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electronica 2010: Taking Stock and Looking Forward

November 16, 2010
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The intervening two years between electronica 2008 and electronica 2010 has seen the economic downturn take grip. Individual nations, both established and emerging have had to take stock and, in many cases, stringent measures too. All major industries have felt the impact of the crisis and are having to adapt to the prevalent market conditions, while individual companies have generally had to take stock and address issues such as efficiency, organisation, investment, etc. The ability of an industry to grow through the research and development of new technology is key to future prosperity, so electronica 2010, which was held at the New Munich Trade Fair Centre from 9 to 12 November, was a significant barometer of how the ‘economic’ has impacted the ‘electronic’.

In fact, on the first day of the event an audience of 350 attended the CEO Round Table to hear the CEOs from four leading semiconductor manufacturers – Infineon Technologies, Freescale Semiconductor, STMicroelectronics and NXP Semiconductors – debate: “What have we learnt from the crisis?”

While recognising that, in the past, manufacturers had developed products that did not match customers’ requirements, the participants agreed that leading companies in the semiconductor industry had purposefully invested in R&D during the crisis in order to make sure that they emerged from it in better shape. Also, while welcoming an upturn, particularly in the last two months, they conceded that the scale of improvement had led to delivery bottlenecks at times and accepted that, in future, such bottlenecks can only be avoided through closer cooperation between manufacturers and customers in order to match requirements at an early stage.

While recognising and accepting the significance of the economic downturn, especially as the lessons learnt must form the basis of how to ensure development in the future, electronica 2010 focused on providing a platform for the electronics industry to showcase its current activity and look forward.

TRADE FAIR

With over 70,000 trade visitors and 2,595 exhibitors from 45 countries, the Trade Fair emphasised its position as the international meeting-place for the electronics industry. electronica 2010 covered the entire spectrum of technologies, products and solutions, from semiconductors, sensors, measurement and testing, electronics design, passive components, power supply, PCBs and other non-mounted circuit carriers through to EMS.

Due to the strength of the automotive industry in the Munich area in particular, and Germany in general, together with the increasing use of electronics in automotive applications, this sector of the electronics market was well represented with 1,281 exhibitors presenting products and services related to automotive applications.

Electronic applications in medical technology were also to the fore with 1,156 exhibitors displaying innovations in medical electronics. Environmental issues were also highlighted as a total of 518 exhibitors presented electronic products for the management and monitoring of photovoltaic systems and the topic of renewable energies was prevalent throughout the trade fair. At the end of the show there was general agreement amongst exhibitors that companies can expect stable growth in the future and are banking on innovative future technologies.

CONFERENCES

Complementary to the Trade Fair were three associated conferences. This year the two-day electronica automotive conference was attended by 323 delegates from 23 countries. The first day included presentations about markets and strategies from leading executives in the semiconductor, supply and automotive industries. The second day covered topics ranging from charging infrastructure, high-voltage contactors and multi-channel 77 GHz radar solutions to the capabilities of components in electric drive systems.

The Wireless Congress 2010: Systems & Applications considered wireless applications as a driving force for research and development and was aimed at developers, system designers, technology decision-makers, project managers and wireless system authorities. It offered an insight into current applications, safety aspects, certification and qualification problems, test and measurement, standards and market opportunities.

Finally, CARTS Europe 2010, organized by the Electronic Components Association, aimed to provide component engineers and designers with the latest technical and market intelligence on capacitors, resistors and other passive components.

FORUMS

Four sector-specific forums – the automotive forum, the embedded forum, the electronica forum and the ZVEI forum (ZVEI standing for the German National Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers Association) – offered panels of experts and other specialists a platform to deliver company presentations and discussions and introduce new products and innovative systems. The automotive forum and embedded forum are self-explanatory and were sector specific, while the electronica forum and ZVEI forum concentrated on general technology topics and other applications such as MEMS, medical electronics, wireless, organic electronics, photovoltaics and renewable energies.

