March & April Electrical Engineering Challenge Answers (Sponsor: NetBurner)

The answers to the March and April 2015 Electrical Engineering Challenge (sponsored by NetBurner) are available. Check out the answers and winners!

PRIZES

Out of each month’s group of entrants who correctly find the error in the code or schematic, one person will be randomly selected to win a NetBurner IoT Cloud Kit and another person will receive a free 1-year digital subscription to Circuit Cellar.

  • NetBurner MOD54415 LC Development Kit: You can add Ethernet connectivity to an existing product or use it as your product’s core processor! The NetBurner Ethernet Core Module is a device containing everything needed for design engineers to add network control and to monitor a company’s communications assets. The module solves the problem of network-enabling devices with 10/100 Ethernet, including those requiring digital, analog, and serial control.NetburnerMod54415module
  • Circuit Cellar Digital Subscription (1 year): Each month, Circuit Cellar magazine reaches a diverse international readership of professional electrical engineers, EE/ECE academics, students, and electronics enthusiasts who work with embedded technologies on a regular basis.Circuit Cellar magazine covers a variety of essential topics, including embedded development, wireless communications, robotics, embedded programming, sensors & measurement, analog tech, and programmable logic.

RULES

Read the Rules, Terms & Conditions

SPONSOR

NetBurner solves the problem of network enabling devices, including those requiring digital, analog and serial control. NetBurner provides complete hardware and software solutions that help you network enable your devices.netburneroffer

NetBurner, Inc.
5405 Morehouse Dr.
San Diego, CA 92121 USA

Engineering “Moonshot” Projects

In 2009, Andrew Meyer, an MIT-trained engineer and entrepreneur, co-founded LeafLabs, a Cambridge, MA-based R&D firm that designs “powerful physical computing devices for control and communication among smart machines (including humans).” We recently asked Andrew to tell us about his background, detail some of his most intriguing projects, tell us about his contributions to Project Ara, and share his thoughts on the future of electrical engineering.AndrewMeyerLeaflabs

CIRCUIT CELLAR: How did you become interested in electronics? Did you start at a young age?

ANDREW: Yes, actually, but I am not sure I really got anywhere fooling around as a kid. I had a deep love of remote control cars and airplanes in middle school. I was totally obsessed with figuring out how to build my own control radio. This was right before the rise of Google, and I scoured the net for info on circuits. In the end, I achieved a reasonable grasp on really simple RC type circuits but completely failed in figuring out the radio. Later in high school I took some courses at the local community college and built an AM radio and got into the math for the first time – j and omega and all that.

CIRCUIT CELLAR: What is Leaflabs? How did it start? Who comprises your team today?

ANDREW: LeafLabs is an R&D firm specializing in embedded and distributed systems. Projects start as solving specific problems for a client, but the idea is to turn those relationships into product opportunities. To me, that’s what separates R&D from consulting.

LeaflabsOffice

The LeafLabs Office (Source: LeafLabs)

I started LeafLabs with a handful of friends in 2009. It was an all MIT cast of engineers, and it took four or five years before I understood how much we were holding ourselves back by not embracing some marketing and sales talent. The original concept was to try and design ICs that were optimized for running certain machine learning algorithms at low power. The idea was that smartphones might want to do speech to text some day without sending the audio off to the cloud. This was way too ambitious for a group of 22 year olds with no money.

Our second overly ambitious idea was to try and solve the “FPGA problem.” I’m still really passionate about this, but it too was too much for four kids in a basement to take a big bite off. The problem is that FPGAs vendors like Xilinx and Altera have loads of expertise in silicon, but great software is just not in their DNA. Imagine if x86 never published their instruction set. What if Intel insisted on owning not just the processors, but the languages, compilers, libraries, IDEs, debuggers, operating systems, and the rest of it? Would we ever have gotten to Linux? What about Python? FPGAs have enormous potential to surpass even the GPU as a completely standard technology in computer systems. There should some gate fabric in my phone. The development tools just suck, suck, suck. If any FPGA executives are reading this: Please open up your bitstream formats, the FSF and the rest of the community will get the ball rolling on an open toolchain that will far exceed what you guys are doing internally. You will change the world.

CIRCUIT CELLAR: How did the Maple microcontroller board come about?

ANDREW: Arduino was really starting to come up at the time. I had just left Analog, where we had been using the 32-bit Cortex M3. We started asking “Chips like the STM32 are clearly the way of the future, why on earth is Arduino using a chip from the ‘90s?” Perry, another LeafLabs founder, was really passionate about this. ARM is taking over the world, the community deserves a product that is as easy to use as Arduino, but built on top of modern technology.

CIRCUIT CELLAR: Can you give a general overview of your involvement with Project Ara?

