Microwave Journal
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electronica 2016 – A Brave New World for Electronics

November 16, 2016

electronica 2016 presented an image of Planet e – a modern world fashioned and enabled by electronics. The power and influence of electronics that stretches across the globe and impacts on everyday lives on a daily basis was encapsulated and demonstrated by the biannual Fair that took place at the Messe München from 8 to 11November 2016.

With a strong focus on industry trends electronica 2016 provided a platform for 2,913 exhibitors from more than 50 countries to showcase the latest technology, attracting approximately 73,000 trade visitors from more than 80 countries. Besides Germany, the countries with the largest number of visitors were Italy, Austria, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, France, Switzerland, USA, Israel, the Russian Federation, Poland and Slovenia, respectively. There was a significant increase in the number of visitors from France, China, Slovenia, Turkey and Israel.

In all regions electronics is at the forefront of innovation. Whether its PCBs, semiconductors, sensors, connectors etc, electronica is the singular forum to discover which components, systems and applications are evolving and making developments such as smart homes, connected car, etc possible. Not forgetting, not that anyone could, the Internet of Things, the potential of which seems to hold no boundaries.

Complementing the trade fair electronica 2016 offered an extensive program of supporting events. There were four conferences with prominent speakers that gave visitors the chance to gain in-depth knowledge in the Automotive, Embedded, Wireless and Industry 4.0 sectors.

The day before the fair started, the electronica Automotive Conference saw 228 visitors from more than 20 countries participate where they exchanged information about specific topics that play an important role in the evolution of the industry. These included autonomous driving, electromobility, power electronics, power supplies, safety and communication.

The Embedded Platforms Conference is a communication platform for suppliers of components, tools, software and solutions who discussed and considered the requirements and challenges associated with embedded platforms now and in the future.

Wireless technologies are becoming increasingly efficient and increasingly diverse, whether they are used in industrial, consumer, communication or computer applications, in the automobile or for building automation. To address these issues the Wireless Congress considered fundamental principles, technology trends, security aspects, certification and licensing problems and metrology know-how as well as standards, market opportunities and applications for current and future wireless technologies, primarily for industrial use.

IT2Industry@electronica that pertains to the age of Industry 4.0 comprised a trade fair and open conference and addressed topics that covered the entire production process on the road to the smart factory, i.e. automation, industry software, data networks, infrastructure and production logistics, IT security, big data and the cloud, IT and energy, and machine-to-machine (M2M). The IT2Industry Open Conference considered best practices, innovative solution approaches and available products, bringing together domestic and international visionaries.

There were also five theme-oriented forums that gave participants an opportunity to exchange ideas and information about the latest developments with experts. Four covered the specific subjects of: Automotive, Cyber Security, the Industrial Internet of Things and Solid State Lighting, while the fifth was an Exhibitor Forum. There was also particular focus on Wearables Healthcare and a PCB & Components Marketplace.

However, it is the vast and extensive Trade Fair that took centre stage. This year it took on an even grander scale than in 2014 by increasing in size from 12 to 13 halls due to greater exhibitor demand and new features and increased in size from 133,000 square meters of exhibition space to 143,000 square meters.

Product Focus

With the electronics industry being so wide and diverse, not all on show at electronica 2016 was pertinent to Microwave Journal readers, particularly as many companies had launched and showcased their latest products at European Microwave Week in October. To provide an idea of the diversity and variety that the trade fair offered the following provides a cross-section of some of the products showcased. It is impossible to mention them all here and apologies to any company not represented.

