Synchronous Buck Regulator with Output Tracking and Sequencing for FPGAs and Microprocessors

Intersil Corp. recently announced the availability of the ISL8002B synchronous buck (step-down) switching regulator, which delivers up to 2 A of continuous output current from a 2.7- to 5.5-V input supply. Its 2-MHz switching frequency provides superior transient response, and its key features—including programmable soft-start and output tracking and sequencing of FPGAs and microprocessors—increase system reliability for point-of load conversions in networking, factory automation, instrumentation, and medical equipment.Intersil ISL8002B

The ISL8002B enables greater system reliability through several innovative features. For example, the regulator’s output tracking and sequencing of FPGAs and MPUs ensures sensitive multi-rails properly start up and shutdown. In addition, its output rails are configurable for coincidental, ratio metric, or sequential settings, ensuring the FPGA or MPU’s internal ESD diodes are not biased or overstressed during rising or falling outputs. The ISL8002B’s undervoltage lockout and several other protection/stability features protect the system from damage from unwanted electrical fault events. And its unique negative current protection prevents switch failure.

The ISL8002B’s superior transient response and high level of integration enable a complete synchronous step-down DC/DC converter solution in less than a 0.10 in2 footprint. By integrating low RDS(ON) high-side PMOS and low-side NMOS MOSFETs, the buck regulator eliminates the need for a bootstrap capacitor and diode. Its high efficiency enables the use of small inductors to further reduce board space.

Features and specifications:

  • Dimensions: 2 mm × 2 mm
  • Output tracking and sequencing
  • Switching at high frequency, 2 MHz
  • High peak efficiency: up to 95%
  • Wide input voltage range: 2.7 to 5.5 V
  • Maximum output current: 2A
  • Under voltage lockout, overvoltage protection
  • Selectable PFM or PWM operation
  • Over current, short-circuit protection
  • Over temperature/thermal protection

The ISL8002B synchronous buck regulator is available in a 2 mm  × 2 mm, eight-pin TDFN package. It costs $1 in 1,000-piece quantities. The ISL8002B DEMO1Z demonstration board is available for $23.

Source: Intersil Corp.

 

 

27-GHz Bandwidth Socket for Xilinx FLGA2577 BGA Package

Ironwood Electronics recently introduced a new high-performance BGA socket for 1-mm pitch, 2577 pin BGA ICs. The SG-BGA-6422 socket is designed for IC size 52.5 × 52.5 mm and operates at bandwidths up to 27 GHz with less than 1 dB of insertion loss. The sockets are designed to dissipate up to several watts without extra heat sinking and can handle up to 100 W with custom heat sink. The contact resistance is typically 20 mΩ per pin. The socket connects all pins with 27-GHz bandwidth on all connections. The socket is mounted on the target PCB with no soldering and uses industry’s smallest footprint. The socket is constructed with shoulder screw and swivel lid which incorporates a quick insertion method so that ICs can be changed out quickly. The socket comes with ball guide for the precise alignment of BGA balls to PCB pads.Ironwood C14363b

The SG-BGA-6422 socket is constructed with high performance and low inductance elastomer contactor. The temperature range is –35°C to 100°C. The pin self inductance is 0.15 nH and mutual inductance of 0.025 nH. Capacitance to ground is 0.01 pF. Current capacity is 2 A per pin. It works with ICs such as Xilinx BGA, 52.5-mm square package with 51 × 51 array and 1-mm pitch.

The SG-BGA-6422 is $1805, with reduced pricing available depending on the quantity required.

Source: Ironwood Electronics

Embedded SIM Controllers for Secure M2M Communication

Secure cellular Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication enables automated data exchange. Infineon Technologies recently announced the SLM 97 and SLI 97 security controller families. The new products stand out with unique features required for M2M communication in industrial as well as automotive applications such as emergency Call (eCall) and Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication.Infineon SLI97-SLM97

For the past 10 years, Infineon has provided high-quality security controllers used for M2M applications in the industrial and automotive sectors. For instance, Infineon supplies leading European car manufacturers with security controllers for eCall and other connectivity solutions for vehicles.

With the launch of the new SLM 97 and SLI 97 product families, Infineon strengthens its position in the growing industrial M2M and connected car markets. The new products enable the full implementation of embedded SIM as defined by GSMA and ETSI, increasing flexibility and simplifying the deployment of new M2M solutions.