ANDREW: We got into Ara at the beginning as subcontractors to the company that was leading a lot of the engineering, NK Labs. Since then our role has expanded quite a bit, but we are still focused on software and firmware development. Everyone understood that Ara was going to require a lot of firmware and FPGA work, and so we were a natural choice to get involved. One of the first Ara prototypes actually used the Maple software library, libmaple, and had eight FPGAs in it! For your readers that are interested in Ara, please to check out projectara.com and https://github.com/projectara/greybus/.

LeafLabs is focused on firmware development. What’s really exciting to me about the project is the technology under the hood. Basically, what we have done is built a network on a PCB. The first big problem with embedded linux devices is that they are completely centered around the SoC. Change the SoC and you are in for ton of software development, for instance, to bring your display driver back to life. Similarly, changes to the design, such as incorporating a faster Wi-Fi chip, might force you to change the SoC. This severe coupling between everything keeps designers from iterating. You have this attitude of “OK, no one touch this design for the next 5 years, we finally got it working.” If we have learned anything from SaaS and App companies it’s that quickly iterating and continuous deployment are key to great products. If your platform inhibits iteration, you have a big problem.

The other problem with embedded systems is that there are so many protocols! SDIO, USB, DSI, I2C, SPI, CSI, blah blah blah. Do we really need so many!? Think how much mileage we get out of TCP/IP. The protocol explosion just adds impedance to the entire design process, and forces engineers to be worrying about bits toggling on traces rather than customer facing features.

The technology being developed for Ara, called Greybus, solves both these problems. The centerpiece of our phone is a switch, and the display, Wi-Fi, audio, baseband, etc all hang off the switch as network devices. Even the processor is just another module hanging off this network. All modules speak the same “good enough” protocol called UniPro (Unified Protocol). The possibilities here are absolutely tantalizing. To learn more about Greybus, see here: https://github.com/projectara/greybus/.

CIRCUIT CELLAR: Can you define “minimalist data acquisition” for our readers? What is it and why does it interest you?

ANDREW: More and more fields, but particularly in neuroscience, are having to deal with outrageously huge real-time data sets. There are 100 billion neurons in the human brain. If we want to listen to just 1,000 of them, we are already talking about ~1 Gbps. Ed Boyden, a professor at MIT, asked us if we could build some hardware to help handle the torrent. Could we scale to 1 Tbps? Could we build something that researchers on a budget could actually afford and that mere mortals could use?

The Willow (Source: LeafLabs)

The Willow (Source: LeafLabs)

Willow is a hardware platform for capturing, storing, and processing neuroscience data at this scale. We had to be “minimalist” to keep costs down, and ensure our system is easy to use. Since we need to use an FPGA anyway to interface with a data source (like a bank of ADCs, or an array of image sensors), we thought, “Why not use the same chip for interfacing to storage?” With a single $150 FPGA and a couple of $200 SSD drives, we can record at 12 Gbps, put guarantees on throughput, and record for a couple of hours!

CIRCUIT CELLAR: What are you goals for LeafLabs for the next 6 to 12 months?

ANDREW: Including our superb remote contractors, our team is pushing 20. A year from now, it could be double that. This is a really tricky transition—where company culture really starts to solidify, where project management becomes a first-order problem, and where people’s careers are on the line. My first goal for LeafLabs is make sure we nail this transition and build off of a really solid foundation. Besides that, we are always looking for compelling new problems to work on and new markets to play in. Getting into neuroscience has been an absolute blast.

The complete interview appears in Circuit Cellar 298 (May 2015).

Ultra-Compact Lightweight Audio/Video Processing Engine

Sensoray announces the new 2960 Dragon, which is an ultra-compact lightweight board with extreme computing power and flexible architecture for HD/SD video and audio processing systems. Using the 2960 Dragon as a building block, Sensoray experts collaborate with customers to create complex custom-configured audiovisual processing systems with extremely short development times. Fully customized solutions can be delivered with little or no nonrecurring engineering (NRE) costs, even when only modest volumes are required.  Sensoray-2960

The 2960 Dragon is only 1.9″ × 1″ and weighs in at 0.22 oz (6.2 g). It captures up to 1920 × 1200 video at 30 fps and JPEG snapshots at up to 4096 × 3104.

Packed onto its tiny footprint is a powerful, highly flexible, and configurable audio/video processing engine. The 2960 Dragon features a controller and stream router, SD card interface, six GPIOs, USB (device or host mode), Ethernet, serial COM, and I2C communication interfaces. It is also equipped with one input and one output for HD/SD digital video, a stereo digital audio input and output, and a composite NTSC/PAL output. If the USB interface operates in device mode, the board can be completely powered from USB.

Sensoray develops fully customized solutions by designing firmware and integrating it with a carrier board that holds the 2960 Dragon, the connectors, and any other circuitry specified.

