CC275: Shape The Future

In January, Circuit Cellar introduced a new section, Tech the Future, which dedicates page 80 of our magazine to the insights of innovators in groundbreaking technologies.

We’ve reached out to a number of graduate students, professors, researchers, engineers, designers, and entrepreneurs, asking them to write short essays on their fields of expertise, with an emphasis on future trends.

Their topics have included high-speed data acquisition, Linux home automation, research into new materials to replace traditional silicon-based CMOS for circuitry design, control system theory for electronic device DIYers, and how open-source hardware will make world economies more democratic and efficient.

Our contributors have been diverse in more than just their topics. They have been talented

Tech the Future essayist Fergus Dixon designed this DNA sequencer, the subject of an article in the May 2013 issue of Circuit Cellar.

young researchers and seasoned professionals. Male and female. American, Portuguese, Italian, Indian, and Australian.

The one thing they have in common? They keep a close eye on the ever-changing landscape of technological change. And their essays have helped our readers focus on what to watch. We compensate authors for the essays we choose to publish, and we are eager to hear your suggestions on subjects for Tech the Future.

If you are an innovator interested in writing an essay for Tech the Future, e-mail me (editor@circuitcellar.com) with the topic you’d like to address and some information about yourself. If you are a reader who wants to hear from someone in particular through Tech the Future or has a suggestion for an essay topic, please contact me.

The work of those we’ve featured so far can be found online at circuitcellar.com/category/tech-the-future. Here are just a few of the innovators you will find there:

Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio, a designer of data acquisition software for physics-related experiments and industrial applications, discussing the future of data acquisition technology.

Saptarshi Das, a nano materials researcher who holds a PhD in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University, focusing on the urgent need for alternatives to silicon-based CMOS. These alternative materials, now the subject of extensive scientific research, will be game changers for the microelectronics and nanoelectronics industries, he says.

Fergus Dixon, an Australian entrepreneur and designer of the popular software program “Simulator for Arduino,” explaining why open-source hardware is a valuable tool in the development of new medical devices. Design opportunities for such devices are countless. Hot technologies developed for 3-D printing and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have direct medical applications, including 3-D-printed prosthetic ears and nanorobots that utilize UAV technology.

Enjoy these articles and others online. In the meantime, I’ll be checking my e-mail for what you would like to see featured in Tech the Future.

Electrical Engineer Crossword (Issue 275)

The answers to Circuit Cellar’s June electronics engineering crossword puzzle are now available.

Across

2.    UNIFIEDMODELING—Language that standardizes software specifications
3.    KELVINBRIDGE—Compares low resistance values [two words]
6.    THINCLIENT—A codependent program [two words]
10.    BANANAPLUG—Makes electrical connections [two words]
11.    CONDENSER—aka capacitor
13.    ASTABLE—A multivibrator circuit
15.    FLIPFLOP—A fundamental building block [two words]
18.    AMMETER—Used to calibrate current
19.    CLOCKGATING—Method of lowering dynamic power dissipation [two words]
20.    THERMIONICVALVE—Uses a vacuum to control electric current [two words]

Down

1.    VISITORPATTERN—Keeps an algorithm away from an object structure
4.    RUNTIME—Multi-lingual computer system
5.    FIELDEFFECT—This type is unipolar [two words]
7.    LISSAJOUSCURVE—An oscilloscope trace [two words]
8.    NONMASKABLE—Cannot be ignored
9.    CASCODECIRCUIT—Provides amplification [two words]
12.    CRON—Keeps things on schedule
14.    ROENTGEN—Radiation measurement
16.    RETFIE—Instruction that enables new interrupts to occur
17.    SELSYN—aka mag-slip

New Products: June 2013

C-Programmable Autonomous Mobile Robot System

The RP6v2 is a C-programmable autonomous mobile robot system designed for hobbyists and educators at universities, trade schools, and high schools. The system includes a CD with software, an extensive manual, plenty of example programs, and a large C function library. All library and example programs are open-source GNU general public license (GPL).

The autonomous mobile robot system has a large payload capacity and expansion boards, which may be stacked as needed. It receives infrared (IR) codes in RC5 format and includes integrated light, collision, speed, and IR-obstacle sensors. Its powerful tank drive train can drive up steep ramps and over obstacles.

The RP6v2’s features include an Atmel ATmega32 8-bit RISC microcontroller, AVR-GCC and RobotLoader open-source software for use with Windows and Linux, six PCB expansion areas, two 7.2-VDC motors, an I2C bus expansion system, and a USB interface for easy programming and communication.
The fully assembled RP6v2 robotic system costs $199.

