About Nan Price

Nan Price is an Associate Editor at Circuit Cellar. You can reach her at nprice@circuitcellar.com and @assoceditor_cc.

PCI Switching Solutions

Pickering Interfaces expanded its range of PCI switching solutions with the introduction of seven new PCI cards and the expansion of an eighth card. The expansion includes programmable and precision resistors, general-purpose relays, high-density matrices, and multiplexers.

The 50-293 PCI programmable resistor and relay card offers two or four programmable resistor channels. An optional eight single pole, double throw (SPDT) relays can be used for general-purpose switching. Each resistor can be programmed with resistance calls that set the module’s resistance to a ±1% resolution accuracy and the ability to read back the resistance setting to 0.3%. Depending on the version, the resolution is 0.25 to 2 Ω and the resistance is up to 131 kΩ.

The expanded 50-297 PCI precision resistor card family increases the versions offered from six to 42. Each version provides a choice of the number of resistor channels, the resistance range, and the resistance setting resolution. Depending on the version, the resolution is from 0.125 to 2 Ω and the resistor counts from three to 18. Resistor values up to 1.51 MΩ can be simulated and accuracy is ±0.2% resolution.

Two PCI general-purpose 2-A relay cards were also introduced. Model 50-131 provides 16 or 26 single pole, double throw (SPDT) relays. Model 50-132 provides 16, 32, or 39 SPST relays, each rated at 2 A and featuring up to 60-W hot switch power.

Pickering’s PCI 2-A 1-pole high-density matrix solutions include three models. The 50-527 is a 32 × 2, one-pole matrix; the 50-528 offers 32 × 4 or 16 × 4 configurations; and the 50-529 offers 16 × 8 and 8 × 8 configurations.

The 50-635 PCI low-cost electromechanical relay (EMR) multiplexer (MUX) system has a variety of different configurations ranging from a 64:1 single-pole MUX to a quad 8:1 two-pole MUX. All the PCI relay cards use high-quality EMRs and standard D-type connectors.

Contact Pickering Interfaces for pricing.

Pickering Interfaces, Ltd.

Long-Range, Memory Jewelry-Tagging Solution

EMThe EM4126 EPC radio-frequency identification (RFID) IC is designed to provide RFID tagging on small and/or high-value products (e.g., jewelry and watches). The IC’s high sensitivity enables long read ranges. EM4126-based tags can achieve –21-dBm read sensitivities. The ICs are designed for supply chain management, tracking and tracing, container identification, and access and asset control applications.

The EM4126’s 224 bits of nonvolatile memory support International Organization for Standardization (ISO) or Electronic Product Code (EPC) data structures and enable SGTIN-198 encoding, which uses alphanumeric serialization represented as a string of up to 20 7-bit characters. The EM4126’s additional features include ISO 18000-63 and EPC Class-1 Generation-2 compliance, 32-bit short-tag identification, 40-to-160 Kbps forward- and return-link data rates, and a –40°C-to-85°C extended temperature range.

Contact EM Microelectronic for pricing.

EM Microelectronic

Experimentation and Engineering

Frederic Vecoven is software engineer living in Luxembourg who enjoys experimenting with everything from his home’s central heating controller to FPGAs. He has been designing micrcontroller-based projects for more than a dozen years and is currently working on an EPROM emulator.—Nan Price, Associate Editor


NAN: What is your current occupation?

FREDERIC:: I am a software principal engineer at Oracle.

NAN: Your website Vecoven.com features projects involving capacitors, microcontrollers, and EEPROM and hardware emulators. Tell us a little about the projects and your design process.

vecovenFREDERIC: At work I design firmware for high-end servers. At home I like to design my own stuff, so I have full control and can create new devices and/or enhance existing ones. I work on various projects and I don’t find enough time to document all of them on the website. For example, I designed a controller for the central heating in my house, but never documented it (it’s too “custom”). I love retrocomputing, which is how my FreHD project started. This is a hard-drive emulator for TRS-80 computers.

My design process starts from an idea (I have too many, so I must carefully select one) then a lot of thinking about the future implementation (as always, designing something is about compromises). Once I have a clear view in my mind about how things should work, I start prototyping. If possible, I use a breadboard or I create a PCB. Sometimes I do a lot of simulation before starting the prototyping, as this will save a lot of time. However, that cannot be done for all projects.

NAN: How long have you been designing microcontroller-based systems?

FREDERIC: More than 15 years.

NAN: How did you become interested in technology?

FREDERIC: When I was 13 years old I fell in love with computers when I saw a TRS-80 model in high school. I am thankful to my parents, who gave me a computer one year later.
I went to college and got a master’s degree in computer science. But I wasn’t satisfied, so I studied some more years to get another master’s degree, this time in electrical engineering. The combination of software and hardware is really powerful. A few years later, I relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area, but I am back in Europe now.

NAN: Describe the first embedded system you designed. Where were you at the time? What did you learn from the experience?