Both SLM 97 and SLI 97 provide the following:

  • an extended temperature range from –40° to 105°C and high endurance for operation in demanding industrial and automotive environments
  • up to 1-MB SOLID FLASH memory, allowing fast prototyping and shortening time-to-market for device manufacturers
  • a set of hardware crypto-coprocessors supporting all relevant crypto schemes
  • a wide range of interfaces including ISO7816, SWP, USB, I2C, SPI to address a large variety of industrial and automotive applications
  • Common Criteria EAL 5+ (High) certification

The SLM 97 security controllers are tailored to industrial M2M applications requiring high endurance and robustness. They are qualified according to internationally recognized industrial standards and delivered in standard embedded M2M packages as well as in standard SIM card module.

The SLI 97 security controllers are qualified according to the high quality automotive standards (AEC-Q100) and tailored to the difficult environmental conditions of automotive applications. They pass through exhaustive quality processes to minimize failure rates. This makes them the perfect products for SIM cards or embedded security products in connected cars. Both families are based on field-proven products deployed in traditional Smart Card markets worldwide.

Source: Infineon Technologies

Static Code Analysis for MSP430 Microcontrollers

IAR Systems, the leading vendor of embedded development tools, is proud to introduce its latest product innovation C-STAT. C-STAT provides powerful static analysis and is now available fully integrated in the high-performance development toolchain IAR Embedded Workbench for Texas Instruments’s (TI) MSP430 MCUs.IAR C-STAT

Important concerns for embedded developers today include adherence to coding standards, as well as increased application complexity that might interfere with code quality. Using a flexible static code analysis tool like C-STAT addresses both these issues by detecting potential code errors in complex applications and by ensuring compliance with coding standards applicable for embedded applications in various segments.

C-STAT is a powerful static analysis tool that executes fast and provides analysis results directly in the IAR Embedded Workbench IDE. It checks compliance with rules as defined by coding standards including MISRA C:2004, MISRA C++:2008 and MISRA C:2012, as well as hundreds of rules based on, for example, the Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) and CERT C/C++. Users can easily select which rule-set or which individual rules to check the code against. The tool detects potential code errors including for example memory leaks, access violations, arithmetic errors and array and string overruns. By finding such errors early, developers can take full control of their code and lower the risk of breaking the budget and deadline for a project.

Source: IAR Systems

New SQI Interface SuperFlash Memory Devices

Microchip Technology recently launched the SST26VF family of 3-V Serial Quad I/O interface (SQI interface) SuperFlash memory devices. Available with 16-, 32- or 64-Mb of memory, the “26 Series” family is manufactured using Microchip’s high-performance CMOS SuperFlash technology.

The SST26VF memory family provides fast erase times due to its use of SuperFlash technology. Sector and block erase commands are completed in just 18 ms, and a full chip erase operation is completed in 35 ms. Competitors’ devices require 10 to 20 s to complete a full chip erase operation, making the SST26VF approximately 400× faster. These fast erase times can provide a significant cost savings to customers, by minimizing the time required for testing and firmware updates, and therefore increasing their manufacturing throughput.Microchip SST26VF

Microchip’s SQI interface is a low pin count, high-speed 104 MHz quad-bit address and data multiplex I/O serial interface, which allows for high data throughput in a small package. This interface enables low-latency execute-in-place (XIP) capability with minimal processor buffer memory, reducing the overall design footprint compared to traditional parallel memory interfaces. The SST26VF family provides faster data throughput than a comparable x16 parallel flash device, without the associated high cost and high pin count of parallel flash. The SQI interface also offers full command-set backward compatibility for the ubiquitous SPI protocol.

Designed for low power consumption, the SST26VF is ideal for energy-efficient embedded systems. Standby current consumption is 15 µA (typical), and the active read current at 104 MHz is 15 mA (typical). The combination of 3-V operation with low power consumption and small-form-factor packaging makes the SST26VF devices an excellent choice for applications such as servers, printers, cloud computing systems, HDTV, Internet gateways, appliances, security systems, and a broad range of embedded systems.

The SST26VF devices also offer 100 years of data retention and device endurance of over 100,000 erase/write cycles. Enhanced safety features include software write protection of individual blocks for flexible data/code protection. In addition, the upper and lower 64 KB of memory are partitioned into smaller, 8-KB sectors that can both read- and write-lock. In addition, the devices include a One-Time Programmable (OTP) 2-KB Secure ID area, consisting of a 64-bit, factory-programmed unique ID and a user-programmable block. These features protect against unauthorized access and malicious read, program and erase intentions. The devices also include a JEDEC-compliant Serial Flash Discoverable Parameter (SFDP) table, which contains identifying information about the functions and capabilities of the SST26VF devices for simpler software design.

The three-member SST26VF family is available now for sampling and volume production in multiple package options, including eight-pin SOIC and SOIJ, 16-pin SOIC, eight-contact WDFN and 24-ball TBGA, as well as in die and wafer form. In 10,000-unit quantities, the 16-Mb SST26VF016B starts at $0.90 each, the 32-Mbit SST26VF032B starts at $1.17 each, and the 64-Mbit SST26VF064B starts at $1.84 each.

