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Design Talk: The New Face of Test Part 2

November 3, 2008 10:42 am | Comments

Software-defined instrumentation is the new face of automated test. Scientists and engineers performing leading-edge research and designing custom measurement and control systems have used software-defined instruments, also known as virtual instruments, for more than 20 years. Software-defined instruments were critical for these often one-of-a-kind applications due to their unique system requirements.

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On The Light Side: The CellScope(2)

November 3, 2008 5:50 am | by Alfred Poor, Contributing Editor | Comments

Somewhere in Africa, a traveling health worker arrives at a remote village and finds a patient who may have malaria. The nearest health clinic is hundreds of miles away, and it will take days to get there. Diagnosis requires a trained clinician to examine a blood sample under a microscope, but how can you make that happen? Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to create a digital microscope that will capture high magnification images, record additional medical information, and transmit the entire package of data wirelessly to the distant clinic.

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On the Lightside: SID Mobile Displays Conference

October 30, 2008 11:48 am | by Alfred Poor, Contributing Editor | Comments

If Mae West were to deliver one of her most famous lines today, she might ask if you’ve got a portable consumer electronic device in your pocket. (And for the record, the original inquiry was about a gun, not a pickle as is widely misquoted.) Between our mobile phones, MP3 players, PNDs (portable navigation devices), and other indispensible gadgets, it’s a wonder that we’re not seeing pinstripe suits with cargo pants.

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Industry Focus: Perfect Vision

October 29, 2008 7:07 am | by P. Lindsay Powell, Business Development Manager, 3M Electronic Solutions Division | Comments

In many quality control operations, the human eye has been replaced by the unblinking lens of the digital camera. A machine vision (MV) system is intended for non-contact optical sensing and is ideal for use in quality control (QC) systems for quality assurance (QA). Industries exploiting MV include automotive component manufacturing, electronics assembly, semi-conductor production, food processing and pharmaceuticals manufacturing.

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Embedded Systems: Take a New Look at Ada

October 28, 2008 11:14 am | by Robert Dewar, President and CEO, AdaCore | Comments

The world of computer technology has two incompatible characteristics. First, many computer systems have long lives. Second, students and many engineers pay attention to only the latest technologies and they believe old technologies have died out. The "yesterday's-fashion” phenomenon has applied to the Ada programming language, too. If engineers have heard of Ada at all, they may assume it is an old US Department of Defense technology that disappeared long ago.

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Cover Story- Power Factor Correction Goes Digital

October 28, 2008 10:41 am | by Vinaya Skanda, Senior Applications Engineer, Microchip Technology. | Comments

Most power-conversion applications require a DC source, which uses a rectifier that draws non-sinusoidal line currents. As a result, line-current harmonics have become a significant problem and they lead to overheating of transformers and inductive equipment, degradation of system voltages and increased stress on components. In addition, stringent limits imposed on harmonic currents by international groups make the need to improve power quality even more important. Power-factor correction (PFC) can help solve these problems.

Should Energy Star exist?

October 28, 2008 7:20 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Comments

The recent Energy Star controversy must inevitably be discussed in a broader context. To sum up current events: on June 2nd, the EPA violated Energy Policy Act (EPACT) 2005 by releasing a “technical amendment” (version 4.2) to their Energy Star solid state lighting criteria without consulting “interested parties” (i.e. industry).

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Brainstorm: RoHS Regulation

October 24, 2008 9:59 am | by Edited by Jason Lomberg | Comments

Considering the military's exemption to RoHS regulation and its continued need for leaded parts, where do you think the reduced availability of leaded parts will make the greatest impact on the Mil/Aero market?

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Industry Focus: Touchscreens Press Deep Into Consumer Electronics

October 21, 2008 9:45 am | by Christopher Keuling, Associate Editor | Comments

Touchscreen technology has become more prominent in recent years, especially in the consumer and kiosk markets. PDAs, ATM machines, supermarket check-outs, and Apple’s iPhone are among the most well-known uses of touchscreen technology. Some touchscreen technologies have found a place in applications where the more commercially known technologies (resistive and capacitive) are inadequate. This month, we review the different types of touchscreen technologies available for the consumer electronics industry, along with their pros and cons, their applications, and a look into the future.

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Fear itself

October 21, 2008 9:16 am | by Alix Paultre, Editor-in-Chief | Comments

Everyone is worried about the global economy, and many are afraid that the U.S. electronic design and manufacturing industry is facing dire straights. To those who worry, I say that the primary American electronic markets are amongst the most economically stable places in this crisis, and have some of the most innovative and creative engineers in the world.

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Semiconductor Highlight: Integrated Drivers Optimize Stepper Motor Controller Design

October 21, 2008 8:55 am | Comments

Stepper motor system designers today require more than simple drivers. They demand increased value such as reduced BOM costs with higher performance, which is helping stepper motors gain popularity in many applications historically reserved for DC motors.

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Design Talk: The New Face of Test

October 16, 2008 11:18 am | Comments

Internet mobility is growing today and is the way of the future.  The challenge we are seeing with the current generation of Wireless Internet devices is revealed in the battle between Internet upload performance and battery life. End (cell phone) users’ expectations are rising to match the high upload speeds like those of the wired Internet -- without the burden of constantly recharging their batteries.

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Embedded Systems: Kits for Kids

October 15, 2008 6:17 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Comments

I'll begin this column with a recommendation: Start kits with a set of basic hand tools. When my son went to college, he had tools to hang pictures, connect TV sets and CD players, and tighten desks and shelves. As a result, he met most of the people on his co-ed floor. When our daughter went to college she got a tool kit, too. I suggest Phillips and flat-blade screwdrivers, pliers, diagonal cutters, wire strippers and a couple of adjustable wrenches. Later you could add a set of nut drivers, sockets wrenches and an inexpensive soldering iron.

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Cover Story: DDS ICs and IP Make Waves

October 15, 2008 5:40 am | by Jon Titus, Senior Technical Editor | Comments

You can think of direct digital synthesis as a technique that lets a digital value control the frequency of a sine wave. At its simplest, a DDS circuit involves a binary counter, a ROM programmed with equally spaced sine values for one full wave, and a digital-to-analog converter to convert the stored sine values to voltages. The frequency of the counter's clock determines the sine-wave frequency, but that's an inflexible arrangement.

Brainstorm: Energy Star

October 7, 2008 11:45 am | by Edited by Jason Lomberg | Comments

What are your thoughts on the EPA’s Residential Light Fixture “Technical Amendment,” and their attempts to remove a “competitive disadvantage” for legacy technologies?

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