Global Specialties
www.globalspecialties.com


Smart Panels with Powerful CPU and Multiple OS Support

The SP-7W61 and the SP-1061 smart panels are based on the Texas Instruments 1-GHz Sitara AM3715 Cortex-A8 processor and an Imagination Technologies integrated PowerVR SGX graphics accelerator. The products support multiple OSes—including Linux 2.6.37, Android 2.3.4, and Windows Compact 7—making them well suited for communications, medical and industrial control, human-machine interface (HMI), and transportation applications.

The SP-7W61 (7” and 16:9) and the SP-1061 (10” and 4:3) have a low-power, slim, fanless mechanical design and a high-value cost/performance (C/P) panel PC module that uses powerful and efficient components. Compared with other x86 HMI or open-frame products, the SP-7W61 and the SP-1061 successfully keep power consumption to less than 5.9 W, which is half the typical rate. The smart panels feature multiple display sizes and low power consumption options. They can be implemented into slim and thin chassis types (e.g., for HMI, control panels, or wall-mount controllers).

ADLINK provides full support on software customization based on different platforms. A virtual machine or software development kit (SDK) is provided with related documentation for different platforms, so users can easily set up the software environment.
Contact ADLINK for pricing.

ADLINK Technology, Inc.
www.adlinktech.com


Fast-Switching 0.65-TO-20-GHz Synthesizer

The APSYN420B is a 0.65-to-20-GHz frequency synthesizer with a 0.001-Hz resolution and 0.1° phase resolution. The synthesizer provides a nominal output power of 13 dBm into 50 ?. The module features a high-stability internal reference that can be phase-locked to a user-configurable external reference or used in a master-slave configuration for high phase coherence.

The APSYN420B’s key features include low phase noise, fast switching (settling time is typically 20 µs with a 20-µs frequency update), and an internal OCXO reference that can be configured for high phase coherence between multiple sources. The synthesizer offers USB and LAN interfaces and consumes less than 10 W when powered from an external 6-VDC supply.

The APSYN420B’s modulation capabilities include angle, pulse, pulse trains, and pulsed chirps. Linear, logarithmic, or random-frequency sweeps can be performed with combined modulation running. Frequency chirps (linear ramp, up/down) can also be accomplished. The device can accept external reference signals from 1 to 250 MHz.

Applications for the APSYN420B include automatic test equipment, satellite, and other telecommunications needs. The APSYN420B is designed for a 0°C-to-45°C operating temperature range and weighs less than 2 lb in a compact 2.4” × 4.2” × 8.3” enclosure.
Contact Saelig for pricing.

Saelig Co., Inc.
www.saelig.com


SoC for Next-Generation Multimedia and Navigation Systems

The R-Car H2 is the latest member of Renesas’s R-Car series of automotive system-on-a-chip (SoC) offerings. The SoC delivers more than 25,000 Dhrystone million instructions per second (DMIPS) and provides high-performance and state-of-the-art 3-D graphics capabilities for high-end multimedia and automotive navigation systems.
The R-Car H2 is powered by the ARM Cortex A-15 quad-core configuration running an additional ARM Cortex A-7 quad core. The SoC also features Imagination Technologies’s PowerVR Series6 G6400 graphics processing unit (GPU). The GPU supports open technologies (e.g., OpenGL ES 2.0) and the OpenGL ES 3.0 and OpenCL standards.
The R-Car H2’s bus architecture includes dedicated CPU and IP caches, which reduce the double data rate type three (DDR3) memory bandwidth consumption. To ensure adequate memory bandwidth, the R-Car H2 is equipped with two independent DDR3-1600 32-bit interfaces.

The R-Car H2 integrates advanced automotive interfaces including Ethernet audio video bridging (AVB), MOST150, and CAN and mass storage interfaces such as serial advanced technology attachment (SATA), USB 3.0/2.0, secure digital (SD) card, and PCI Express for system expansion. As a device option, the GPS baseband engine handles all modern navigation standards. The R-Car H2’s additional features include 24-bit digital signal processing (DSP) for codec, high-quality audio processing with hardware sample rate converters, and audio mixing. Its multi-core architecture enables you to implement real-time features (e.g., quick-boot, backup camera support, and media processing) parallel to the execution of advanced OSes, such as QNX Neutrino RTOS, Windows Embedded Automotive, or Linux.

The SoC’s media hardware accelerators enable features such as 4× HD 1080p video encoding/decoding including Blu-ray support at 60 frames per second, image/voice recognition, and high-resolution 3-D graphics with almost no CPU load. These implemented hardware modules also execute the display content improvements needed for HMI/navigation data similar to movie/DVD handling.
Contact Renesas for pricing.

Renesas Electronics Corp.
www.renesas.com


KNX Device Control

The KNX Gateway enables HAI by Leviton’s Omni and Lumina Ethernet-based controllers to communicate with and control KNX devices through KNX’s standardized network communications bus protocol. You can use an HAI by Leviton interface or automated controller programming to control KNX devices (e.g., lighting devices, temperature and energy management, motors for window coverings, shades, and shutters) in homes and businesses.