Source: Microchip Technology

The Future of Flexible Circuitry

The flexible circuit market has been growing steadily for the last three decades. This trend will continue into the foreseeable future as flexible circuitry supports many of the same industries and many of the same applications that have been around for more than 30 years. Past and current industries include military and avionics with most of these applications being high layer count, high-density rigid flex, and also consumer electronics, telecom, and automotive applications with flex circuit designs that are typically less complex than those of mil/aero. Medical diagnostic applications will continue to grow as new equipment is developed and older equipment is refurbished or redesigned. But if I had to sum up an answer to the question “where is flex going in the near future?” my answer would be simply “on you.”

The wearable electronics market has absolutely exploded in the last few years with new applications emerging almost daily. If an electronic device is going to be worn on the body comfortably, it has to be flexible. So what better way to provide interconnects for these types of devices than a flex circuit? Here are just a few of the current and emerging wearable products that contain flexible circuitry.

Wrist-Worn Activity and Body Function Monitors: Electronic watches were some of the first wearable electronics, so it was just a natural progression to include more advanced functionality than just time keeping. Wrist-worn activity monitors are light weight and use multiple axis accelerometers and other sensors to detect motion and body functions. They can capture and record daily activity levels as well as sleep cycles. This data is stored in on-board memory in the device until it can be downloaded to the user’s mobile phone. Since the human hand is larger than the wrist, these monitoring bands need to be able to expand when the user is putting it on or taking it off. Flexible circuits allow the band to flex while maintaining connectivity across flexing sections.

Foot-Worn Sensors: I have seen a lot of applications recently for electronics that are worn on the foot or inside the shoe. Foot-worn electronics monitor everything from steps taken when running or walking to stride irregularities that can contribute to back problems. These sensors need to be very thin in order to be comfortable and also very robust to survive in what I would consider a pretty hostile environment. Flexible circuitry is thin enough to lay on the sole of a shoe and be almost undetectable to the wearer.

Wearable Baby Monitors: Baby monitors are one of the newer products in the wearable electronics market. New parents no longer have to rely on a simple walkie talkie system to keep tabs on their little ones while they sleep. These monitors can be worn on the baby’s leg or in their clothing and can keep track of breathing, heartbeat, body temperature, etc. If the device senses that there is a problem, an alert is sent to the parents phone to wake them. It is almost like having a private nurse watching the child all night long.

Medical Sensors: This is an area that has been growing rapidly, and I predict that the trend will continue at an accelerated rate. With today’s push to get patients out of the hospital as quickly as possible, electronic home monitoring of the patient is going to be necessary. There are currently sensors that can be worn by the patient for several days at a time, while keeping tabs on heart functions continuously during this time. Just like the baby monitor referred to earlier, these devices can send alerts to the patient’s physician if any abnormalities are detected. These devices will allow a patient to recover from heart attack or surgery in the comfort of their own home while still having continuous monitoring of their state of health.

Pet Monitors: Even Rover gets to wear electronics these days. Training collars have been around for a while, but now thanks to shrinking electronics there are collars that contain GPS and mobile phone capabilities. Today a lost pet can use the GPS to figure out where he is and call his owner for a ride home! Not really, but if your pet is wearing one of these devices he is never truly lost. The mobile phone module is used to transmit the GPS coordinates to tracking service, where the owner can log on and track the pet’s location to within a few feet.

Clothing Worn Electronics: This is an area that is just starting to emerge, and new technology is being developed to support these applications. Standard flex circuitry is constructed from a combination of polyimide film, thermo-setting film adhesive, and copper foil. Unfortunately, flex circuits fabricated with these materials will not survive the crumpling that they would be exposed to in a washing machine. I have seen several applications where flex has been incorporated into clothing that does not need to be machine washed (e.g., flexible heaters in winter gloves). The key to making this type of wearable application machine washable is to make the flex circuit not only flexible, but also stretchable. This means that both conductors and dielectrics must be developed that will allow the finished product to stretch and still maintain electrical continuity. This technology is not mainstream yet, but it is on its way.

These examples are just a small sampling of the applications that are currently on the market, and there are many others in development. As more and more of these applications emerge, flexible circuitry will continue to be the interconnect method of choice.


Mark Finstad is a Senior Application Engineer at Flexible Circuit Technologies in Minneapolis, MN. He is a nationally recognized expert in the design, fabrication, and test of flexible and rigid flex printed circuits with more than 30 years of experience in the flexible PCB industry.

This article appears in Circuit Cellar 296 (March 2015).

