20-in. automotive touchscreens enabled by new controllers
With cars like the Tesla Model S featuring 17-in. touchscreens, the trend in automotive displays is to go bigger and bigger. But unlike handheld mobile devices, screens in automobiles need to meet stringent head impact and vibration tests, so they have thicker cover lenses that potentially affect the touch interface performance. As screens get larger, they are also more likely to interfere with other frequencies and car access systems. These factors pose a major challenge in the design of modern automotive capacitive touch systems, but a new family of single-chip maXTouch touchscreen controllers from Microchip Technology was designed to address these issues.
Electric high-force linear actuator choices: Ball vs. roller screw
Many applications require high-force linear actuators -- from moving equipment in a foundry to powering a press in metal forming to guiding heavy logs in a sawmill. Whatever the application, a machine designer is faced with a choice: whether to specify a ball or roller screw in the electric high-force linear actuator. Learn how to make the best decision for your application.
Read the Tolomatic blog.
Big additions to miniature LED product line
Thanks to the recent acquisition of Display Products, Inc. (DPP), VCC is offering LEDs that drive energy-saving solutions for a range of applications. In mid-October, VCC announced the first wave of available replacement LED products, including the bi-pin model of the T-2 Slide Based LED Lamp. Now, the innovative company is making additional models available to provide several benefits for manufacturers, designers, and even end users seeking ways to improve efficiency and reduce maintenance costs. This next wave of rollouts includes T-2 Slide Based LED lamps in voltages ranging from 12V to 120VAC, as well as the new and noteworthy T-3 1/4 Miniature LEDs.
Flexible circuit design guide
Tech-Etch uses advanced techniques to manufacture flex and rigid-flex circuits to exacting customer specifications. Special processes include selective plating a single circuit with two different finishes, contoured circuits with variable metal thickness, semi-additive and subtractive techniques, open window or cantilevered contact leads, plus SMT for component assembly. Tech-Etch specializes in flexible circuits for medical device, medical implant, diagnostic ultrasound, and patient monitoring applications, in addition to telecommunications, aerospace, semiconductor, and other high-reliability electronic applications.
Learn about flex circuits and download the guide (no registration required).
Power supply for servos with power factor correction
ADVANCED Motion Controls has introduced the PFC2400W375, a regulated DC power supply designed to feed 400-V series servo drives with a low-noise 375-VDC bus. Universal single-phase AC input 100-240 VAC/50-60 Hz with power factor correction and low harmonic distortion along with soft starting circuitry guarantees global high-performance, reliable operation. This new power supply is designed to achieve power factor improvement, improve performance, and ensure consistent operation regardless of the local power company's voltage levels and quality.
World's smallest safety laser scanner
A laser scanner is a safety device that uses the reflection of laser beams to detect the presence of objects or people. The SE2L Safety Laser Scanner from IDEC is the world's smallest unit of its kind -- and the world's first with master/slave functionality and dual protection zones. This scanner is certified for use in safety applications including AGVs, forklifts, robots, and other items of moving equipment found in industrial facilities.
See further at higher sensitivity: Advanced, lightweight infrared camera core for imaging gimbals
Sierra-Olympic Technologies, a supplier of infrared (IR) and thermal imaging components, cameras, and systems solutions, has just introduced the Ventus 275, a midwave-infrared imaging engine with a continuous zoom (CZ) optic. Advanced image enhancements include electronic image stabilization, automatic/manual gain control, adaptive contrast control, and optional target tracking/detection. This compact, lightweight MWIR thermal camera core is specially designed for OEM integrators of surveillance system enclosures and other imaging gimbals.
1000Base-T1 automotive Ethernet common mode choke
Pulse Electronics' Networking Business Unit has introduced the 1000Base-T1 Ethernet Common Mode Choke for automotive applications. Designed to deliver high reliability and performance, the AE5002 1000Base-T1 series is ideal for applications such as Infotainment, Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) Body Control, Camera/Radar, Gateways, and Backbone Diagnostics.
Cool Tools: Minimally invasive video borescope
Extech Instruments has launched the BR250-4, an affordable and versatile wireless inspection borescope designed to get into openings as small as 4.5 mm while providing bright clear images on its detachable, wireless 3.5-in. color display. When you need to get into walls, ducts, furnaces, boiler tubes, air handlers, exchangers, coils, plenums, and other concealed or hard-to-access areas, this is your hero. And when there's no existing opening and drilling is required, making a much smaller hole leaves minimal damage.