Source: Sensoray

 

HITFET+ Family of Protected Low-Side Switches

Infineon Technologies recently announced the HITFET+ family of protected low-side switches. The HITFET+ family (High Integrated Temperature protected MOSFET) offers a handy feature-set with its diagnosis function, digital status feedback and short-circuit robustness, and controlled slew rate adjustment for easily balancing switching losses and EMC compliance. The HITFET+ family will comprise at least 16 members varying in R DS(on) (10 to 800 MΩ), feature set (i.e., with and without status feedback), and package size (D-PAK with 5 or 3 pins, DSO with 8 pins). HITFET+ products of one package size are completely scalable. You don’t need to change either software or PCB layout to drive various loads. The BTF3050TE is already available in high-volume.Infineon HITFETplus

HITFET+ products are suitable as protected drivers in industrial applications, including solar power modules, printers, and vending machines.

As for use in automotive systems, the HITFET+ products can drive solenoids for valve control with PWM up to 20 kHz. They are also a good fit for automotive light-dimming applications. In addition, the HITFET+ family can be useful in a variety other automotive applications, such as the following:

  • mid-size and small-size electric motor drives for door locks or a parking brake
  • injection valves for alternative fuel (LPG, CNG)
  • flaps driving in HVAC
  • rear wheel steering applications

The BTF3050TE is now available in a lead-free TO-252 package (D-PAK 5-pin) in high volume. Additional HITFET+ products are scheduled to be released toward the end of 2015.

Source: Infineon Technologies

EtherCAT Slave Controller with Integrated PHYs for the Internet of Things

Microchip Technology’s LAN9252 is a stand-alone EtherCAT slave controller with two 10/100 PHYs. Its dual 10/100 Ethernet transceivers support both fiber and copper, along with cable diagnostics capabilities. In addition, the LAN9252 supports traditional Host Bus and SPI/SQI communication, along with standalone digital I/O interfaces, enabling you to select from a wide range of microcontrollers when implementing the real-time EtherCAT communications standard. Additionally, the LAN9252 reduces system complexity and cost for developers using EtherCAT in factory-automation, process-control, motor/motion-control and Internet of Things (IoT) industrial-Ethernet applications.Microchip LAN9252 EtherCAT

The LAN9252 EtherCAT slave controller includes 4 KB of Dual-Port RAM (DPRAM) and three Fieldbus Memory Management Units (FMMUs). It also includes cable diagnostics support that allows field service technicians to rapidly and effectively diagnose line faults and provides for fiber connectivity. This EtherCAT slave controller is available in commercial, industrial and extended industrial temperature ranges, in low pin count and small body size QFN and QFP-EP packages.

To enable development with the LAN9252, two Microchip evaluation boards supporting various system architectures are available. The systems demonstrate how to interface to the LAN9252 through basic I/O connections or to microcontrollers such as the 32-bit PIC32MX family via serial communications. A Software Development Kit (SDK) is also available. The boards—EVB-LAN9252-HBI and EVB-LAN9252-DIGIO—cost $300 each.

The LAN9252 EtherCAT slave controller is available for sampling in 64-pin QFN and QFP-EP packages, starting at $7.01 each, in 10,000-unit quantities.

Source: Microchip Technology

Compact 20A Hot Swap Controller Integrates MOSFET & Current Sensing

Linear Technology Corp. recently announced the LTC4234, a 20A Hot Swap controller with integrated MOSFET and current sensing, which provides a small footprint hot-plug solution for high-density circuit boards. The LTC4234 ensures safe board insertion and removal from live 2.9-to-15-V backplanes by controlling an internal N-channel power MOSFET to gently power up bulk capacitors and avoid sparks, connector damage and system glitches. By integrating the two most critical and largest Hot Swap components-power MOSFET and sense resistor, the LTC4234 reduces design time and saves board area. The internal, production-tested MOSFET’s safe operating area (SOA) is specified to ensure a rugged hot-plug solution, especially for space-constrained boards and cards in servers, network routers and switches, solid-state drives, and industrial systems.Linear LTC4234

Upon insertion, the LTC4234 waits for connector contact bounce to finish before soft-starting the output. A ground-referenced signal proportional to the load current is provided for monitoring with an external analog-to-digital converter (ADC). The current limit can be reduced from its 22.5A default with a single resistor, affording quick adjustment for dynamic load changes and various applications. For higher current applications, two LTC4234s are easily paralleled for a 40A solution. During overcurrent conditions, the controller limits MOSFET power dissipation by folding back its current limit for an adjustable timeout period. Undervoltage and overvoltage thresholds protect downstream loads against voltages outside a valid window, preventing circuit malfunction and damage.

The LTC4234’s features:

  • Enables safe board insertion
  • Integrated 4-mΩ MOSFET with sense resistor
  • Guaranteed safe operating area
  • Wide operating voltage range of 2.9 to 15 V
  • Current limit for overcurrent fault protection
  • Current and temperature monitor, power good & fault outputs
  • –40°C to 125°C Operating temperature range
  • 38-Pin 5 mm × 9 mm QFN Ppackage

The LTC4234 starts at $4.95 each in 1,000-piece quantities. Device samples and evaluation circuit boards are available online or from your local Linear Technology sales office.

