noise.

In addition to its use of complementary signal pairs, LVDS often utilizes clocking signals in conjunction with data transmission. These clock signals are crucial for synchronizing the sender and receiver, ensuring that data is sampled at the correct times. 

LVDS Interface Specifics

In practice, an LVDS interface may be physically realized as a pair of differential signal traces, P and N, on a printed circuit board (PCB). These traces maintain the high differential impedance required for LVDS operation. Additionally, LVDS transmitter and receiver ICs are used to interface between the electrical signals on the PCB and the data being transmitted or received.

LVDS interface specifications encompass the following key technical aspects:

  • Voltage Levels: LVDS operates with a relatively low voltage compared to many other digital interfaces, often around 1.2 to 1.5 volts. This low voltage minimizes power consumption.
  • Differential Impedance: One of LVDS's critical characteristics is its high differential impedance, typically 100 ohms. This characteristic ensures that the transmission line impedance matches the driver and receiver impedance, which is essential for maintaining signal integrity over long distances and in environments with potential signal interference.
  • Common Mode Rejection (CMR): LVDS exhibits excellent CMR. It responds primarily to the voltage difference between the P and N lines, disregarding common-mode voltage changes. This feature makes LVDS highly resilient to common-mode noise.
  • Termination: Proper termination is crucial in LVDS systems. Termination resistors equal to the characteristic impedance of the transmission line (around 100 ohms) are used at the receiver end. By doing so, they avert signal reflections and uphold the fidelity of the signal, ensuring that the transmitted data remains free from distortions.

LVDS Interface Standards

The LVDS interface adheres to two industry standards, with the primary one being ANSI/TIA/EIA-644, defined by the TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association). This standard, developed under the Data Transmission Interface Committee TR30.2, outlines driver and receiver characteristics but does not delve into functional specifications or protocols. It recommends a maximum data rate of 655 Mbps, potentially reaching 1.923 Gbps in ideal conditions. The standard also specifies minimum media requirements, addresses receiver failsafe operation under faults, and explores multi-receiver setups.

Additionally, the IEEE 1596.3 SCI-LVDS standard, a subset of the Scalable Coherent Interface (SCI) standard, focuses on high-speed, low-power physical layer signaling. It defines electrical specifications and packet encoding for SCI data transfers, employing 16-bit symbols. While both standards share similarities in driver outputs, receiver thresholds, and data rates, the TIA version is more generic and versatile for various applications.

Variants of LVDS Interfaces

LVDS offers various variants to cater to different communication scenarios and requirements. Understanding these variants is crucial for selecting the right one for your application. Here, we delve into two notable LVDS interface variants: Multidrop LVDS and Multipoint LVDS.

Multidrop LVDS

A Multidrop LVDS interface is a specialized variant of LVDS designed for scenarios where you have multiple receivers sharing a single transmitter. In standard LVDS, there is typically a one-to-one relationship between transmitters and receivers, but multidrop LVDS allows you to connect several receivers to a single transmitter. This architecture can simplify wiring and reduce the number of LVDS driver circuits required.

Applications: Multidrop LVDS finds utility in settings where multiple devices need to receive the same data from a central source. For instance, in digital displays like large video walls or digital signage, a single controller can send the same video signal to multiple display panels using multidrop LVDS.

Limitations: While multidrop LVDS offers advantages in terms of reduced cabling and components, it has limitations regarding signal integrity. As you add more receivers to the bus, the load on the driver increases, potentially affecting signal quality. Proper termination and consideration of cable length are crucial to mitigate these effects.

Multipoint LVDS:

Akin to multipoint grounding, multipoint LVDS, on the other hand, is designed for scenarios where multiple transmitters and receivers share a common communication bus. This architecture allows for bidirectional communication between various devices on the same bus.

Applications: Multipoint LVDS is prevalent in industrial automation and control systems. In such systems, multiple sensors, controllers, and actuators often need to exchange data. Multipoint LVDS enables efficient,noise-resistant communication among these devices over a shared bus, which allows flexibility and scalability.

Limitations: Like the multidrop LVDS interface,  the load on the driver increases as more devices are connected to the bus, potentially impacting signal quality. Additionally, the addition of multiple transmitters introduces the potential for signal contention or conflicts on the bus.

Applications of the LVDS Interface

  • LVDS serves as a preferred interface for connecting liquid crystal displays (LCDs) to devices such as laptops and flat-screen TVs. Its ability to transmit high-quality, noise-resistant data makes it invaluable in delivering sharp, vibrant images.
  • Within communication systems, the LVDS interface also plays a pivotal role. It is employed in applications like Gigabit Ethernet, where its high-speed capabilities ensure rapid and reliable data transmission. Additionally, LVDS interfaces are found in various industrial automation setups, where precise data synchronization is essential for smooth operations.
  • LVDS also shines in the automotive industry, being a go-to choice for in-vehicle infotainment systems, providing high-speed data transfer for multimedia applications. Its noise immunity is particularly advantageous in the electrically noisy environment of a vehicle.
  • In the medical field, the LVDS interface contributes to the reliability of diagnostic equipment and imaging devices, ensuring the accuracy of critical data transmission in real time.

Ready to harness the power of LVDS for your high-speed data transmission needs? Cadence offers the Allegro X Advanced Package Designer tool, a cutting-edge solution to streamline your IC packaging needs. With its advanced features, Allegro X APD ensures optimal performance in LVDS applications, whether you're in the display, communication, automotive, or medical field.