Issue 296: EQ Answers

Answer 1—The frequency generated at the QB output of the counter is 16.000 MHz × 3 / 13 = 3.6923 MHz. The ratio between this and 3.6864 MHz is 1.0016, so the error expressed as a percentage is +0.16%. This is well within the tolerance required for asynchronous serial communications.

Answer 2—The circuit generates rising edges (also falling edges) at intervals of 4 clocks, 4 clocks and 5 clocks, but the ideal spacing would be 4.3333 clocks. Therefore two of the intervals are short by 1/3 clock and one of them is long by 2/3 clock.

Therefore, the cycle-to-cycle peak-to-peak jitter is 1/3 + 2/3 = 1 full input clock period, or 62.5 ns. But taking an average over a complete group of 13 clocks, no edge is displaced from its “ideal” location by more than 1/3 clock, or 20.8 ns.

Answer 3—The following table shows the divider ratios required for various standard baud rates.297 eq answers

As you can see, a modern UART can generate the clocks for baud rates up to 38400 with the exact same error as the 3/13 counter scheme — note that 26 and 52 are multiples of 13. But above that, the frequency error increases. This is why microcontrollers with built-in UARTs often run at “oddball” frequencies such as 11.0592 MHz or 12.288 MHz — these freqeuncies can be easily divided down to produce precisely correct baud rates.

Answer 4—A UART receiver waits for the leading edge of the start bit, and then samples the next 10 bits in the center of each bit “cell”. If by the time it gets to the 10th cell, the sampling point at the receiver has moved beyond the edge of the 10th bit (the stop bit) defined by the transmitter, the transmission will fail. This means that the timing error must be no more than ± 1/2 bit over a 9.5-bit span, or a total error between transmitter and receiver of ±5.26%. If the error is split evenly, this means that each baud rate generator must be accurate to within ±2.63%.

However, in reality, the receiver cannot determine the location of the leading edge precisely. Since it is using a 16× clock to do the sampling, there could be as much as 1/16 of a bit delay before the receiver actually recognizes the start bit, and all of its sampling points for the subsequent bits will be delayed by that amount. This means that the timing error must be no more than ± 7/16 of a bit by the time we get to the last bit, which means that the maximum total error is ±4.60%, or ±2.30% for each baud rate generator.

 

 

Advances in Haptics Research

Katherine J. Kuchenbecker is an Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at the University of Pennsylvania, with a secondary appointment in Computer and Information Science. She directs the Penn Haptics Group, which is part of the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing, and Perception (GRASP) Laboratory. In this interview, she tells us about her research, which centers on the design and control of haptic interfaces for applications such as robot-assisted surgery, medical simulation, stroke rehabilitation, and personal computing.

Katherine J. Kuchenbecker

Katherine J. Kuchenbecker

CIRCUIT CELLAR: When did you first become interested in haptics and why did you decide to pursue it?

KATHERINE: I chose to become an engineer because I wanted to create technology that helps people. Several topics piqued my interest when I was pursuing my undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at Stanford, including mechatronics, robotics, automotive engineering, product design, human-computer interaction, and medical devices. I was particularly excited about areas that involve human interaction with technology. Haptics is the perfect combination of these interests because it centers on human interaction with real, remote, or virtual objects, as well as robotic interaction with physical objects.

My first exposure to this field was a “haptic paddle” lab in a Stanford course on system dynamics, but that alone wouldn’t have been enough to make me fall in love with this field. Instead, it was conversations with Günter Niemeyer, the professor who advised me in my PhD at Stanford. I knew I wanted a doctorate so that I could become a faculty member myself, and I was inspired by the work he had done as an engineer at Intuitive Surgical, Inc., the maker of the da Vinci system for robotic surgery. Through my early research with Günter, I realized that it is incredibly satisfying to create computer-controlled electromechanical systems that enable the user to touch virtual objects or control a robot at a distance. I love demonstrating haptic systems because people make such great faces when they feel how the system responds to their movements. Another great benefit of studying haptics is that I get to work on a wide variety of applications that could potentially impact people in the near future: robotic surgery, medical training, stroke rehabilitation, personal robotics, and personal computing, to name a few.

CIRCUIT CELLAR: What is haptography? What are its benefits?

KATHERINE: I coined the term “haptography” (haptic photography) to proclaim an ambitious goal for haptics research: we should be able to capture and reproduce how surfaces feel with the same acuity that we can capture and reproduce how surfaces look.