Source: Linear Technology

 

 

Editors’ Pick: Adafruit’s Limor Fried on the DIY Electronics Revolution

The proliferation of open-source hardware and software has made do-it-yourself electronics accessible to both professional electrical engineers and newbies. Today we’re just at the start of an exciting DIY revolution that promises innovation, adventure, and new social, creative, and business opportunities. How will you get involved? In this essay, Adafruit founder Limor Fried offers her thoughts on the present and future of open-source technology.

I’m an MIT-trained electrical engineer and founder of Adafruit Industries, an open-source hardware (OSH) company in New York City. Normally, I tell people that we design and manufacture electronic gadgets—mostly kits and parts for students who are learning to become engineers—or project packs for people who didn’t realize that they wanted to get into electronics. But really what we do is teach, and we do that by creating OSH. Every design we make is fully documented and given away for free—to anyone, for any purpose. But we also sell completely assembled designs as products. Most people just buy from the Adafruit store or from one of our many distributors, but there are still thousands who look at what we create as points of origin for their own businesses or products.

Another way to put it: we’re basically like a test kitchen with a restaurant attached to it. We come up with new dishes, write the recipes up for others to follow at home (or in their own restaurants), and also serve up the dishes to those who don’t have all the equipment and ingredients—they just want to chow down. Other aspiring chefs look at our videos and recipes and adapt them for their own kitchens all over the world. And, once in a while, those same cooks turn around and give away one of their techniques or recipes to the community. Not everyone gives back, but that’s OK. Enough people contribute to create a vibrant culture of sharing.cloud

The best part about talking about OSH is how easy it is. So much has happened with OSH in the last few years that it’s not like I need to sell a pipe dream. It’s not some “experimental future” or “speculative fiction” about what could occur. OSH is already happening, so all I have to do to predict its future is to accurately describe what’s going on right now. But first, a brief introduction.

Open-Source 101

Nearly everyone knows about open-source software (OSS). Sure, you may not be a coder, but you’ve used the Internet, which is pretty much fully made of OSS: websites running the ubiquitous Apache webserver software, displaying customized sites written in Ruby or PHP, drawing on pools of data stored in MySQL databases all running on server computers running the open-source Linux operating system.

The fantastic thing about all this free OSS is how it has helped proliferate the Internet, improving the functionality of the web through rapid mutations in code (that’s the free-as-in-speech part) and driving down the cost to commodity levels (that’s the free-as-in-beer part). The commodification of the Internet—that is, the marginal cost of an blog or email account is so low that it’s essentially free—and indeed nearly all computer software and hardware would not be possible without OSS.

OK, so that’s the state of the Internet as of circa 1995. Although the details have evolved, the essence of OSS is the same. But something interesting started happening a few years ago in the hardware world (i.e., atoms instead of bits): stuff started getting both complex and cheap. Suddenly, everything had a microcomputer inside of it, and if you had a microcomputer, you needed data to crunch. The market for sensors—what would normally be shoved into extremely expensive military hardware—started ballooning. (When I was in college, a triple-axis accelerometer motion sensor would cost $60. Now it costs less than $1.) Once low-cost sensors and easily reprogrammable logic chips started flooding the market, online communities of engineering geeks started to take notice. Engineers start using what they had learned at work to build hobby projects. The parts were finally cheap enough. And as a result, they started laying down the groundwork: compilers, simulators, and toolchains. That was the mid-1990s. Soon thereafter, geek artists started taking a look and liked what they saw. They started designing interactive art, building on some of the great electronic art concepts of the 1970s. And finally, non-geeks had a crack at it. Complex electronics and electrical engineering went from something requiring years of differential equations to weekend fun.

While all this was happening, something cool began occurring. Just as code geeks created OSS to help commodify the Internet, solder geeks decided to apply the same principles to the creation of hardware (both mechanical and electronic). They started sharing schematics, CAD files, and layouts on social websites. Today, designers use a variety of sites (e.g., Instructables.com, Thingiverse.com, and LetsMakeRobots.com) and via various social services (e.g., Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+) to give away inventions and post tutorials and instructions for free.

The Proliferation of OSH

The first response we can have is this: OK. Free and OSS erased the costs of software while also increasing demand (and thus lowering the price) for desktop computers. Then followed laptops (say, OLPC, which runs exclusively OSS) and finally cell phones (e.g., Android). So, we’ll also see OSH reduce costs and simultaneously speed up iterations of new and better devices by separating the IP control (say, patents) from the ability to manufacture.