Test, Measurement & EDA Software

After its premier at EuMW Aaronia showed the electronics world its RTSA ULTRA View Software where they could view almost limitless data all emanating from a small SPECTRAN V5 hand held real time spectrum analyzer. Also featured was the company’s mobile Drone Detection System (DDS), which exploits RF radiation emitted by the UAV’s onboard systems and by the operator’s control unit. Real-time RF signal detection, combined with what the company terms ‘pattern triggering’, provides rapid warning of any UAV or UAV control unit that is operating within the area being monitored. Two types of 3D direction-finding antenna are offered by the Drone Detector – the IsoLOG 3D 80 and IsoLOG 3D 160. These have eight sectors with 16 antennas, and 16 sectors with 32 antennas respectively. Both cover the 680 MHz to 6 GHz range and extenders are available should VLF (9 kHz to 680 MHz) and 6-20 GHz coverage be required. The company also featured its1 Hz to 20 GHz RF Command Centre, 1 Hz to 40 GHz EMC and EMI antennas and 23 MHz to 6 GHz signal generators.

Anritsu showcased a variety of instruments. Of particular interest in the RF and microwave sector is the ultraportable Site Master™ S331P, which is claimed to be the lightest, smallest, fastest and most cost-efficient Site Master field cable and antenna analyzer. Two models covering 150 kHz to 4 GHz and 150 kHz to 6 GHz are available. This wide bandwidth means that it can support low frequency radio communications environments, including public safety networks, as well as higher frequency applications, such as LTE-U in the 5 GHz unlicensed spectrum. The Site Master S331P features an Integrated Help function to aid users in making measurements, as well as a Classic Mode of operation that maintains the de facto industry standard Site Master look and feel to simplify performing tests. Other key ranges on show included the Spectrum Master high performance handheld spectrum analyzer and the Power Master frequency selectable mmWave power analyzer.

For the RF and microwave community the main focus of interest on the Computer Simulation Technology (CST) booth was the upcoming version of the company’s electromagnetic simulation tool, CST STUDIO SUITE® 2017 that includes several new features which allow individual components to be combined and simulated effectively. Brand new is Filter Designer 3D (FD3D) – a design and synthesis tool for cross-coupled cavity filters. With FD3D, filter designers can design for arbitrary filter response with easy placement of transmission zeros and a wide range of coupling resonator topologies available to realize the corresponding filter response. FD3D can also extract the coupling matrix which helps to analyze and tune a device, and also includes diplexer filter synthesis. The asymptotic solver, CST’s ray-tracing (SBR) solver for the analysis of very large platforms, makes a significant advance with the introduction of antenna-to-antenna coupling. Antennas can be imported as nearfield or farfield sources and integrated on the platform, and the asymptotic solver can calculate the coupling parameters between them.

Ingun announced the launch of a new website that offers data sheets or product information for every product online. One of those products that was featured at electronica 2016 was the robust WS SPEA/3030 interchangeable kit that is designed for use in SPEA 3030 test systems. It is composed of the interchangeable kit bottom part (WSU) and the interchangeable kit top part (WSO), which is available with a 15 mm pressure frame plate made of ESD-compatible Plexiglas. The kit features a robust design with aluminium frames, a bend-resistant FR4 probe plate, as well as and ESD compatible, precision-guided pressure frame plate. In addition, the kit has a two-part, floating mounted test system interface with stiffener bars and start-up kit as optional extras.

Keysight Technologies demonstrated how software solutions and measurement services can help engineers deliver electronic products to market faster, and at lower cost, in the areas of: Automotive and energy, embedded design, wireless communication and IoT. The solutions included: the X-Series Signal Analyzers that go from wide-open, real-time analysis, to low-cost essential measurements; from deep troubleshooting, to one-button measurements, with a broad set of application-specific software. The Infiniium S-Series Oscilloscopes range from 500 MHz to 8 GHz and offer excellent signal integrity, 10-bit ADC, low noise front-end, a superior time base, signal processing in hardware, and responsive deep memory. Also featured were FieldFox Handheld RF and Microwave Analyzers that range from 4 to 50 GHz, and capture every signal with real-time spectrum analysis up to 50 GHz. Finally, the Advanced Design System is electronic design automation software for RF, microwave, and high speed digital applications, used to pioneer the innovative and commercially successful technologies, such as X-parameters and 3D EM simulators.