When I entered the field of haptics in 2002, a lot of great research had been done on methods for letting a user feel a virtual three-dimensional shape through a stylus or thimble. Essentially, the user holds on to a handle attached to the end of a lightweight, back-drivable robot arm; the 3D Systems Touch device is the most recent haptic interface of this type. A computer measures the motion that the person makes and constantly outputs a three-dimensional force vector to give the user the illusion that they are touching the object shown on the screen. I was impressed with the haptics demonstrations I tried back in 2002, but I was also deeply disappointed with how the virtual surfaces felt. Everything was soft, squishy, and indistinct compared to how real objects feel. That’s one of the benefits of being new to a field; you’re not afraid to question the state of the art.

I started working to improve this situation as a doctoral student, helping invent a way to make hard virtual surfaces like wood and metal feel really hard and realistic. The key was understanding that the human haptic perceptual system keys in on transients instead of steady-state forces when judging hardness. I had to write a research statement to apply for faculty positions at the end of 2005, so I wrote all about haptography. Rather than trying to hand-program how various surfaces should feel, I wanted to make it all data driven. The idea is to use motion and force sensors to record everything a person feels when using a tool to touch a real surface. We then analyze the recorded data to make a model of how the surface responds when the tool moves in various ways. As with hardness, high-frequency vibration transients are also really important to human perception of texture, which is a big part of what makes different surfaces feel distinct. Standard haptic interfaces weren’t designed to output high-frequency vibrations, so we typically attach a voice-coil actuator (much like an audio speaker) to the handle, near the user’s fingertips. When the user is touching a virtual surface, we output data-driven tapping transients, friction forces, and texture vibrations to try to fool them into thinking they are touching the real surface from which the model was constructed.

After many years of research by my PhD students Heather Culbertson and Joe Romano, we’ve been able to create the most realistic haptic surfaces in the world. My work in haptography is motivated by a belief that there are myriad applications for highly realistic haptic virtual surfaces.

One exciting use is in recording what doctors and other clinical practitioners feel as they use various tools to care for their patients, such as inserting an epidural needle or examining teeth for decay (more on this below). Haptography would enable us to accurately simulate those interactions so that trainees can practice critical perceptualmotor skills on a computer model instead of on a human patient.

Another application that excites us is adding tactile feedback to online shopping. We’d love to use our technology to let consumers feel the fabrics and surfaces of products they’re considering without having to visit a physical store. Touch-mediated interaction plays an important role in many facets of human life; I hope that my team’s work on haptography will help bring highly realistic touch feedback into the digital domain.


Read Circuit Cellar’s interviews with other engineers, academics, and innovators.


CIRCUIT CELLAR: Which of the Penn Haptics Group’s projects most interest you at this time?

KATHERINE: That’s a hard question! I’m excited about all of the projects we are pursuing. There are a few I can’t talk about, because we’re planning to patent the underlying technology once we confirm that it works as well as we think it does. Two of those that are in the public domain have been fascinating me recently. Tactile Teleoperation: My lab shares a Willow Garage PR2 (Personal Robot 2) humanoid robot with several of the other faculty in Penn’s GRASP Lab. Our PR2’s name is Graspy.

This wearable device allows the user to control the motion of the PR2 robot’s hand and also feel what the PR2 is feeling. The haptic feedback is delivered via a geared DC motor and two voice-coil actuators.

This wearable device allows the user to control the motion of the PR2 robot’s hand and also feel what the PR2 is feeling. The haptic feedback is delivered via a geared DC motor and two voice-coil actuators.

While we’ve done lots of fun research to enable this robot to autonomously pick up and set down unknown objects, I’d always dreamed of having a great system for controlling Graspy from a distance. Instead of making the operator use a joystick or a keyboard, we wanted to let him or her control Graspy using natural hand motions and also feel what Graspy was feeling during interactions with objects.

My PhD student Rebecca Pierce recently led the development of a wearable device that accomplishes exactly this goal. It uses a direct drive geared DC motor with an optical encoder to actuate and sense a revolute joint that is aligned with the base joint of the operator’s index finger. Opening and closing your hand opens and closes the robot’s paralleljaw gripper, and the motor resists the motion of your hand if the robot grabs onto something. We supplement this kinesthetic haptic feedback with tactile feedback delivered to the pads of the user’s index finger and thumb. A voice coil actuator mounted in each location moves a platform into and out of contact with the finger to match what the robot’s tactile sensors detect. Each voice coil presses with a force proportional to what the corresponding robot finger is feeling, and the voice coils also transmit the high-frequency vibrations (typically caused by collisions) that are sensed by the MEMS-based accelerometer embedded in the robot’s hand. We track the movement of this wearable device using a Vicon optical motion tracking system, and Graspy follows the movements of the operator in real time. The operator sees a video of the interaction taking place. We’re in the process of having human participants test this teleoperation setup right now, and I’m really excited to learn how the haptic feedback affects the operator’s ability to control the robot.

high-bandwidth MEMS-based accelerometer records the sensations a dentist feels as she probes an extracted human tooth. Feeling these recordings lets dental trainees practice diagnosing dental decay before they treat live patients.