There’s also another response we can take to the proliferation of OSH. Not only is it making it easier than ever to design and manufacture original products to fit a group’s needs, it’s also providing a broad curriculum to the world. Someone who has the desire to learn how to build and repair electronics will not learn much by taking apart a modern cell phone—everything is too small, poorly documented, and hidden. But with OSH, documentation is an essential part of the process—describing why a certain component is chosen and possible alternatives gives insight. The student is empowered to trace the design from thought-process to mathematical analysis to specifications to fabrication.

OSH Projects

Let’s consider some examples of what is happening in OSH right now. First of all, I’m sure you’ve already heard about 3-D printing from MakerBot. It used to be a technology only available to high-end prototyping houses that could spend the tens of thousands of dollars on both machinery and upkeep. But then about five years ago, a few different groups such as Fab@Home and RepRap decided they wanted create low-cost home versions as well as make the projects OSH. So they gave away all the plans with the hopes that others would build, improve, and proliferate the basic plan of low-cost 3-D printing. Now there are over 100 low-cost 3-D printer design variations available for anyone to make. In addition, a massive community is constantly improving the quality, lowering the price, and simplifying things. It’s possible that within a few years we could see 3-D printers that cost $100 and are built of common hardware store parts.

Another example that has promise is the Global Village Construction Set, which is a “manual” of simple, easy-to-repair construction equipment. Instead of high-cost specialized tools from John Deere or Caterpillar, each of a dozen machines can be fabricated using basic steel welding, electrical wiring, and some basic common components. The hope is not that it would replace the many powered tools already available, but that it would enable people to approach the design of new tools without fear that they had nowhere to start from. That is to say, by being broad and simple, it can encourage specialization when needed, whereas most equipment manufacturers would not be interested in selling something unless they had tens of thousands of customers.

Finally, one of my favorite projects is the Dili Village Telco project. There are no phone lines in the East Timor village. There is a cell network, but it’s expensive and not very useful for making calls within the village. David Rowe, a telephony engineer, designed a sort of “micro cell” so that the Timorese in the village could use regular phones to call each other, basically like a little version of AT&T. Rowe designed the very complex hardware, which not only has to work but also has to work well in the difficult environment of a village without cables or consistent power. What I thought was most interesting about the project is how he was giving  away the years’ worth of work, posting up schematics, DSP code, filters, and more with the hope that some company would come by and rip him off. The best thing that could happen for the project is to have the design mass manufactured because then he could get on with the work of deploying and configuring the network boxes instead of figuring out how to get them made.

The Speed & Power of OSH

Now I’ll share personal example of the speed and power of open-source hardware and software. About a year ago, I was mucking about with trying to design a low-cost, high-efficiency solar battery charger. Solar panels are really annoying to deal with, and although there are lots of off-the-shelf solutions for big solar panels—say, over 50 W—there isn’t a lot available for 5 W or under. I ended up designing what I thought was a pretty clever battery charger that used off-the-shelf parts and then began selling it in the Adafruit store. A few months later, I got an e-mail from a fellow who had designed a solar-powered cell phone charger and liked the design and efficiency. He had a Kickstarter going to sell them, and just wanted me to know that he had taken the design and remixed it. Some people would consider such a scenario a nightmare: I spent months in the sun tweaking the design and some guy just rips it off to make money. But I thought it was great. In fact, nothing would make me happier than to hear that every design I’ve worked on and published was used to create a useful product.

Share Knowledge, Share Success

So, on to the future! One thing that makes me most excited is the proliferation of low-cost cell phones that are easy to program (Android in particular). Once you take a programmable cell phone and connect ultra-low-cost sensors, you’ve got a global sensor network—a very powerful tool that enables anyone to measure and monitor the environment.

More sensors, more things talking. You’ll hear about the “Internet of Things” a lot more in the future. A lot of OSH makers cross-pollinate from hobbyist projects to manufacturer products to other industries. For instance, you’ll see medical devices get smarter. Quickly being able to pull from a library of open-source projects and make a Kickstarter or some other crowd-funded service will lower the entry barrier for many engineers and makers. Sure, there are challenges once you actually get the funding, but it’s never been a better time to work on OSH and get your designs out there. Previously, capital needed to be raised via venture capitalists, loans, or friends and family.

What I like about the future of electronics—and DIY electronics in particular—is that it’s more than just about the physical bits. The OSH movement has a built-in cause: sharing knowledge. If we can all provide a little more value when we make something, we can develop more things by standing on each other’s shoulders and make more engineers who share the same values.

FriedLimor Fried founded Adafruit Industries in 2005. She earned a Bachelor’s in EECS and a Master’s of Engineering from MIT This essay first appeared in CC25 (2011).

Power Monitoring IC for High-Accuracy Power Measurement

Microchip Technology recently expanded its power-monitoring IC portfolio with the addition of the MCP39F511. The highly integrated and accurate single-phase power-monitoring IC is designed for the real-time measurement of AC power. It combines the most popular power calculations with unique advanced features, making it well suited for use in high-performance commercial and industrial products (e.g., lighting systems, smart plugs, power meters, and AC/DC power supplies).