PRODUCT ANNOUNCEMENTS

electronica 2010 covered the entire electronics spectrum, not all of which is pertinent to Microwave Journal readers. However, a number of manufacturers active in the RF and microwave sector targeted the show for new product introductions. To provide a flavour of the diversity and variety that the Trade Fair offered the following provides a cross-section of some of the new products showcased. It is impossible to mention them all here and apologies to any company not represented.

Taking centre stage for its worldwide debut for Aeroflex was the S-Series RF signal generator family. The range of instruments has been designed from the ground up to meet the expectations of today’s engineers for instant answers at the touch of a screen. Buttons, rotary controls, and deeply nested software menus have all been removed. A modular format, featuring the new Aerolock™ locking mechanism, allows additional RF instruments such as a second signal generator and combiner to be mechanically coupled externally by the user.

The first in the series is the Aeroflex SGA analogue RF signal generators that are currently available in two models: the SGA 3, which has an operating frequency range of 100 kHz to 3 GHz, and the SGA 6 covering 100 kHz to 6 GHz. A typical single sideband (SSB) phase noise specification of -135 dBc/Hz at 20 kHz offset from a 1 GHz carrier means that the SGA signal generator can easily measure receiver selectivity beyond 80 dB. Fast frequency settling times of 1 ms in conventional frequency selection mode, or 100 µs in list mode, make the instrument suitable for frequency hopping and semiconductor test applications, as well as ensuring maximum throughput in a production environment.

Maximum RF output power is +13 dBm, with a resolution of 0.01 dB, and a high power option is available to extend the maximum calibrated RF level to +20 dBm. Power level can be switched rapidly using an electronic attenuator, in less than 100 µs to within 0.1 dB of final value, and repeatability is better than 0.05 dB. A digital sweep of carrier frequency, RF level and modulation source is included, with single, continuous or externally triggered modes, as well as a list mode sweep facility.

In the future, the S-Series is planned to include digital signal generators for wireless-specific measurements including LTE, LTE-A and IEEE 802.11ac standards, and a range of signal analyzers.

Analog Devices Inc. unveiled new technologies for precision control, measurement, and monitoring solutions for industrial and instrumentation, healthcare and automotive applications. The company’s stand featured a series of demonstrations that showcased ADI’s latest innovations in data conversion, high-performance linear, motion sensing, RF, and digital signal processing (DSP) technologies as they are being applied to a wide range of applications.

AVX Corp. has developed a power film capacitor series specifically for DC filtering applications. Designated the FFLI Series, the advanced power film capacitor has a life expectancy of 100,000 hours. The power film capacitors feature Capacitance/Voltage (CV) ratings of up to 3,000 μF and 1,900 Vdc/100 Arms, and can operate in temperatures of up to 95°C. Qualified to IEC 61071 for power electronic capacitors, the FFLI Series also meets IEC 60068-1 environmental testing requirements and IEC 61373 shock and vibration tests.

The company has also expanded its stacked, surface mount multilayer ceramic capacitor (MLCC) product offering to include what is claimed to be the highest capacitance for a given MLCC package. Designated the RH Series, the range extension features 50 V and 100 V devices with maximum capacitance values of 33 μF and 22 μF respectively. The advanced capacitor series provides good overvoltage protection and improves ripple current capability and VC performance while offering low ESR.

Featuring a stress relieving lead frame, the RH Series is suitable for military and aerospace applications and can be used as an input and output filter capacitor in high frequency DC-DC converter applications above 10W, where high volume and low cost is required.

Chin Nan featured its wide range of coaxial cable assemblies used in RF and Wireless LAN devices where high frequency, low loss and advanced testing are required. They are built in accordance with military specifications and provide good electrical performance from DC to 27 GHz. Two of the company’s connectors were highlighted. The SMT connectors are said to be one of the world’s smallest and lightest. These connectors and cable assemblies are typically used in mobile phone, radio communication, measurement, GPS, wireless LAN and Bluetooth applications. The ultra-miniature SMT connectors provide operation up to 6 GHz at 50 Ω.

Secondly, the New N connector is designed for special structures. This new version connector provides high reliability performance and is lightweight, which maintains the basic structural parameters of the original Type N. The connectors are widely used in aerospace, broadcast, audio and video applications as well as for many microwave components.