The high-bandwidth MEMS-based accelerometer records thesensations a dentist feels as she probes an extracted human tooth. Feeling these recordings lets dental trainees practice diagnosing dental decay before they treat live patients.

CIRCUIT CELLAR: In your TEDYouth talk, you describe a project in which a dental tool is fitted with an accelerometer to record what a dentist feels and then replay it back for a dental student. Can you tell us a bit about the project?

KATHERINE: This project spun out of my haptography research, which I described above. While we were learning to record and model haptic data from interactions between tools and objects, we realized that the original recordings had value on their own, even before we distilled them into a virtual model of what the person was touching. One day I gave a lab tour to two faculty members from the Penn School of Dental Medicine who were interested in new technologies. I hit it off with Dr. Margrit Maggio, who had great experience in teaching general dentistry skills to dental students. She explained that some dental students really struggled to master some of the tactile judgments needed to practice dentistry, particularly in discerning whether or not a tooth surface is decayed (in popular parlance, whether it has a cavity). A few students and I went over to her lab to test whether our accelerometer-based technology could capture the subtle details of how decayed vs. healthy tooth tissue feels. While the recordings are a little creepy to feel, they are super accurate. We refined our approach and conducted several studies on the potential of this technology to be used in training dental students. The results were really encouraging, once again showing the potential that haptic technology holds for improving clinical training.

CIRCUIT CELLAR: What is the “next big thing” in the field of haptics? Is there a specific area or technology that you think will be a game changer?

KATHERINE: Of course this depends on where you’re looking. While cell phones and game controllers have had vibration alerts for a long time, I think we’re just starting to see highquality haptic feedback emerge in consumer products. Haptics can definitely improve the user experience, which will give haptic products a market advantage, but their cost and implementation complexity need to be low enough to keep the product competitive. On the research side, I’m seeing a big move toward tactile feedback and wearable devices. Luckily there are enough interesting open research questions to keep my students and me busy for 30 more years, if not longer!

The complete interview appears in Circuit Cellar 296 (March 2015).

Gecko Bluetooth Smart Solutions for Low-Power Wireless Connectivity

Silicon Labs today has launched a Bluetooth Smart solutions portfolio intended to minimize the energy consumption, cost, and complexity of wireless Internet of Things (IoT) designs. Silicon Labs’s new Blue Gecko solutions include ultra-low-power wireless system-on-chip (SoC) devices, embedded modules, and Bluegiga’s software development kit (SDK) and Bluetooth Smart software stack. Blue Gecko wireless SoCs and modules help you simplify design and speed time to market for a wide range of applications (e.g., connected home, wearable, and automotive).

The Blue Gecko portfolio addresses the largest, fastest-growing low-power wireless connectivity opportunity in the IoT market. It provides developers with the flexibility to begin development with modules and transition to SoCs when needed with little to no system redesign.SiliconLabs-Blue-Gecko

The first in a family of wireless SoCs optimized for IoT applications, Blue Gecko SoCs combine Silicon Labs’ energy-friendly EFM32 Gecko MCU technology with an ultra-low-power Bluetooth Smart transceiver. This innovative, single-die solution provides industry-leading energy efficiency, the fastest wake-up times, superior RF sensitivity and no-compromise MCU features combined with the Bluegiga Bluetooth Smart software stack to help developers reduce system power, cost and time to market. Unlike other Bluetooth Smart IC alternatives, a Blue Gecko SoC can transmit +10 dBm or higher output power with its fully integrated power amplifier and balun, further reducing design complexity.

Blue Gecko SoCs are based on the ARM Cortex-M3 and M4 cores and offer 128- to 256-KB flash sizes and 16- to 32-KB RAM sizes. The SoCs integrate an array of low-energy peripherals as well as Silicon Labs’s Peripheral Reflex System (PRS) for autonomous peripheral operation. The Blue Gecko SoC family also offers a roadmap of enhanced flash and RAM memory sizes and additional package options to meet future application needs.

Bluegiga modules based on Blue Gecko SoCs are designed to help developers accelerate time to market and reduce development costs and compliance risks by providing a precertified, plug-and-play RF design. Bluegiga Bluetooth Smart modules incorporate all features of Blue Gecko SoCs and are certified for use in all key markets including North America, Europe, Japan and South Korea. Bluegiga modules include the Bluegiga Bluetooth Smart software stack and profile toolkit and come with 256 kB flash and 32 kB RAM, providing ample available memory for onboard applications. Flexible hardware interfaces enable easy connection to a variety of peripherals and sensors, and an integrated antenna makes RF operation consistent and straightforward for the design engineer. Bluegiga Bluetooth Smart modules provide very low power operation, enabling wireless system designs to be powered from a standard 3-V coin cell battery or two AAA batteries.

