My first experience with a relay came about when a friend found a radiosonde -- a small balloon-borne weather instrument -- in the woods behind his house. My friend Ben wanted the parachute, so I got the electronics. As a kid of 11 or 12, the circuitry didn't mean much, but it included a simple relay I experimented with.
Electrostatic discharge (ESD) occurs when objects -- including people, furniture, machines, integrated circuits or electrical cables -- become charged and discharged. Electrostatic charging brings objects to surprisingly high potentials of many thousands of volts in ordinary home or office environments. ESD produces currents which can have rise times less than a nanosecond, peak currents of dozens of Amps and durations that can last from tens to hundreds of nanoseconds. Unless ESD robustness is included during design, these current levels can damage electrical components and upset or damage electrical systems from cell phones to computers.
Competitive telecom businesses have realized they can no longer design proprietary hardware. In response to this changed business climate, members of the PICMG, a consortium of industrial-computer vendors, developed PICMG 3.0, or the Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (ATCA). Marc LeClaire, a product manager in the Advanced Blades and Servers Division at Kontron, stressed that the ATCA standard covers boards, enclosures, interconnections, communications, and other architectural components. "Designers must think of the ATCA as a complete architecture, not simply as a bus."
For years, synchronous parallel buses have served as the media for data exchange between digital devices. Timing issues, however, plague parallel buses at high clock frequencies and data rates, and limit their capability to keep up with demands of higher-speed computers. Over the past few years, serial-bus technology has advanced the computer industry because serial buses send self-clocking bit streams that eliminate skew associated with parallel buses. As a result, serial data rates have risen above 1 Gbits/sec. and newer implementations approach 3 to 6 Gbits/sec. As multi-gigabit data rates become common, however, signal integrity -- the quality of signal needed to properly transmit data to an IC -- becomes a paramount concern for designers.
I think the simplist productivity metric which should be used across the industry is the total number lines of code in the organization divided by the number of people who are working on that code (including QA as well as development).
The trend toward miniaturizing medical electronics devices also brings with it a number of challenges. In this month's edition of Brainstorm, we ask industry experts in the medical electronics market what they believe to be the most critical of these challenges and what current and developing technology is available to help the designer meet those challenges.
What do you consider to be the most important factors that will further the development of power management in portable systems? What do you think are some of the customer misconceptions about power management that must overcome to move the industry forward?
As I kid, I sometimes got frustrated with what I saw as my Dad not giving me a straight answer. For instance, I would say, “Dad, I need a hammer”. “What are you using it for?” he would say. “There’s a finishing nail sticking out the wooden floor in my room and I need to pound it back in.” (I grew up in an very old farm house.) “Then you need a rubber mallet, not a hammer.
Designers are always on the lookout for semiconductors and algorithms that help to boost the efficiency of appliances with a minimum addition to the overall system cost. Motor-control systems need to compensate for system input changes and can use control algorithms to ensure the efficient operation of the motor. Using advanced algorithms, such as a field oriented control (FOC), motor torque can be controlled dynamically, keeping it constant within the rated speed range (see Figure 1). Toward this, the most commonly used motor-control loop is the Proportional Integral Derivative (PID) controller, which comprises error calculation (reference minus measured variable), compensator (controller), and output generation to the system.
Consumer electronics manufacturers must develop completely different television receiver product designs for different countries or regions. The standards and technologies for television reception vary considerably so it has been impractical to consider a single flexible design covering multiple standards or regions. However, new technologies are emerging which will make it possible to have a single product design address multiple countries or regions.
Years ago I ditched my 9600 bps modem, but I still rely on dial-up modems. Those modems exist in automated teller machines, gasoline pumps, traffic controllers, medical instruments, security systems, point-of-sale (POS) equipment, and other devices. According to several sources, dial-up modems still provide the largest number of access points to the Internet. Fortunately, several OEM vendors supply dial-up modem modules that offer drop-in communications in small packages.
Backplanes serve as the central nervous system in a great many electronic products from industrial controls to telephone exchanges. In a typical backplane, front-side connectors hold boards in place and conduct signals from board to board and to I/O connectors. Without carefully designed backplanes, engineers could not extend the state of the art in computer and communication equipment. Engineers can buy off-the-shelf backplanes for a variety of standard buses such as VME, VME64, VME64x, CompactPCI (cPCI), PCI Express and even for an older bus such as STD-32. If necessary, they can customize a standard backplane or create one of their own.
Put simply, to create a succesful interface for any complex product, you have to go beyond skin deep. You must be concerned not only with the layer that the user sees, hears, or touches, but also with the underlying software that ensures the interface is constantly available and quick to respond. Because, after all, nobody likes wimpy response times.
Thermocouples provide the key components of thermoelectric cooling modules. A thermocouple comprises a p-type and an n-type semiconductor element connected by a metal plate. Electrical connections at each end of the p- and n-type material complete an electric circuit. When a source supplies a current, thermoelectric cooling occurs. The thermocouple then "pumps" heat by cooling one side and heating the other by what is known as the Peltier effect.
I think is has finally happened. I have reached the tipping point in my purchasing of battery-powered portable electronic devices. That said, I should clarify that alongside many of my peers I am gadget-challenged. Still, I just can’t get that excited about applications like on-the-go streaming video and audio because the not-so-supercharged cloud hanging over all those cool devices...