The KNX Gateway maps specific data points of each KNX device to a unit or thermostat number on the HAI by Leviton controller. The interface between the KNX Gateway and the HAI by Leviton controller utilizes a RS-485 serial connection.

Compatible controllers include HAI’s OmniPro II home-control system, Omni IIe, Omni LTe, Lumina Pro, and Lumina. The KNX Gateway is powered by either a power over Ethernet (PoE) connection or a 12-to-24-V AC/DC converter.
Contact Leviton for pricing.

Leviton Manufacturing Co., Inc.
www.leviton.com


DC/DC Controller Uses Only a Single Inductor

The LTC3863 is a high-voltage inverting DC/DC controller that uses a single inductor to produce a negative voltage from a positive-input voltage. All of the controller’s interface signals are positive ground referenced. None of the LTC3863’s pins are connected to a negative voltage, enabling the output voltage to be limited by only the external components selection.

Operating over a 3.5-to-60-V input supply range, the LTC3863 protects against high-voltage transients, operates continuously during automotive cold crank, and covers a broad range of input sources and battery chemistries. The controller helps increase the runtime in battery-powered applications.

It has a low 70-µA quiescent current in Standby mode with the output enabled in Burst Mode operation. The LTC3863’s output voltage can be set from –0.4 to 150 V or lower at up to 3 A typical, making it well suited for 12-or-24-V automotive, heavy equipment, industrial control, telecommunications, and robotic applications.

The LTC3863 drives an external P-channel MOSFET, operates with a selectable fixed frequency between 50 and 850 kHz, and is synchronizable to an external clock from 75 to 750 kHz. Its current-mode architecture provides easy loop compensation, fast transient response, cycle-by-cycle overcurrent protection, and excellent line regulation. Output current sensing is accomplished by measuring the voltage drop across a sense resistor.
The LTC3863’s additional features include programmable soft start or tracking, overvoltage protection, short-circuit protection, and failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) verification for adjacent pin opens and shorts.

The LTC3863 is offered in 12-pin thermally enhanced MSOP and 3-mm × 4-mm QFN packages. The controllers cost $2.06 in 1,000-unit quantities.

Linear Technology Corp.
www.linear.com


Enhanced Web-Based Monitoring Software

HOBOlink is a web-enabled software platform that provides 24/7 data access and remote management for Onset Computer’s web-based HOBO U30 data logging systems. The software’s enhanced version enables users to schedule automatic delivery of exported data files in CSV or XLSX format, via e-mail or FTP.

HOBOlink can configure exported data export in a customized manner. For example, a user with four HOBO U30 systems measuring multiple parameters may configure HOBOlink to automatically export temperature data only. The time range may also be specified.

HOBOlink also enables users to easily access current and historical data, set alarm notifications and relay activations, and manage and control HOBO U30 systems without going into the field. An application programming interface (API) is available to organizations that want to integrate energy and environmental data from HOBOlink web servers with custom software applications.
Contact Onset for pricing.

Onset Computer Corp.
www.onsetcomp.com


Digitally Tunable Capacitors for LTE Smartphones

Peregrine Semiconductor expanded its DuNE digitally tunable capacitor (DTC) product line with six second-generation devices for antenna tuning in 4G long-term evolution (LTE) smartphones. The PE623060, PE623070, PE623080, and PE623090 (PE6230x0) DTCs have a 0.6-to-7.7-pF capacitance range and support main antenna power handling of up to 34 dBm. The PE621010 and the PE621020 (PE6210x0) DTCs have a 1.38-to-14-pF capacitance range and are optimized for power handling up to 26 dBm, making them well suited for diversity antennas. The highly versatile devices support a variety of tuning circuit topologies, particularly impedance-matching and aperture-tuning applications.
The PE6230x0 DTCs are optimized for key cellular frequency bands from 700 to 2,700 MHz, featuring direct battery voltage operation with consistent performance enabled by on-chip voltage regulation.

The 5-bit, 32-state PE623060/70/80 DTCs have a 0.9-to-4.6-pF capacitance range. The 4-bit, 16-state PE623090 DTC has a 0.6-to-2.35-pF capacitance range. The PE623090 DTC’s lower minimum capacitance solves a critical problem in high-frequency tuning. The 5-bit, 32-state PE6210x0 DTCs support the 100-to-3,000-MHz frequency range. These DTCs extend the range of diversity antennas and improve data rates by optimizing the antenna performance at the operating frequency. The PE621010 DTC has a 1.38-to-5.90-pF capacitance range.