Source: Microchip Technology

Source: Microchip Technology

To address industry requirements for better accuracy across current loads, additional power calculations, and event monitoring of various power conditions, the MCP39F511 power-monitoring IC provides all of the popular standard power calculations combined with advanced features. The import and export of active energy accumulation, four-quadrant reactive energy accumulation, zero-crossing detection and dedicated PWM output have now been integrated on-chip, along with the ability to measure active, reactive and apparent power, RMS current and RMS voltage, line frequency, and power factor.

Allowing for more accurate power measurements, which is critical to higher-performance designs, this new device is capable of just 0.1 % error across a wide 4000:1 dynamic range. Additionally, its 512 bytes of EEPROM allow operating-condition storage. The MCP39F511 also includes two 24-bit delta-sigma ADCs with 94.5 dB of SINAD performance, a 16-bit calculation engine, and a flexible two-wire interface. A low-drift voltage reference, in addition to an internal oscillator, is integrated to reduce implementation costs. This unique combination of features and performance allows designers to add highly accurate power-monitoring functions to their end applications with minimal firmware development, speeding development time.

The MCP39F511 is supported by Microchip’s MCP39F511 Power Monitor Demonstration Board (ADM00667), which costs $150. The MCP39F511 is available now for sampling and volume production, in a 28-lead, 5 × 5 mm QFN package. It costs $1.82 each in 5,000-unit quantities.

Source: Microcchip Technology

4-Mb Asynchronous SRAMs with On-Chip Error-Correcting Code

Cypress Semiconductor Corp. recently started sampling 4-Mb asynchronous SRAMs with Error-Correcting Code (ECC). The on-chip ECC feature of the new SRAMs enables them to provide the highest levels of data reliability, without the need for additional error correction chips—simplifying designs and reducing board space. The devices ensure data reliability in a wide variety of industrial, military, communication, data processing, medical, consumer, and automotive applications.

Source: Cypress

Source: Cypress

Soft errors caused by background radiation can corrupt memory content, resulting in a loss of critical data. A hardware ECC block in Cypress’s new asynchronous SRAM family performs all error correction functions inline, without user intervention, delivering best-in-class Soft Error Rate (SER) performance of less than 0.1 FIT/Mb (one FIT is equivalent to one error per billion hours of device operation). The new devices are pin-compatible with current asynchronous fast and low-power SRAMs, enabling customers to boost system reliability while retaining board layout. The 4-Mb SRAMs also include an optional error indication signal that indicates the correction of single-bit errors.

The Cypress 4-Mb asynchronous SRAMs are available in three options—Fast, MoBL and Fast with PowerSnooze—an additional power-saving Deep Sleep mode that achieves 15 µA (max) deep-sleep current for the 4-Mb SRAM. Each of the options is offered in industry standard ×8 and ×16 configurations. The devices operate at multiple voltages (1.8, 3, and 5 V) over –40°C to 85°C (Industrial) and –40°C to +125°C (Automotive-E) temperature ranges.

The new SRAMs are currently sampling in industrial temperature grade, with production expected in July 2015. These devices will be available in RoHS-compliant 32-pin SOIC, 32-pin TSOP II, 36-pin SOJ, 44-pin SOJ, 44-pin TSOP II and 48-ball VFBGA packages.

Source: Cypress 

New Triple Output High Resolution DC Power Supply

Cal Test Electronics recently introduced the new Global Specialties 1320 Power Supply. The 1320 can provide continual output power of 200 VA through its three output supplies. It features constant current or constant voltage modes with automatic crossover. With resolutions of 10 mV and 1 mA, respectively, you can rely on the superior performance of the 1320. There is protection against over voltage and current producing a safe and reliable instrument.

Source: Global Specialties

Source: Global Specialties

Product Features

  • Two variable supplies: 0–32 V, 0–3 A
  • One fixed supply: 5 V, 3 A
  • For greater output connect in Parallel, Series, or Independent modes
  • For greater output connect multiple units together
  • Separate high-resolution, four-digit displays for voltage and current on variable outputs
  • Individual control of voltage and current for variable outputs
  • CV (constant voltage)/CC (constant current) mode operation with automatic crossover
  • LED indication for CV/CC mode
  • Overload indication LED for fixed output
  • Input voltage selection on rear side (120 VAC/ 240 VAC)

The 1320 is available immediately for $479.00.

Elektor Publishes the Ultimate Intel Edison Manual

Elektor’s latest publication on the Intel Edison is a must have for all those with an active interest in the Internet of Things. The book, Getting Started with the Intel Edison, focuses its attention on the Edison, a tiny computer, the size of a postage stamp, with a  lot of power and built-in wireless communication capabilities. In 128 pages, renowned author Bert van Dam helps readers get up to speed with the Edison by making it accessible and easy to use.  It is not a projects book, but a toolbox and guide that allows you to explore the wonderful world of the Intel Edison.