Samples of Bluegiga modules based on Blue Gecko SoCs are scheduled to be available in late Q2 2015. Samples of Blue Gecko wireless SoCs are planned to be available in early Q3 in 5 mm × 5 mm QFN32 and 7 mm × 7 mm QFN48 packages. Pricing for Blue Gecko-based Bluegiga modules starts at $4.99 in 10,000-unit quantities. Blue Gecko SoC start at $0.99 in 100,000-unit quantities. The Bluegiga SDK and Bluetooth Smart software stack will be available to Silicon Labs customers at no charge.

Source: Silicon Labs

Next-Generation 6½, 7½ Digit Performance Digital Multimeters

Keysight Technologies recently announced the availability of two Truevolt Series digital multimeters (DMMs)—the 34465A DMM (6½ digit) and the Keysight 34470A DMM (7½ digit). The new DMMs help engineers visualize measurement data in multiple ways, quickly obtain actionable information, and easily document their results. Truevolt DMMs’ advanced graphical capabilities, such as trend and histogram charts, enable you to achieve greater insights faster. Both models offer three acquisition modes: continuous running for typical measurements, data logging for easier trend analysis, and a digitizing for capturing transients.keysight truevolt

The Keysight 34465A DMM offers engineers a new, higher-performance 6½ digit class of DMM, and provides higher speed, better accuracy and more memory. The 7½ digit 34470A DMM is a new product category of DMMs for Keysight and provides even greater resolution and accuracy, a requirement for today’s most challenging devices. Both DMMs offer deeper memory for data storage than previous generation DMMs. They also provide the ability to measure very low current, 1 µA range with picoamp resolution, for measurements on very low power devices.

Most DMMs show results on a low-resolution numeric display. With the Keysight Truevolt Series, engineers get a 4.3″, high-resolution color display to view numerical readings, measurement trends, histograms and statistical data. They also can save and recall their measurement states and display preferences.

The DMMs Easy File Access feature provides simple USB connectivity between the Keysight Truevolt DMMs and a PC using standard USB media transfer protocol. In addition, the DMMs include drag and drop measurement data capability, adjust instrument settings, and the ability to send screen images to PC applications without additional software.

BenchVue lets engineers control, capture and view Keysight’s DMMs simultaneously with other Keysight bench instruments and with no additional programming. With a single click, engineers can transfer data to a PC via USB, LAN or GPIB for additional viewing and analysis.

Real signals are never clean or noise free. They often have an AC component from power line noise or other environmental noise such as electromagnetic interference. How well a DMM deals with these extraneous factors and eliminates them from the true measurement makes a big difference to its accuracy. Using patented analog-to-digital converter technology, Keysight Truevolt Series DMMs account for measurement errors created by these common factors, so engineers can be confident in their measurements.

  • Keysight Truevolt DMMs have less than 30 percent of the amount of injected current attributed to the meter compared with DMMs made by other vendors.
  • In typical measurement situations, input currents create measurement errors, adding voltages to DMM results. Truevolt DMMs take care of input bias current. Other vendors’ DMMs offer 20 percent less performance (some are too noisy to get reliable measured results).
  • In the 6½ and 7½ digit class of meters, only Keysight uses digital direct sampling techniques to make AC rms measurements. This results in a true RMS calculation and avoids the slow response of analog RMS converters used in all other vendor’s 6½ and 7½ and digit DMMs, allowing for crest factors up to 10 without additional error terms.
  • The new 7½ digit 34470A DMM has the best combination of speed and resolution as well as greater accuracy and better linearity, offering the best value in its class.

Keysight Truevolt Series DMMs are currently available. The 34465A costs $1,395. The 34470A is $2,890.

TrueTouch Capacitive Touchscreen Controllers with Advanced Features

Cypress Semiconductor has introduced the TrueTouch CYTT21X/31X capacitive touchscreen controller family, which is intended to enable smartphones, e-readers, and low-cost tablets to offer several advanced features. The CYTT31X supports input from a passive stylus with a tip as thin as 2.5 mm, which is essential for writing in languages that require enhanced character recognition for reliable text input (e.g., Chinese, Korean and Japanese). The CYTT21X controller supports a face detection feature that prevents unintended touches from accidentally hanging up a call. This feature eliminates the need for IR proximity sensors by using the touchscreen sensor to detect a face 25-mm away.cypress truetouch

The CYTT21X/31X controllers enable ultra-thin form factors by leveraging Cypress’s Single-Layer Independent Multi-touch (SLIM) sensor structures. The controllers provide best-in-class accuracy and linearity for fingers of different sizes and gloves of various materials and thicknesses up to 5 mm, including ski gloves. In addition, they automatically switch between glove, stylus, and finger tracking without requiring you to switch settings. The family offers water rejection and wet finger tracking with immunity to electronic noise generated by aftermarket chargers and displays. The CYTT21X/31X controllers include up to 48 I/Os with an I2C interface and up to 44 I/Os with an I2C and SPI.