National Instruments (NI) showed a wide portfolio that covered application areas including automated test systems, RF and mixed signal production test and semiconductor test offering solutions including smart test systems for smart devices, semiconductor testing and testing for RF applications. A key product is NI's second-generation PXI Vector Signal Transceiver (VST) that offers 1 GHz of instantaneous RF bandwidth for signal generation and analysis.  It has a 6.5 GHz RF vector signal generator, 6.5 GHz vector signal analyzer, user programmable Virtex-7 690T FPGA, and high-speed serial interface into a single two-slot PXI module.  Built on the LabVIEW reconfigurable I/O (RIO) architecture, it delivers programming flexibility and cutting-edge RF hardware. Also, TestStand is an industry-standard test management software that helps test and validation engineers build and deploy automated test systems faster.  It includes a ready-to-run test sequence engine that supports multiple test code languages, flexible result reporting, and parallel/multithreaded test.

Pico Technology had a significant presence and showcased its large portfolio. The latest being the PicoConnect passive probes that allow cost-effective fingertip browsing of broadband signals or data streams out to 9 GHz or 18 Gb/s. These include the now ubiquitous USB 2 & 3, HDMI 1 & 2, Ethernet, PCIe, SATA and LVDS standards. With less than 0.4 pF tip capacitance and ground-referred loading of 220 Ω to 910 Ω, the probes allow broadband oscilloscope and spectrum analyzer users to browse circuitry, backplanes, interconnect and systems, typically without interrupting their function. The company offers probe division ratios of ÷5, ÷10 and ÷20 in twelve probe models. Each is provided in two probe impedances to suit either low-voltage, highest-speed, typically digital applications or higher-voltage analogue and pulse applications and in every case, there is a DC or AC coupled option.

Rohde & Schwarz presented what it claims to be the first over-the-air (OTA) power measurement solution for 5G and wireless gigabit components. The new R&S NRPM OTA power measurement solution enables users in development and production to calibrate the transmit antenna's output power and test its beamforming function using a simple test setup. The R&S NRPM operates in the 27.5 GHz to 75 GHz frequency range. A compact 19" EMC test box (R&S TS7124) additionally allows shielded RF measurements. The company's 5G test setup at electronica also comprised an R&S SMW200A vector signal generator and an R&S FSW85 signal and spectrum analyzer required to test solutions for candidate waveforms and new frequency bands, for example. Using the R&S TS-5GCS channel sounding software, the two instruments can also characterize the new wireless channels in order to determine their optimal use. Users in the automotive sector could also view the R&S FSW85 signal and spectrum analyzer that analyzes FMCW chirp signals up to 2 GHz bandwidth and covers the 24 GHz and 79 GHz frequency bands allocated to automotive radars with a single device. Furthermore, the ARTS9510 automotive radar target simulator, the R&S TS7124 shielded RF test box and the R&S NRP8S power sensor, which provide an optimized measurement solution for production tests on automotive radar sensors were demonstrated.

Cables & Conductors

Electronica 2016 saw the debut of the NEX 10 miniature low PIM RF coax connector system for small cell applications created in partnership by Huber + Suhner, Radiall and Rosenberger. The highlights of the NEX10 connector system are its robustness, small size, PIM stability and flexibility of different coupling mechanisms, such as torque/screw and push-pull. The minimum flange height is 12.7 mm and the NEX10 interface’s robust design eliminates any damage or operator errors during installation and is optimized for cable sizes of up to ¼” corrugated cables. The weather protection boot, which is part of the interface, makes it optimum for outdoor use under extreme weather conditions.