Crystek Corp.’s latest offerings in frequency control technology were showcased. TO-8 VCOs provide high-performance frequency control in harsh, demanding environments and the company’s CVCOT8BE line features a full-functioning VCO in a rugged, hermetically sealed TO-8 package to protect the VCO from moisture, contaminants and other environmental elements. The metal-can construction features gold plated pins with no internal wire bonds for enhanced signal integrity.

Also featured were: Armoured LL142 low-loss RF cable assemblies, which incorporate a spiralled stainless steel casing, along with extra fortification provided by heavy-duty adhesive strain relief with a Neoprene jacket; Low Pass Filters encased in a rugged SMA housing, which are designed for test equipment and general lab use; the CCK40 Series Cable Assemblies that are designed to operate up to 40 GHz, provide an attenuation value of 0.90dB/ft. at 40 GHz and feature a rugged stainless-steel solder-clamp construction and heavy duty strain reliefs; and the CVCO55CXT-6900-6900 Coaxial Resonator Oscillator (CRO), which is a coaxial-based VCO with an internal proprietary frequency doubler.

Fairchild Semiconductor demonstrated its latest technological advancements for mobile applications, as well as power solutions that focus on the smart grid. Aimed at illustrating the fact that Fairchild’s high-performance semiconductors help design engineers develop energy-efficient electronic applications, the stand featured technology demonstrations that enable mobile connectivity and optimize energy usage in power supplies (AC/DC and DC/DC), mobile, LED lighting, motor, solar, computing, consumer and automotive applications.

Of particular interest were packaging advances such as the FDMS2504SDC – an N-Channel MOSFET produced using the company’s PowerTrench® process. Advancements in both silicon and Dual Cool™ package technologies have been combined to offer the lowest RDS (ON), while maintaining good switching performance via extremely low junction-to-ambient thermal resistance.

As well as showcasing its approved products, IMST featured the company’s latest developments including the iM860A and iM201A wireless modules. Emphasis was also given to IMST’s wireless building blocks, which is a modular building block system for a fast, flexible and cost-effective realization of wireless communication solutions.

Linear Technology and Energy Micro combined their expertise in energy harvesting power supplies and ultralow power 32-bit microcontrollers to produce a ground-breaking demonstration. Based on Energy Micro's low cost starter development kit, the demonstration relied on Linear Technology's LTC®3588 piezoelectric energy harvesting power supply and Energy Micro's ARM® Cortex™-M3 enabled EFM32 Gecko microcontroller to create a wireless sensor node acquiring data from a three-axis accelerometer and transmitting it over a ZigBee RF transceiver.

The energy harvested from a piezoelectric transducer is stored on a capacitor bank for later consumption by the accelerometer and radio according to the MCU's optimized sequencing software. The EFM32 Gecko spends the majority of its time in sleep mode until woken by the LTC3588's 'power good' signal. The MCU monitors energy levels at all times to ensure total circuit consumption stays below harvested energy levels.

Two new laser systems were introduced by LPKF. The StencilLaser G 6080 is the first to achieve inspection cuts during the cutting process; without requiring additional time. The LPKF StencilLaser and the associated software now provide an optimization in production where every element of the stencil can be assigned separate quality standards: at lower standards edge perforations with the laser moves into gear, achieving noteworthy performance. The process optimization also includes the control of cutting gasses and alternates between compressed air and industrial gasses as required by the process.

The LPKF MicroLine 1000 P, a compact UV laser, is intended for industrial applications of cutting flexible substrates with high precision. A special vision tool combines two position recognition systems; increasing the bulk even with complex input geometries.

Nordic Semiconductor exhibited its full range of ULP 2.4 GHz transceivers and wireless connectivity solutions, including the company’s full range of 2.4 GHz transceivers plus demonstrations of supporting evaluation kits, software development kits and reference designs for applications such as wireless desktop peripherals, RF remote controls and wireless sensors. Highlights included Europe’s first public showing of the company’s new ANT transceiver, the nRF24AP2-USB, which integrates a proven 2.4 GHz ULP transceiver core and 8-channel ANT protocol stack in a compact 5 by 5 mm QFN package.