The PE6230x0 and PE6210x0 product families enable designers to develop smaller, higher-performing antennas. The product’s antenna-tuning functions—including bias generation, integrated radio frequency (RF) filtering and bypassing, control interface, and electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection of 2-kV human body model (HBM)—are incorporated into a slim, 0.55-mm × 2-mm × 2-mm package. All decoding and biasing are integrated on-chip, and no external bypassing or filtering components are required.
Contact Peregrine for pricing.

Peregrine Semiconductor Corp.
www.psemi.com

Electrical Engineer Crossword (Issue 274)

The answers to Circuit Cellar’s May electronics engineering crossword puzzle are now available.Across

1.            MOSIPROTOCOL—Adds a state indicating ownership [two words]

3.            SPECTROMETER—Measures wavelengths

8.            SHELL—Protects an operating system’s kernel

10.          CHARGE—Q

12.          ASSIGN—A FORTRAN control statement

13.          HALL—American physicist (1855–1938) who had an “effect” [two words]

15.          FIELDPROGRAMMABLE—Configurable after purchase [two words]

17.          MOUNTPOINT—In a Linux system, create this first to access the queue [two words]

19.          CORDIC—Calculate digit by digit

20.          MEISSNEREFFECT—Flux jumping [two words]

 

Down

2.            INTERPROCESSCOMMUNICATION—Data exchanging method [two words]

4.            SQUIRRELCAGE—Commonly used in asynchronous motors [two words]

5.            DEGLITCHER—Type of delay circuit, serves as a pulse generator

6.            MERCURYARC—Emits  bright bluish-green light [two words]

7.            BALLGRIDARRAY—Packages ICs [three words]

9.            THREADEDCODE—A compiler technique [two words]

11.          DARAF—Unit of elastance

14.          AMPEREHOUR—3,600 coulombs [two words]

16.          RIPPLE—Unwanted undulation

18.          NIXIE—Used for numeric display

 

CC274: A Sensory Experience

The May issue of Circuit Cellar provides a number of articles focusing on how to utilize measurements and sensors in your designs.

Knowing how to generate a magnetic field to calibrate a sensor can help with a number of

Winding 25 turns of 26 AWG enamel wire on a toroid is normally difficult, but that slit made it very easy. You would wind much smaller wire on a toroid used as an inductor.

DIY projects. Most electronic devices use inductors or transformers that depend on magnetic fields. In the May issue, Ed Nisley describes how he used a small ferrite toroid to produce a known magnetic field, which he utilized to calibrate some cheap Hall-effect sensors he obtained on eBay (p. 52).

“While the results certainly don’t transform cheap sensors into laboratory instruments, you can use them for tech jewelry with a clear conscience,” Nisley says. “You’ll also have a better understanding of magnetic fields, which may come in handy when you’re building inductors.”

Whether you’re designing a small controller for your own use or an electronic device for mass production, it’s important to keep “testability” in mind. So, it’s a good idea to make a dedicated tester for your product part of the design process at the outset. Such a tester can ensure your device is working properly in your workshop—before it ships to a customer. On page 56, George Novacek describes how an inexpensive tester can bolster an electronic device’s reliability and increase its marketability.

Brothers Robert and Donald Kunzig, both with backgrounds in the telecommunications industry, stepped outside the technologies most familiar to them when they took on an ambitious project—to produce an accurate and easy to use wireless, energy-usage monitor. They also wanted the monitor to hold its collected data even during a power outage or a router issue. Did they succeed? Check out their article on page 18 to find out.

The DNA sequencer’s design includes a motor controller, a light sensor amplifier, and an injector driver circuit.

While DNA, the molecule that provides genetic instruction to all living organisms, is complex, building a DNA sequencer can be relatively simple. Fergus Dixon used a light sensor amplifier,  a motor controller, and an injector driver circuit to fulfill a customer’s request for a DNA sequencer with a color screen and full connectivity via Ethernet or Bluetooth (p. 26)

If you’re a DIYer who is nervous about possible levels of radiation in your home, find out how to build a hand-held radiation sensor on page 60.

Also, Jesús Calviño-Fraga describes how he built a serial port-to-SPI bridge programmer, the “S2S Dongle,” which functions without a pre-programmed microntroller (p. 34).

Finally, this issue includes articles that wrap up intriguing projects Circuit Cellar introduced in April.

Last month, Jeff Bachiochi explored the musical instrument digital interface (MIDI). In Part

An Atmel ATmega88 microcontroller is at the heart of the CNC router controller.

2, he focuses on a hardware circuit that can monitor the MIDI messages sent between his project’s MIDI devices, which include a Harmonix drum kit used with the Xbox version of the Rock Band video game (p. 68).

Brian Millier calls his construction of a microcontroller-based, G-code controller for a CNC router one of his most challenging DIY projects. The second article in his series focuses on two functional blocks: the axis controller and the host controller (p. 42.)