Drop-in solution makes your machine ready for Industry 4.0
Bosch Rexroth's IoT Gateway Rack is an IP65-rated enclosure containing Rexroth's award-winning IoT Gateway. It includes all the necessary wiring and connections to connect PLCs, I/O, and other data sources for collection, processing, and forwarding of plant floor data to upper-level data systems, making it ideal for retrofitting older machines with Industry 4.0 data-transfer capabilities. The plug-and-play design allows OEMs to use the IoT Gateway Rack as an optional addition to their existing machines. Uses standard 110-V plug.
New family of EC fans for AC applications
Orion Fans has launched a family of electronically commutated (EC) fans that offer low-power, energy-saving cooling solutions for AC applications. The AC-input fans -- available in a range of sizes (60 mm, 120 mm, 172 mm, and 250 mm) -- utilize a brushless DC motor and incorporate voltage transformation within the motor for significantly lower power consumption. This equates to power savings of up to 50 percent, enabling customers to meet energy-consumption requirements from agencies like ENERGY STAR. These fans are ideal for a broad range of applications including appliances, commercial and process control, refrigeration, HVAC, and electronic enclosures and cabinets.
Industry's first 100-W and 200-W USB Type-C controllers
Texas Instruments has introduced two new USB Type-C and USB Power Delivery (PD) controllers, with fully integrated power paths to simplify designs, minimize solution size, and speed time to market. The TPS65987D and TPS65988 offer system designers the industry's highest level of integration to reduce design complexity and overall cost. The devices are the industry's first USB PD controllers to source 100 W and 200 W of power, respectively, to support computing applications and enable the benefits of USB Type-C in additional applications such as cordless power tools, gaming, and virtual reality headsets.
First explosion-proof stackable multi-turn encoder
Sensata Technologies has introduced the first explosion-proof stackable multi-turn encoder, an ideal position sensing solution for oil and gas applications such as drawworks, top drives, and pipe-handling equipment where working conditions are extreme. The new encoder, BEI Sensors' model MAAX, is ATEX and IECEx certified to operate in explosive environments and features a Profibus output in a unique, stackable package. CANopen and SSI outputs are also available. The MAAX provides up to 16 bits of resolution as well as up to 16 bits of turns by mechanical counting. This workhorse product operates directly in Zone 1 environments without the need for an accompanying Intrinsic Safety barrier.
DuPont announces newest in-mold electronics inks
DuPont Electronics and Imaging is launching its second generation of In-Mold Electronic (IME) materials with key advancements in its electrically conductive adhesive, protection encapsulant, and crossover dielectric. IME technology enables functions such as touch controls and lighting to be directly embedded inside plastic parts by printing circuits onto plastic sheets, which are then thermoformed and injection molded. This allows product engineers to reduce weight and cost while increasing design aesthetics and functionality in everything from car dashboards to home appliances, using fewer parts and manufacturing steps.
Learn more about the latest materials.
Go to the DuPont In-Mold Electronic Technology website.
Through-beam object-detecting fork sensors
Fork sensors (slot sensors) from Automation-Direct are U- or L-shaped through-beam object-detecting sensors that have the transmitter and receiver built into the opposing "fork" arms of the sensor housing. New PS series fork sensor additions include harsh-duty U-frame sensors for food applications, L-frame or angled fork sensors for unique mounting situations, and fork sensors for liquid detection. Depending on the model, PS series fork sensors are available in visible red, infrared, and laser lighting and in sensing ranges from 5 mm to 220 mm.
MIT, IBM, and other collaborators show off new power conversion device that significantly cuts energy waste
A new design could decrease inefficiencies in electric vehicles, data centers, and the power grid dramatically.
By Larry Hardesty, MIT
Power electronics, which do things like modify voltages or convert between direct and alternating current, are everywhere. They're in the power bricks we use to charge our portable devices; they're in the battery packs of electric cars; and they're in the power grid itself, where they mediate between high-voltage transmission lines and the lower voltages of household electrical sockets.
Power conversion is intrinsically inefficient: A power converter will never output quite as much power as it takes in. But recently, power converters made from gallium nitride have begun to reach the market, boasting higher efficiencies and smaller sizes than conventional, silicon-based power converters.