Other products on display included the company’s flagship nRF24LE1 single chip (incorporating 8-bit MCU, flash memory and proven nRF24L01+ 2.4 GHz transceiver core) and the nRF24LU1+ that enables ultra-compact USB dongles for 2.4 GHz wireless peripherals. Nordic’s ULP wireless experts were also on hand to discuss the recently released Bluetooth Version 4.0 Core Specification that includes Bluetooth® low energy wireless technology as a hallmark feature.

NXP Semiconductors presented innovative high-performance mixed-signal (HPMS) products and new solutions for its product portfolio of RF, analogue, power management and digital processing products. Specific focus was on state-of-the-art, energy-efficient solutions that can be used for smart metering, with the company unveiling a 32-bit energy meter that is specially designed for non-billing applications and is based on an ARM Cortex-M0 processor.

Other innovations included the new Cortex-M4-based microcontroller series, a ZigBee-based wireless lighting network and an LED headlight solution for automakers. Also featured were new, efficient system management chips and the latest developments from the Standard Products business unit.

Following a management buyout in early 2010 Plessey Semiconductors targeted electronica as a platform to demonstrate the company’s capabilities, focusing on its core competencies in finding solutions for sensing, measurement and control applications across a range of markets including medical, defence, automotive, manufacturing, and space.

The Plessey product portfolio consists of RF components, sensors and power management devices that take advantage of the high packing densities, high operating frequencies and sensing capabilities of Plessey’s process technologies. The company also announced that it will be extending its chip manufacturing capabilities to include silicon germanium (SiGe) for BiCMOS 70 to 90 GHz RF devices.

Pulse introduced components and application solutions for equipment manufacturers in the access network, automation, motor control, Smart Energy, and metering markets. The Wireless Devices Group introduced a series of specific antennas for metering and M2M-based applications from IP65 industrial 2.4 GHz antennas, covering Bluetooth to ZigBee and other ISM band standards, to stubby cellular 2G, 2.5G, and 3G antennas and active GPS solutions for location responsive applications.

In particular, the company introduced its new near field communication (NFC) stamp antenna for mobile phones and portable wireless devices. This very small 15 mm by 20 mm by 5 mm antenna can be integrated with a main antenna so they both fit inside a 40 mm by 21 mm by 5 mm module, enabling both 13.56 MHz NFC communication and frequency ranges of 824-960 MHz and 1710-2170 MHz for wireless connectivity using GSM and WCDMA in the same device.

The NFC antenna operates at a frequency of 13.56 MHz, has an H-field of 1.5A/m, and a return loss of -25 dB. The main antenna is a penta-band antenna. For the 824 to 960 MHz frequency range it has an efficiency of 58 percent/-2.35 dB peak, 27/48 percent/ -5.7/-3.1dB band edges, and a return loss of -5.2 dB. In the 1710 to 2170 MHz frequency range it has efficiencies of 59 percent/ -2.3 dB peak and 40/45 percent/ -3.9/-3.4 dB band edges with a return loss of -5.1 dB. Both antennas have an impedance of 50 Ω and have operating temperatures ranging from -40° to +85°C. The separate NFC antenna can be integrated in the device back cover with a snap-fit structure also available.

Oscilloscopes, real-time analysis up to 30 GHz, network analysis and signal generation in the millimetre-wave range were the focus for Rohde & Schwarz. In particular, the company has added a new option to its R&S SMB100A signal generator family to extend the frequency range to 12.75 GHz. Now, the wide range of applications for the R&S SMB100A also includes interference measurements in wireless communications. Equipped with its integrated pulse generator and another new option, the R&S SMB100A can now generate complex pulse sequences such as those needed for radar tests.

Also featured was the R&S FSVR real-time spectrum analyzer that combines a general-purpose signal and spectrum analyzer with a real-time spectrum analyzer up to 30 GHz. In real-time mode, the instrument is claimed to detect everything, from sporadic events to ultrashort signals.

electronica also provided a platform for the company to showcase its fast, easy to use, and precise oscilloscopes for all performance classes – the new product line that was launched at the end of June. In cooperation with its Hameg subsidiary, the company now offers oscilloscopes in three performance classes covering five bandwidths: the economical and powerful basic oscilloscopes from Hameg, the mid-range R&S RTM oscilloscopes for everyday measurement tasks, and the high-performance R&S RTO oscilloscopes.

