About Circuit Cellar Staff

Circuit Cellar's editorial team comprises professional engineers, technical editors, and digital media specialists. You can reach the Editorial Department at editorial@circuitcellar.com, @circuitcellar, and facebook.com/circuitcellar

Dual Synchronous Step-Down DC/DC Converter Delivers 95% Efficiency

Linear Technology recently announced the LT8616, a 42-V input capable, high-efficiency dual synchronous monolithic step-down switching regulator. Its dual channel design delivers independent 2.5- and 1.5-A continuous current to outputs as low as 0.8 V. A dual channel synchronous rectification topology delivers up to 95% efficiency while Burst Mode operation keeps quiescent current under 6.5 µA (both channels enabled) in no-load standby conditions, making it ideal for always-on systems. Switching frequency can be programmed from 200 kHz to 3 MHz and is synchronizable throughout this range.LT8616 Linear

The LT8616’s 35-ns minimum on-time enables 16 VIN to 1.8 VOUT step-down conversions, while switching at 2 MHz helps you avoid critical noise-sensitive frequency bands, such as AM radio while having a very compact solution footprint. Its 3.4- to 42-V input voltage range makes it ideal for automotive applications which must regulate through cold-crank and stop-start scenarios with minimum input voltages as low as 3.4 V and load dump transients in excess of 40 V. Each channel of the LT8616 maintains a minimum dropout voltage of only 400 mV (at 1 A) under all conditions, enabling it to excel in scenarios such as automotive cold-crank. The LT8616’s 28-lead thermally enhanced TSSOP package and high switching frequency keeps external inductors and capacitors small, providing a compact, thermally efficient footprint.

The LT8616 utilizes dual internal top and bottom high efficiency power switches with the necessary boost diodes, oscillator, control and logic circuitry integrated into a single die. Each channel switches 180° out-of-phase to reduce output ripple. Each channel has a separate input for added design flexibility. Low ripple Burst Mode operation maintains high efficiency at low output currents while keeping output ripple below 15 mVPP. Unique design techniques and a new high speed process enable high efficiency over a wide input voltage range, and the LT8616’s current-mode topology provides fast transient response and excellent loop stability. Other features include internal compensation, power good flags, output soft-start/tracking and thermal protection.

The LT8616 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 (E) and industrial (I) grades and a high temperature (H) grade of –40°C to 150°C. The 1,000-piece price starts at $4.15.

Features

  • 3.4 to 42 V Input voltage range
  • 5- and 1.5-A Buck regulators with separate inputs
  • Fast minimum switch on-time: 35 ns
  • Ultralow quiescent current burst mode operation
  • 180° Out-of-phase switching
  • Adjustable and synchronizable: 200 kHz to 3 MHz
  • Accurate 1-V Enable pin thresholds
  • Internal compensation
  • Output soft-start and tracking
  • TSSOP Package:
  • Thermally enhanced 28-lead TSSOP package

 

New High-Performance VC Z Series Cameras

Vision Components recently announced the availability of its new intelligent camera series VC Z. The embedded systems offer real-time image processing suitable for demanding high-speed and line scan applications. All models are equipped with Xilinx’s Zynq module, an ARM dual-core Cortex-A9 with 866 MHz and an integrated FPGA.Vision Components - VC_Z_series_stapel_pingu

The new camera is based on the board camera series VCSBC nano Z. With a footprint of 40 × 65 mm, these compact systems are especially easy to integrate into machines and plants. They are optionally available with one or two remote sensor heads and thus suitable for stereo applications.You can choose between two enclosed camera types: the VC nano Z, which has housing dimensions of 80 × 45 × 20 mm, and the VC pro Z, which measures 90 × 58 × 36 mm and can be fitted with a lens and an integrated LED illumination. The new operating system VC Linux ensures optimal interaction between hardware and software.

Source: Vision Components

May Electrical Engineering Challenge Live (Sponsor: NetBurner)

Put your electrical engineering skills to the test. The May Electrical Engineering Challenge (sponsored by NetBurner) is now live.

This month, find the error in the code posted on the Challenge webpage for a chance to win a NetBurner MOD54415 LC Development Kit ($129 value) or a Circuit Cellar Digital Subscription (1 year).