Commercial gallium nitride power devices can't handle voltages above about 600 V, however, which limits their use to household electronics.
MIT postdoc Yuhao Zhang handles a wafer with hundreds of vertical gallium nitride power devices fabricated from the Microsystems Technology Laboratories production line. [Courtesy of Yuhao Zhang]
At the recent Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' International Electron Devices Meeting (Dec. 4-6, 2017), researchers from MIT, semiconductor company IQE, Columbia University, IBM, and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, presented a new design that, in tests, enabled gallium nitride power devices to handle voltages of 1,200 V.
That's already enough capacity for use in electric vehicles, but the researchers emphasize that their device is a first prototype manufactured in an academic lab. They believe that further work can boost its capacity to the 3,300-V to 5,000-V range, to bring the efficiencies of gallium nitride to the power electronics in the electrical grid itself.
That's because the new device uses a fundamentally different design from existing gallium nitride power electronics.
"All the devices that are commercially available are what are called lateral devices," says Tomás Palacios, who is an MIT professor of electrical engineering and computer science, a member of the Microsystems Technology Laboratories, and senior author on the new paper. "So the entire device is fabricated on the top surface of the gallium nitride wafer, which is good for low-power applications like the laptop charger. But for medium- and high-power applications, vertical devices are much better. These are devices where the current, instead of flowing through the surface of the semiconductor, flows through the wafer, across the semiconductor. Vertical devices are much better in terms of how much voltage they can manage and how much current they control."
For one thing, Palacios explains, current flows into one surface of a vertical device and out the other. That means that there's simply more space in which to attach input and output wires, which enables higher current loads.
For another, Palacios says, "when you have lateral devices, all the current flows through a very narrow slab of material close to the surface. We are talking about a slab of material that could be just 50 nanometers in thickness. So all the current goes through there, and all the heat is being generated in that very narrow region, so it gets really, really, really hot. In a vertical device, the current flows through the entire wafer, so the heat dissipation is much more uniform."
Narrowing the field
Although their advantages are well-known, vertical devices have been difficult to fabricate in gallium nitride. Power electronics depend on transistors, devices in which a charge applied to a "gate" switches a semiconductor material -- such as silicon or gallium nitride -- between a conductive and a nonconductive state.
For that switching to be efficient, the current flowing through the semiconductor needs to be confined to a relatively small area, where the gate's electric field can exert an influence on it. In the past, researchers had attempted to build vertical transistors by embedding physical barriers in the gallium nitride to direct current into a channel beneath the gate.
But the barriers are built from a temperamental material that's costly and difficult to produce, and integrating it with the surrounding gallium nitride in a way that doesn't disrupt the transistor's electronic properties has also proven challenging.
Palacios and his collaborators adopt a simple but effective alternative. The team includes first authors Yuhao Zhang, a postdoc in Palacios's lab, and Min Sun, who received his MIT PhD in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) last spring; Daniel Piedra and Yuxuan Lin, MIT graduate students in EECS; Jie Hu, a postdoc in Palacios's group; Zhihong Liu of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology; Xiang Gao of IQE; and Columbia's Ken Shepard.
Rather than using an internal barrier to route current into a narrow region of a larger device, they simply use a narrower device. Their vertical gallium nitride transistors have bladelike protrusions on top, known as "fins." On both sides of each fin are electrical contacts that together act as a gate. Current enters the transistor through another contact, on top of the fin, and exits through the bottom of the device. The narrowness of the fin ensures that the gate electrode will be able to switch the transistor on and off.
"Instead of doing the complicated zigzag path for the current in conventional vertical transistors," Professor Tomás Palacios says, "let's change the geometry of the transistor completely." Their vertical gallium nitride transistors have bladelike protrusions on top, known as "fins." The narrowness of the fin ensures that the gate electrode will be able to switch the transistor on and off. [Courtesy of the researchers]
"Yuhao and Min's brilliant idea, I think, was to say, 'Instead of confining the current by having multiple materials in the same wafer, let's confine it geometrically by removing the material from those regions where we don't want the current to flow,'" Palacios says. "Instead of doing the complicated zigzag path for the current in conventional vertical transistors, let's change the geometry of the transistor completely."
Published December 2017
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