Source: Elektor

Source: Elektor

This book shows readers how to install the software on the Edison as well as on a Windows PC. The Edison Arduino breakout board is used because it is easy to work with. Linux, Arduino C++ and Python are also used and plenty of examples given as to how the Edison can interface with other software. Covering Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the book also shows you a trick to program sketches over Wi-Fi. Once you have completed the book, not only will your Edison be up and running with the latest software version, but you will also have sufficient knowledge of both hardware and software to start making your own applications. You will even be able to program the Intel Edison over USB and wirelessly both in Arduino C++ and Python. This book is educational and interesting, and really helps to build your knowledge of all things Intel Edison.

Getting started with the Intel Edison is currently available for $35.

Source: Elektor

60-V LED Driver with Internal 4-A Switch & PWM Generator

Linear Technology’s LT3952 is a current mode step-up DC/DC converter with an internal 60-V, 4-A DMOS power switch. It is specifically designed to drive high power LEDs in multiple configurations. It combines input and output current regulation loops with output voltage regulation to operate as a flexible current/voltage source.  The LT3952’s 3-to-42-V input voltage range makes it ideal for a wide variety of applications, including automotive, industrial, and architectural lighting.Linear 3952

The LT3952 can drive up to 16 350-mA white LEDs from a nominal 12-V input, delivering in excess of 15 W. It incorporates a high side current sense, enabling its use in boost mode, buck mode, buck-boost mode or SEPIC topologies. Internal spread spectrum frequency modulation minimizes EMI concerns. The LT3952 delivers efficiencies of over 94% in the boost topology, eliminating the need for external heat sinking, and internal LED short-circuit protection enables added reliability required in most applications. A frequency adjust pin permits the user to program the switching frequency between 200 kHz and 3 MHz, optimizing efficiency while minimizing external component size and cost. The LT3952 delivers over 90% efficiency while switching at 2 MHz in a tiny solution footprint. The LT3952 provides a very compact high power LED driver solution in a thermally enhanced TSSOP-28E package.

The LT3952 has a gate driver for a PMOS LED disconnect switch, delivering dimming ratios of up to 4,000:1 using an external PWM signal. For less demanding dimming requirements, the CTRL pin can be used to offer a 10:1 analog dimming range and an internal PWM generator can be used for 5:1 dimming. The LT3952’s fixed frequency, current-mode architecture offers stable operation over a wide range of supply and output voltages. Output short-circuit protection and open LED protection enhance system reliability. Other features include frequency synchronization, spread spectrum frequency modulation, programmable VIN undervoltage and overvoltage protection, and an input current limit and monitor.

The LT3952EFE is available in a thermally enhanced 28-lead TSSOP package. Three temperature grades are available, with operation from –40°C to 125°C (junction) for the extended, and industrial grades, and a high temperature grade of –40°C to 150°C. Pricing starts at $3.95 each in 1,000-piece quantities and all versions are available from stock. For more information, visit www.linear.com/product/LT3952

Source: Linear Technology

Registration Opens for 19th Annual Worldwide MASTERs Conference

Microchip Technology Inc., a leading provider of microcontroller, mixed-signal, analog and Flash-IP solutions, today announced that registration is open for its 19th annual Worldwide MASTERs Conference at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix, AZ.  The Main Conference takes place from August 19 to 22, 2015. The Pre-Conference is held on August 17-18, 2015.Microchip video MASTERS

The MASTERs Conference provides design engineers with an annual forum for sharing and exchanging technical information about Microchip’s 8-, 16-, and 32-bit PIC microcontrollers, high-performance analog and interface solutions, dsPIC digital signal controllers, wireless and mTouch sensing solutions, memory products, and MPLAB development systems—including the industry’s only singular IDE to support an entire 8-, 16-, and 32-bit microcontroller portfolio.


There is a broad range of class offerings for 2015, to meet the growing needs of software and hardware design engineers and engineering managers, with more than 100 classes being offered—39 of which are new this year.  In addition to lecture-based classes, there are 47 hands-on workshops that enable attendees to learn more about specific applications by using development tools and writing code in the classrooms.  Classes are available for engineers with advanced experience or little knowledge in the concepts and basics of the technology being discussed.

Based on its overwhelming success at previous MASTERs, Microchip is again offering a two-day Pre-Conference for those who wish to attend as many classes as possible during the week. These classes are also designed for beginner through advanced attendees. For example, “Introduction to Embedded Programming Using C” is a two-day, 16-hour, step-by-step crash course in C, with practical hands-on exercises.

MASTERs classes cover a wide range of electronic-engineering topics, including connectivity sessions on Ethernet, TCP/IP, USB, CAN and wireless (e.g., Bluetooth and Wi-Fi), graphics and capacitive-touch interface development, intelligent power supplies, firmware development, motor control, selecting op amps for sensor applications, DSP and using an RTOS.