TAKE THE CHALLENGE NOW

Find the error in the schematic and submit your answer via the online Submission Form by the deadline: 2 PM EST on February 20, 2015. Two prize winners from the pool of respondents who submit the correct answer will be randomly selected.

Find the error in the code and submit your answer via the online Submission Form by the deadline: 2 PM EST on May 20, 2015. Two prize winners from the pool of respondents who submit the correct answer will be randomly selected.

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

Client Profile: LS Research

Since 1980, companies spanning a wide range of industries have trusted LSR to help develop solutions that exceed their customers’ expectations. LSR provides an unmatched suite of both embedded wireless products and integrated services that improve speed to market and return on your development investment.SaBLE-x-Ruler-V2-275x275

LSR’s SaBLE-x Bluetooth Smart module, based on TI’s new SimpleLink CC2640 MCU, offers industry-leading RF and power performance along with LSR’s renowned support and developer tools.

LSR’s TiWi-C-W is a stand-alone WLAN (IEEE 802.11 b/g/n) module that simplifies and accelerates the work of adding Wi-Fi connectivity to your products. The TiWi-C-W module is also a cloud agent for LSR’s end-to-end IoT platform, TiWiConnect.

LSR’s all-new SaBLE-x Bluetooth Smart module, based on TI’s new SimpleLink CC2640 MCU, offers industry-leading RF and power performance along with LSR’s renowned developer support and broad country certifications. The SaBLE-x can be utilized in either stand-alone mode or with an external host, and the SaBLE Tool Suite provides developers with intuitive tools that accelerates development time in integrating BLE into your products.

SPECIAL OFFER FROM LSR
Win a FREE Development Kit for the SaBLE-x Bluetooth Smart module! Register to win and ONE Circuit Cellar reader will receive LSR’s SaBLE-x Development Kit ($199 value). Go to: http://info.lsr.com/sable-x-exclusive-offer

The Future of Intelligent Robots

Robots have been around for over half a century now, making constant progress in terms of their sophistication and intelligence levels, as well as their conceptual and literal closeness to humans. As they become smarter and more aware, it becomes easier to get closer to them both socially and physically. That leads to a world where robots do things not only for us but also with us.

Not-so-intelligent robots made their first debut in factory environments in the late ‘50s. Their main role was to merely handle the tasks that humans were either not very good at or that were dangerous for them. Traditionally, these robots have had very limited sensing; they have essentially been blind despite being extremely strong, fast, and repeatable. Considering what consequences were likely to follow if humans were to freely wander about within the close vicinity of these strong, fast, and blind robots, it seemed to be a good idea to isolate them from the environment by placing them in safety cages.

Advances in the fields of sensing and compliant control made it possible to get a bit closer to these robots, again both socially and physically. Researchers have started proposing frameworks that would enable human-robot collaborative manipulation and task execution in various scenarios. Bi-manual collaborative manufacturing robots like YuMi by ABB and service robots like HERB by the Personal Robotics Lab of Carnegie Mellon University[1] have started emerging. Various modalities of learning from/programming by demonstration, such as kinesthetic teaching and imitation, make it very natural to interact with these robots and teach them the skills and tasks we want them perform the way we teach a child. For instance, the Baxter robot by Rethink Robotics heavily utilizes these capabilities and technologies to potentially bring a teachable robot to every small company with basic manufacturing needs.

As robots gets smarter, more aware, and safer, it becomes easier to socially accept and trust them as well. This reduces the physical distance between humans and robots even further, leading to assistive robotic technologies, which literally “live” side by side with humans 24/7. One such project is the Assistive Dexterous Arm (ADA)[2] that we have been carrying out at the Robotics Institute and the Human-Computer Interaction Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. ADA is a wheelchair mountable, semi-autonomous manipulator arm that utilizes the sliding autonomy concept in assisting people with disabilities in performing their activities of daily living. Our current focus is on assistive feeding, where the robot is expected to help the users eat their meals in a very natural and socially acceptable manner. This requires the ability to predict the user’s behaviors and intentions as well as spatial and social awareness to avoid awkward situations in social eating settings. Also, safety becomes our utmost concern as the robot has to be very close to the user’s face and mouth during task execution.