Huber + Suhner featured the SUCOFLEX 526V assembly that is highly stable versus temperature and bending and is claimed to guarantees the highest level of satisfaction when it comes to test and measurement. Not only is it extremely flexible and easy to use thanks to its design, it also delivers phase and amplitude stability with flexure, movement, temperature and tensile stress. Similarly, the Quick-Fit Plus is a connector system for corrugated cable that was created to simplify the assembling process to fit different interfaces. It is mountable in the field and is easy to assemble thanks to its one-piece design. In combination with an all-in-one stripping tool for ½” cables, the Quick-Fit Plus can be deployed very quickly. Also the company’s ATEX entry and surge protective devices are compliant to the ATEX Directive 2014/34/EU for use in potentially explosive atmospheres or hazardous locations and are in accordance with IEC/EN 60079 series of explosive atmosphere standards.

Rosenberger focused on applications for test & measurement, communication and automotive. The test and measurement products included its range of Compact Calibration Kits for MSOT (4-in-1) and MSO (3-in-1) calibration. The former combines an open, short, load and thru element for complete MSOT calibration of vector network analyzers with two or more ports. Also featured was the RPC-1.00 Connectors with 50 Ω impedance and 1.00 mm outer conductor that can be used for applications up to 110 GHz. In the communications sector the Variable Interface Adaptor (VIA) series is designed for board-to-board and board-to-module RF interconnections. The High-speed FAKRA Mini (HFM) automotive coax connector system up to 50 GHz offers high transmission up to 20 Gbps.  The connectors offer this high-bitrate transmission while saving installation space and weight. Also for automotive, the High Power Super Speed Data (HPD micro harness system is for high power and high data transmission, whose optimized design allows transmitting data rates up to 10 Gbps.

Devices, Components and PCBs

Amber Wireless, part of Würth Elektronik, featured the AMB8826 ultra low power radio module with compact dimensions (17 by 27mm), a power consumption of 17 mA at 10 dBm and versatile network functions such as a 10 km long-range mode or a mesh-net function. It incorporates the new TI CC1310 System on Chip with a sub-GHz transceiver, 32 bit ARM Cortex-M3 CPU, 64 kB flash memory and a PCB antenna. It comes with an easy to use command interface and is compatible with the existing AMB8x26 module family and it is radio compatible with AMB8426, AMB8626 and AMB8420.

Coilcraft introduced its XEL60xx family of high-current, low-loss power inductors, employing a new design, which offers extremely low DCR (as low as 1.35 mΩ) and ultra-low AC losses at high switching frequencies (2 to 5+ MHz). It is currently available in two models, the XEL6030 and XEL6060, both featuring lower inductance values, which have been fully optimized for high frequency applications. Both series provide superior current handling (up to 41.0 A) with soft saturation characteristics to withstand high current spikes. The inductors measure 6.56 x 6.36 mm with maximum heights as low as 3.1 mm, making them suitable for compact DC-DC converters. They feature RoHS compliant tin-silver over copper terminations and are halogen free.

Knowles brand DLI is establishing a range of broadband blocking components under the ‘Xtreme Broadband Blocking Components’ heading.  The first is the PX range for DC blocking applications up to 40 GHz. The PX series provides a surface mount, low cost, solution that exhibits ultra broadband performance, extremely low insertion loss, low frequency stability and excellent return loss across the wide bandwidth. It has been developed to complement the existing MilliCap® and OptiCap® broadband devices but in a more shallow profile.  Rated at 16 VDC from -55°C to +125°C, the new PX series ultra-broadband capacitors initially feature a 0402 case size and X7R dielectric characteristics at 100 nF – a 0201 sized version, currently available in the MilliCap® and OptiCap® series, will follow soon.  This smaller package size makes for easier pick and place assembly, whilst not compromising on the bandwidth performance. 

Molex introduced 4.3-10 RF Connector System and Cable Assemblies that offer high-performance signal transmission with low passive intermodulation (PIM), 100 percent data traceability and less torque than current interfaces. The solutions include a connector that is 30 percent smaller and 60 percent lighter than DIN 7/16 and a cable assembly with a one-piece, patent-pending weatherproof boot for use on outdoor cellular sites. Three mating options are available for right-angle and vertical plugs: hand tight, quick lock and wrench tight. The company has also developed the capability to print high-performing Silver Flexible Circuits on economical polyester substrates with traces as narrow as 0.13 mm and spacing as small as 0.13 mm. The new technology allows the attachment of fine-pitch (0.50 mm) IC based components on PET via a proprietary bonding process using traditional SMT equipment. In the final step of the attachment process, a UV-cured encapsulant is used to protect the solder joints, helping them to withstand vibration and mechanical shock.