A new introduction was the R&S®IQR digital I/Q data recorder, which can record, store and replay digital RF signals loss-free and in real-time over the I/Q interface developed by Rohde & Schwarz. When used in combination with the company’s RF scanners, generators and network analyzers, the recorder completes a high-performance, continuous analysis system for digital RF signals. The compact recorder – in half 19-inch format – currently offers transmission rates of up to 66 Msample per second. It comes with a robust, interchangeable solid-state drive with one Tbyte of storage capacity and a recording rate of 270 Mbyte per second. The system has applications in broadcasting, mobile radio, aerospace and defence, and the automobile industry.

RF Micro Devices (RFMD) continues to expand its portfolio of products and technologies for the wireless and wired broadband. The company targeted electronica to make key announcements. Particular focus was on the company’s breakthrough GaN-based products, such as the RF3932 – a DC to 3 GHz 78 W unmatched power transistor (UPT) for high-power applications, and RFMD's recently announced RFPD2650 hybrid power doubler amplifier for CATV infrastructure applications.

The company also displayed its newly released RFSA2614 and RFSA2624 digital step attenuators, which address 3G/4G/LTE and WiMAX markets, and the RF6535 – a single-chip ZigBee front end module (FEM) that is optimized specifically for smart energy and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) applications including smart meters.

The release of the RF3932 follows on from that of the 140W RF3934, which is the highest output power device in RFMD's UPT family. The RF3932 operates over a broad frequency range (DC to 3 GHz) and delivers high peak efficiency of >65 percent. Additionally, it incorporates simple, optimized matching networks external to the package, providing wideband gain and power performance advantages in a single amplifier. The RF3932 is packaged in a hermetic, flanged ceramic two-leaded package that leverages RFMD's advanced heat sink and power dissipation technologies to deliver excellent thermal stability and conductivity. The 75 W RF3932 and the 140 W RF3934 are optimal for both driver and/or output stages, depending on overall power requirements.

The company also announced that it has teamed up with Freescale Semiconductor to deliver ZigBee® solutions for a broad range of smart grid applications. RFMD’s newly introduced RF6535 ZigBee FEM has been combined with Freescale’s MC1321x System-in-Package (SiP) to create the RF6535/MC1321x reference design. This reference design simplifies RF design requirements, while reducing product cost and complexity. The reference design is targeted at ZigBee Smart Energy and Home Area Network (HAN) applications that require high RF performance to ensure a robust and reliable operation in varying environments. Working together, the two companies are addressing the need for aggressive size reductions in IEEE 802.15.4 designs with a reduced solution footprint and minimized component count.

Vectron International announced a number of new products, including its new family of 1588 oscillators. The OX-402, OX-222 and OX-202 are specifically designed and tested to support 1588-based timing applications. They bring the best possible stability characteristics to a cost effective platform with a small footprint, and come in industry standard 14 by 20 mm, 22 by 25 mm and 25 by 25 mm footprints, respectively. All devices are Stratum 3E compliant and are currently available with output frequencies of 10 MHz, 12.8 MHz and 20 MHz.

The company also claims to have launched the industry’s lowest phase noise LVPECL crystal oscillator. The new VC-708 is available in a 5 by 7 mm footprint achieving 50fsec of RMS jitter over an integrated bandwidth. Displayed alongside was the VX-990 Voltage Controlled Crystal Oscillator. Featuring Vectron’s SR-45 crystal technology, the VX-990 is capable of meeting -127 dBc/Hz at a 100 Hz offset at 120 MHz, in addition to an ultra low phase noise floor below -175 dBc/Hz.

Finally, the new family of SAW IF Filters are specifically optimized to support transceiver and repeater designs in emerging LTE applications. To address the variety of LTE deployment types, the new filters can be customized for centre frequencies ranging from 50 MHz to 1 GHz and different bandwidths from 3.5 MHz to 75 MHz.


Recent Articles by Richard Mumford, Microwave Journal International Editor

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