In addition to assistive manipulators, there have also been giant leaps in the research and development of smart and lightweight exoskeletons that make it possible for paraplegics to walk by themselves. These exoskeletons make use of the same set of technologies, such as compliant control, situational awareness through precise sensing, and even learning from demonstration to capture the walking patterns of a healthy individual.

These technologies combined with the recent developments in neuroscience have made it possible to get even closer to humans than an assistive manipulator or an exoskeleton, and literally unite with them through intelligent prosthetics. An intelligent prosthetic limb uses learning algorithms to map the received neural signals to the user’s intentions as the user’s brain is constantly adapting to the artificial limb. It also needs to be highly compliant to be able to handle the vast variance and uncertainty in the real world, not to mention safety.

Extrapolating from the aforementioned developments and many others, we can easily say that robots are going to be woven into our lives. Laser technology used to be unreachable and cutting-edge from an average person’s perspective a couple decades ago. However, as Rodney Brooks says in his book titled Robot: The Future of Flesh and Machines, (Penguin Books, 2003), now we do not know exactly how many laser devices we have in our houses, and more importantly we don’t even care! That will be the case for the robots. In the not so distant future, we will be enjoying the ride in our autonomous vehicle as a bunch of nanobots in our blood stream are delivering drugs and fixing problems, and we will feel good knowing that our older relatives are getting some great care from their assistive companion robots.

[1] http://www.cmu.edu/herb-robot/
[2] https://youtu.be/glpCAdKEWAA

Tekin Meriçli, PhD, is a well-rounded roboticist with in-depth expertise in machine intelligence and learning, perception, and manipulation. He is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, where he leads the efforts on building intuitive and expressive interfaces to interact with semi-autonomous robotic systems that are intended to assist elderly and disabled. Previously, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) and the Personal Robotics Lab of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. He received his PhD in Computer Science from Bogazici University, Turkey.

This essay appears in Circuit Cellar 298, May 2015.

Cost-Effective, Long-Range, Low-Power Internet of Things Connectivity

SIGFOX and Texas Instruments  recently announced that they’re working together to increase Internet of Things (IoT) deployments using the Sub-1 GHz spectrum. Customers can use the SIGFOX network with TI’s Sub-1 GHz RF transceivers to deploy wireless sensor nodes that are lower cost and lower power than 3G/cellular connected nodes, while providing long-range connectivity to the IoT.TI - SIGFOX

Targeting a wide variety of applications ranging from environmental sensors to asset tracking, the SIGFOX and TI collaboration maximizes the benefits of narrowband radio technology. It also reduces barriers to entry for manufacturers interested in connecting their products to the cloud. Using the SIGFOX infrastructure reduces the cost and effort to get sensor data to the cloud and TI’s Sub-1 GHz technology provides years of battery life for less maintenance and up to 100 km range.

SIGFOX’s two-way network is based on an ultra-narrowband (UNB) radio technology for connecting devices, which is key to providing a scalable, high-capacity network with very low energy consumption and unmatched spectral efficiency. That is essential in a network that will handle billions of messages daily.

TI’s CC1120  Sub-1 GHz RF transceiver uses narrowband technology to deliver the longest-range connectivity and superior coexistence to SIGFOX’s network with strong tolerance of interference. Narrowband is the de facto standard for long-range communication due to the high spectral efficiency, which is critical to support the projected high growth of connected IoT applications. The CC1120 RF transceiver also provides years of battery lifetime for a sensor node, which reduces maintenance and lowers the cost of ownership for end users.

Sub-1 GHz networks operate in region-specific industrial scientific and medical (ISM) bands below 1 GHz including 169, 315, 433, 500, 868, 915 and 920 MHz. The networks are proprietary by nature and provide a more robust IoT connection, which is why the technology has been used for smart metering, security and alarm systems and other sensitive industrial systems. Additionally, the technology is low power, enabling years of battery life to reduce service and maintenance requirements.

Availability

SIGFOX-certified modules based on TI’s CC1120 were demonstrated at Mobile World Congress 2015 and are currently available.