The CYTT21X/31X controllers deliver robust immunity to charger noise of up to 35 VPP. The controllers are based on a 32-bit ARM Cortex M-Core processor that is known for high-efficiency MIPS/mW. With Cypress’s DualSense technology to execute both self-capacitance and mutual-capacitance measurements in the same device, TrueTouch solutions offer water rejection and wet finger tracking for seamless performance in real-world conditions, including the presence of rain, condensation, or sweat.

The TrueTouch CYTT21X/31X controllers are currently sampling, with production expected in the second quarter of 2015. The controllers are available in mobile-friendly 44-pin, 48-pin and 56-pin QFN packages.

Source: Cypress Semiconductor

New Microcontrollers Feature Advanced Analog & Digital Integration

Microchip Technology recently announced a new family of 8-bit PIC microcontrollers (MCUs) with the PIC16(L)F1769 family, which is the first to offer up to two independent closed-loop channels. This is achieved with the addition of the Programmable Ramp Generator (PRG), which automates slope and ramp compensation, increases stability and efficiencies in hybrid power conversion applications. The PRG provides real-time responses to a system change, without CPU interaction for multiple independent power channels. This allows customers the ability to reduce latency and component counts while improving system efficiency.Microchip PIC16(L)F1769

The PIC16(L)F1769 family includes intelligent analog and digital peripherals, including tristate op-amps, 10-bit ADCs, 5- and 10-bit DACs, 10- and 16-bit PWMs, and high-speed comparators, along with two 100-mA, high-current I/Os. The combination of these integrated peripherals help support the demands of multiple independent closed-loop power channels and system management, while providing an 8-bit platform that simplifies design, enables higher efficiency and increase performance while helping eliminate many discrete components in power-conversion systems.

In addition to power-conversion peripherals, these PIC MCUs have a unique hardware-based LED dimming control function enabled by the interconnections of the Data Signal Modulator (DSM), op amp and 16-bit PWM. The combination of these peripherals creates a LED-dimming engine synchronizing switching control eliminating LED current overshoot and decay. The synchronization of the output switching helps smooth dimming, minimizes color shifting, increases LED life and reduces heat. This family also includes Core Independent Peripherals (CIPs), such as the Configurable Logic Cell (CLC), Complementary Output Generator (COG), and Zero Cross Detect (ZCD). These CIPs take 8-bit PIC MCU performance to a new level, as they are designed to handle tasks with no code or supervision from the CPU to maintain operation, after initial configuration. As a result, they simplify the implementation of complex control systems and give designers the flexibility to innovate. The CLC peripheral allows designers to create custom logic and interconnections specific to their application, reducing interrupt latency, saving code space and adding functionality. The COG peripheral is a powerful waveform generator that can generate complementary waveforms with fine control of key parameters, such as phase, dead-band, blanking, emergency shut-down states, and error-recovery strategies. It provides a cost-effective solution, saving both board space and component cost. The ZCD senses when high voltage AC signal crosses through ground, ideal for TRIAC control functions.

These new 8-bit PIC MCUs provide the capability for multiple independent, closed loop power channels and system management making these products appealing to various power supply, battery management, LED lighting, exterior/interior automotive lighting and general-purpose applications. Along with all these features, the family offers EUSART, I2C/SPI and eXtreme Low Power (XLP) Technology, which are all offered in small form-factor packages, ranging from 14- to 20-pin packages.

The PIC16(L)F1769 family is supported by Microchip’s standard suite of world-class development tools, including the MPLAB ICD 3 (part # DV164035, $199.95) and PICkit 3 (part # PG164130, $47.95) and MPLAB Code Configurator, which is a plug-in for Microchip’s freeMPLAB X IDE provides a graphical method to configure 8-bit systems and peripheral features, and gets you from concept to prototype in minutes by automatically generating efficient and easily modified C code for your application.

The PIC(L)F1764, PIC(L)F1765, PIC16(L)F1768, and PIC(L)F1769 are available now for sampling in 14- and 20-pins in PDIP, SOIC, SSOP, TSSOP, and QFN packages. Pricing for the family starts at $0.87 each, in 10,000-unit quantities.

Source: Microchip Technology