Nano Dimension showcased the DragonFly 2020 3D printer, which is a highly accurate and versatile inkjet deposition and curing system for printing professional multilayer circuit boards. The innovative hardware, dedicated nano-inks and novel software provides design flexibility to a wide range of research and development, prototyping and custom manufacturing projects. The printer offers the flexibility to print an entire board or just part of a circuit. Users can develop the RF and digital sections of the board in parallel, test and iterate on the fly.

NXP Semiconductors unveiled a Modular IoT Gateway Solution for large node networks (LNNs) with pre-integrated, tested and RF certified support for a wide array of wireless communications protocols including Thread, ZigBee and Wi-Fi. This range of capability allows developers to easily build out gateways based on this solution, using their choice of wireless protocols for end-to-end wireless communications in LNN configurations with supporting cloud options such as Amazon Web Services (AWS). Operators of smart commercial buildings and smart industrial environments deploying massive mesh networks need to be able to commission, control and monitor thousands of end nodes. Built on a fully-supported, open source Linux platform running on the latest i.MX processors, the robust Modular IoT Gateway addresses this demand by connecting Thread and ZigBee-based end node devices securely with the cloud through Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

Qorvo® featured the GP712 radio chip that was introduced earlier this year by GreenPeak Technologies – now the company's Low Power Wireless business – and is now in production. When integrated into Virtual Personal Assistants (VPAs), the GP712 enables the VPA to respond to voice commands and communicate directly with millions of smart-home devices that use ZigBee® and Thread protocols. Previously, a separate gateway was required. Live demonstrations of various smart home applications were also featured.

Skyworks Solutions, Inc. launched a suite of new high performance, fully integrated front-end modules targeting the Internet of Things market, which are the first in a series of solutions powering multimode operation for next generation Bluetooth®, Thread and ZigBee® wireless networking protocols. The SKY66112-11, which is currently available for sampling and production, is designed for ease of use and maximum flexibility. The multimode front-end module provides an integrated inter-stage matching and harmonic filter, with digital controls compatible with CMOS. The device operates over a wide supply voltage range from 1.2 V to 3.6 V, allowing it to be used in battery-powered applications over a broad spectrum of the battery discharge curve. The company also launched its portfolio of cable TV (CATV) infrastructure solutions targeting DOCSIS 3.1 and EuroDOCSIS 3.1 cable applications that includes ultra-linear RF amplifiers. The ACA1216 is a 1218 MHz CATV MMIC power doubler amplifier (12 V) with what is claimed to be the highest linear RF power for a high gain 12V CATV surface mount device. The ACA2429 is a 1218 MHz high output CATV power doubler amplifier (24 V) featuring industry-leading bit error rate (BER) across full operational temperature range.

u-blox demonstrated how its UBX-R3 LTE Cat 1 modem technology platform supports data rates suitable for video streaming in an M2M deployment. It showed that LTE Cat 1 is capable of delivering data rates to support real IoT use-case applications that require video streaming. The company also demonstrated the power of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Bluetooth low energy in an IoT architecture, which includes sensor data collection, flexible intelligent gateway processing, cloud connectivity, and full support for customer code. In two live demonstrations, the ODIN-W2 read either temperature or accelerometer sensor data via Bluetooth low energy technology from NINA-B1 -equipped sensors and simultaneously streamed the data via Wi-Fi to an IBM cloud server, allowing for real-time data visualization and analysis. Another demonstration displayed Bluetooth low energy application possibilities using a NINA-B1 Blueprint and a mobile device app.