FREDERIC: My first big experience with a real embedded system was when I was working for Sun Microsystems. My group was writing the firmware for the system controllers of the SunFire 3800-6900 line. The embedded system was a small SPARC CPU running Wind River Systems’s VxWorks and the firmware was almost entirely written in Java.

NAN: What was the last electronics design-related product you purchased and how did you use it?

FREDERIC: I bought some FPGAs recently. I haven’t released any project with it yet, it is still a work in progress. My hobby time is very limited.

My idea is to use a CPU core and enhance it with new instructions to enable the generation of real-time signals. FPGAs are very powerful in that area, where a microcontroller would spend most of its time processing interrupts.

NAN: Are you currently working on or planning any projects?


This is Frederic’s PWM prototype for his Roland Super JX synthesizer.

FREDERIC: Yes, I have rewritten the Roland JX-10/MKS-70 firmware from scratch because I wanted to add PWM waveforms. This quickly turned into a big project. Currently, the prototype setup involves a simulator running the “assigner” code on my laptop. The laptop sends the sound board commands in System Exclusive (SysEx) Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) messages, which go to a microcontroller that extracts the payload from the SysEx. The payload is then sent to the sound board, which believes it got its instructions directly from the assigner. The sound board (which runs its own microcontroller) uses an EPROM emulator connected over USB, so I can easily modify the assigner code (running in the simulator) or the sound board code (running in the EPROM emulator) without having to program any chip. Note that I didn’t have an EPROM emulator, so I designed mine.


This oscilloscope capture shows the generated PWM signal.

FREDERIC: The power of CPUs and GPUs are really exciting. You can pretty much do everything with software now (a 32-bit core costs less than $5).
On the other side, people don’t pay enough attention to optimization, so I am sad anytime I see poorly written code. I am also excited with all the tools and hardware available today for so little cost. That wasn’t the case in the past, so it opens door to students and hobbyists.

NAN: Last question. Let’s say you had a full year and a nice budget to work on any embedded design project you wanted. Call it your “dream project.” What would it be?

FREDERIC: I would love to do some robotic design, but I am not an expert in mechanics and I don’t have the tools (e.g., lathe, milling machine, etc.). That would fill the gap: hardware, software, and mechanics.

Flexible I/O Expansion for Rugged Applications

WynSystemsThe SBC35-CC405 series of multi-core embedded PCs includes on-board USB, gigabit Ethernet, and serial ports. These industrial computers are designed for rugged embedded applications requiring extended temperature operation and long-term availability.

The SBC35-CC405 series features the latest generation Intel Atom E3800 family of processors in an industry-standard 3.5” single-board computer (SBC) format COM Express carrier. A Type 6 COM Express module supporting a quad-, dual-, or single-core processor is used to integrate the computer. For networking and communications, the SBC35-CC405 includes two Intel I210 gigabit Ethernet controllers with IEEE 1588 timestamping and 10-/100-/1,000-Mbps multispeed operation. Four Type-A connectors support three USB 2.0 channels and one high-speed USB 3.0 channel. Two serial ports support RS-232/-422/-485 interface levels with clock options up to 20 Mbps in the RS-422/-485 mode and up to 1 Mbps in the RS-232 mode.

The SBC35-CC405 series also includes two MiniPCIe connectors and one IO60 connector to enable additional I/O expansion. Both MiniPCIe connectors support half-length and full-length cards with screw-down mounting for improved shock and vibration durability. One MiniPCIe connector also supports bootable mSATA solid-state disks while the other connector includes USB. The IO60 connector provides access to the I2C, SPI, PWM, and UART signals enabling a simple interface to sensors, data acquisition, and other low-speed I/O devices.

The SBC35-CC405 runs over a 10-to-50-VDC input power range and operates at temperatures from –40°C to 85°C. Enclosures, power supplies, and configuration services are also available.

Linux, Windows, and other x86 OSes can be booted from the CFast, mSATA, SATA, or USB interfaces, providing flexible data storage options. WinSystems provides drivers for Linux and Windows 7/8 as well as preconfigured embedded OSes.
The single-core SBC35-CC405 costs $499.

Winsystems, Inc.

High Electron Mobility Transistors

gold backgroundThe TPH3002LD and the TPH3002LS are 600-V Gallium nitride (GaN)-based, low-profile power quad flat no-lead (PQFN) high electron mobility transistors (HEMTs). The HEMTs utilize Transphorm’s patented, high-performance EZ-GaNTM technology, which combines low switching and conduction losses, reducing the overall system energy dissipation up to 50%.

The TPH3002PD and TPH3002PS HEMTs are designed for use in smaller, lower-power applications (e.g., adapters and all-in-one computer power supplies). The HEMTs feature a Kelvin connection to isolate the gate circuit from the high-current output circuit to further reduce electromagnetic interference (EMI) and high-frequency switching capabilities.
Evaluation boards are available with the devices.

Contact Transphorm for pricing.

Transphorm, Inc.