Additional activities include networking sessions between third-party partners and attendees to discuss relevant design topics, meeting with third-party development tool experts and a simulated wafer fab plant tour.

Entry to the MASTERs Conference courses, a USB Flash Drive with all class materials, round-trip airport transportation, accommodations for three nights with meals, evening entertainment, and more are included in the Conference cost of $1,526, if you register by May 8, 2015 to receive the Early Bird Discount.

Source: Microchip Technology

 

New XMC4800 Microcontrollers with EtherCAT Technology Support Industry 4.0

Infineon Technologies AG has launched a new XMC4800 series of 32-bit microcontrollers with on-chip Ethernet for Control Automation Technology (EtherCAT) node. With its real-time capability, the XMC4800 series is intended to drive networked industrial automation and Industry 4.0 applications.Infineon XMC4800

The EtherCAT node is integrated on an ARM Cortex-M-based microcontroller with on-chip flash and analog/mixed signal capability. The XMC4800 series comprises at least 18 members varying in memory capacity, temperature range and packaging. All XMC4800 microcontrollers will be AEC Q100 qualified, making them also suited for use in commercial, construction, and agricultural vehicles.

The XMC4800 series is a member of the XMC4000 family, which uses the ARM Cortex-M4 processor and was specifically developed for use in the automation of manufacturing and buildings as well as electric drives and solar inverters. The XMC4800 series offers a seamless upgrade path to EtherCAT technology with pin and code compatibility to the established XMC4000 microcontrollers. The XMC4800 enables the use of EtherCAT under the harsh condition of up to 125°C ambient temperature.

 

With the integration of the EtherCAT functionality, the XMC4800 enables the most compact design without need for a dedicated EtherCAT ASIC, external memory and clock crystal. It offers a 144-MHz-CPU, up to 2 MB of embedded flash memory, 352 KB of RAM and a comprehensive range of peripheral and interface functions. The peripherals include four parallel fast 12-bit A/D converter modules, two 12-bit D/A converters, four delta sigma demodulator modules, six capture/compare units (CCU4 and CCU8), and two positioning interface modules. In addition to its EtherCAT functionality, its communication functions comprise interfaces for Ethernet, USB, and SD/MMC. Also, the XMC4800 series offers six CAN nodes, six serial communication channels, and one external bus interface for communication. The three package options are LQFP-100, LQFP-144, and LFBGA-196.

Samples of the series XMC4800 with EtherCAT technology will be available in August 2015. Volume production is scheduled for Q1 2016.

Source: Infineon 

 

 

Low-Profile PCIe Board Platform

BittWare recently announced today its second low-profile PCIe board—the A5-PCIe-S (A5PS). The new board is based on Altera’s Arria V GZ FPGA, which provides a high level of system integration and flexibility for I/O, routing, and processing. Thus, the A5PS is a reliable platform for a variety of applications (e.g., network processing, security, broadcast, and signals intelligence).BittWare A5PS

Featuring dual SFP+ cages that run up to 12.5 Gbps, the A5PS provides dual 10GigE ports using optical transceivers as well as passive copper cabling up to 7 m. These ports are serviced by the advanced 28-nm Arria V GZ FPGA, which also supports a Gen3 x8 PCIe interface and either 8-GB DDR3 or 36-MB QDRII+. Sophisticated time-stamping and synchronization options are supported by dual SMA connectors for interfacing to 1-PPS or 10-MHz reference clocks, in addition to the tunable on-board high accuracy, temperature compensated oscillator (TCXO). A comprehensive Board Management Controller (BMC) with host software support for advanced system monitoring is also provided.

The A5PS features and specifications include:

  • Altera Arria V GZ FPGA
  • PCIe x8 interface supporting Gen1, Gen2, or Gen3
  • Dual SFP+ cages for 2x 10GigE: Support for a wide range of optical transceiver; built-in low-latency active drivers/receivers for passive copper cables up to 7 m
  • Memory options (pick one): DDR3 (single 72-bit bank of up to 8 GBytes DDR3-1600 with ECC); QDRII+ (two 18-bit banks of up to 144 Mb each—288 Mb or 36 MB total)
  • Board Management Controller for Intelligent Platform Management
  • USB 2.0 for programming, debug, or control
  • Timestamping and synchronization support
    • Dual SMA for reference clock/synchronization inputs
    • Tunable high-accuracy TCXO
    • Programmable clock synthesizer (Si5338)
  • Complete software support with BittWare’s BittWorks II Toolkit
  • Broad range of IP offerings
    • 10 GigE MAC
    • TCP/IP Offload Engines (TOE), UDP Offload Engines
    • PTP/IEEE-1588
    • PCIe DMA

The A5PS board currently costs $1,500 in 1000s for the A5PS with the Arria V GZ E1 with no external memory. Contact BittWare for additional configurations, pricing, and details.

Source: BittWare