Introduction to Timing Diagrams

A timing analysis is an essential part of any digital design. It is used to verify the logical operation of your circuit, and to uncover glitches or setup/hold time violations. The timing diagram shows how the changes from circuit inputs propagate through the circuit to the outputs. The inputs may be asynchronous, such as switches, or synchronous such as clocks or synchronized inputs. Feedback paths are prime candidates for timing problems and should be examined very carefully.

Consider figure 1. This shows a simple combinational circuit of three inputs, X, Y, and Z and one output. The K map for this circuit is:

Z /Z
/X/Y 0 0
/XY 0 1
XY 0 1
X/Y 1 1

The schematic shows the circuit obtained by grouping X/Y and YZ.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 2 shows the PSPICE generated timing diagram for the circuit. The diagram shows the action for a change the Y input only from zero to one. The other inputs, X and Z are held at a constant logic 1. Since the logic function is X/Y and YZ, the output should be true for Y equal to zero or one, so we should see no change in the output for this transition


A careful examination of the output, U1A:Y in the timing diagram, shows that we do see a momentary change in the output, it "glitches" from a logic one to logic zero momentarily.

The reason can be found by examining the timing diagram. Each gate takes a finite time to respond to a change in input, this is the propagation delay. Because of the extra delay in the Y signal caused by the inverter, the AND gate U3A changes output before the AND gate U2A. This causes the inputs to the OR gate U1A to both be zeros momentarily.

Figure 3 shows a hand-drawn timing diagram which shows the same information. Note that the PSPICE diagram is exactly to scale so the delays can be measured directly, the hand diagram shows the delays approximately and notations are added to indicate the exact time.

The hand drawn diagram shows the maixmum delays, found by using the data book maximum times. The PSPICE diagram shows min-max delays. The double lines show that the output is uncertain between the minimum and maximum times.

Figure 3

Figures 4 and 5 show the circuit with the additional term XZ implemented. This removes the timing hazard, and the output shows no timing glitch.

Figure 4

Figure 5

Consider the schematic shown below, the output of the flip flop is fed back to the input through a chain of three inverters. At every clock, the output toggles. The change in the output has to propagate through the inverters and stabilize at the D input in time for the next clock. At some clock frequency the circuit will fail to operate because the output will not have had time to propagate and become stable. You can either discover this point with analysis like a Real Engineer, or pay the price sweating bullets in the test lab while your product malfunctions.

This timing diagram was generated using PSPICE. The propagation delays are represented by the double yellow lines, valid logic levels are indicated by the green lines.

Observe the delay from the positie going edge of the clock signal to the transition of the Q output. Observe the delay through each of the inverters. Estimate the time from when the steady state of D is reached and the next clock edge. The clock in this circuit is 5 Mhz, estimate when the circuit will fail to operate.