Source: Texas Instruments; SIGFOX

 

F-RAM Expands the Density Range of Energy-Efficient Nonvolatile RAMs

Cypress Semiconductor Corp. today introduced a family of 4Mb serial Ferroelectric Random Access Memories (F-RAMs), which are the industry’s highest density serial F-RAMs. The 4-Mb serial F-RAMs feature a 40-MHz SPI, a 2-to-3.6-V operating voltage range and are available in industry-standard, RoHS-compliant package options. All Cypress F-RAMs provide 100 trillion read/write cycle endurance with 10-year data retention at 85˚C and 151 years at 65˚C.Cypress 4Mb Serial F-RAM

Cypress F-RAMs are ideal solutions for applications requiring continuous and frequent high-speed reading and writing of data with absolute data security. The 4-Mb serial F-RAM family addresses mission-critical applications such as industrial controls and automation, industrial metering, multifunction printers, test and measurement equipment, and medical wearables.

The 4-Mb serial F-RAMs are currently sampling in industry-standard 8EIAJ and 8TDFN packages. Production expected in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Source: Cypress Semiconductor

 

New AC Source with Power Line Disturbance Simulator

B&K Precision recently introduced the 9801 AC power source, which is a compact 19″ half-rack, single-phase AC source that outputs up to 300 VA and measures AC power characteristics. You can operate the AC source in a 0-to-300-V continuous sweep range or 150-V/300-V auto-switching range with adjustable start and stop phase angle control. With a built-in power line disturbance (PLD) simulator, list, sweep, and dimmer mode, the 9801 is suitable for simulating various AC power conditions. It provides a complete solution for manufacturing, R&D, and precompliance testing applications.9801_front-B&K

For certain compliance testing applications, manufacturers may need an AC source to simulate various AC power line outlets and disturbances. This includes evaluating a product’s immunity to less than ideal input voltage situations such as dips, surges, and dropouts. Therefore, programmable AC sources with built-in power line disturbance simulation functions can be an invaluable tool for testing devices under these conditions.

The 9801 features a low distortion, single-phase AC output with programmable RMS voltage up to 300 V, maximum RMS current up to 3 A, and adjustable frequency from 45 to 500 Hz. The power source is also capable of delivering up to 12-A peak current.

Provided on the front panel is a universal AC output socket and an easy-to-use rotary knob to set AC waveform parameters. The bright VFD display continuously displays the output voltage, peak and RMS current, frequency, power factor, apparent/true power, and elapsed time. The rear includes an additional AC output terminal block for wire connection and an external BNC connector for output On/Off control and monitoring, external triggering, and synchronization. Users will also benefit from the 9801’s standard RS-232, USBTMC-compliant USB, and LAN interfaces for remote control and programming.

Built-in simulation functions include list mode with PLD simulator, sweep, and phase-cut dimming output. The simulation modes allow users to program varying steps of voltage, frequency, width, slope, and disturbances, sweep the output voltage and frequency, and control the phase cut-off of the AC sine wave’s leading or trailing edge. For pre-compliance testing, voltage fluctuations and frequency simulations can be set up according to IEC61000-4-11, IEC61000-4-14, and IEC61000-4-28.

Furthermore, the 9801 provides several protection features: overvoltage (OVP), overcurrent (OCP), overpower (OPP), and overtemperature (OTP) protection, settable voltage and frequency limits, key lock function, and RMS/peak current protection settings to shut off the output when a load exceeds the set current.

B&K Precision’s 9801 AC power source costs $1,995.

Source: B&K Precision

 

 

Streamlined Touchscreen Design with Application Builder and COMSOL Server

Cypress Semiconductor R&D engineers are creating simulation apps that streamline their touchscreen design processes. To do so, they’re sharing their simulation expertise with colleagues using the Application Builder and COMSOL Server, released with COMSOL Multiphysics simulation software version 5.COMSOL_5.1_COMSOL_Server

With the Application Builder, engineers can create ready-to-use simulation applications that can be implemented across departments, including by product development, sales, and customer service. The Application Builder enables simulation experts to build intuitive simulation apps based on their models directly within the COMSOL environment. COMSOL Server lets them share these apps with colleagues and customers around the globe.

To incorporate advances into touchscreen technology and embedded system products, Cypress simulation engineers use COMSOL for research and design initiatives. Their touchscreens are used in phones and MP3 devices, industrial applications, and more.

Source: COMSOL

 

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