March 19, 2019 Volume 15 Issue 11

Electrical/Electronic News & Products

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Smallest Smart Motor Module for DC fan applications

Alpha and Omega Semiconductor Limited has introduced an extension to its compact Smart Motor Module (SMM) family. Available in an ultra-compact, thermally enhanced 3-mm x 3-mm QFN-18L package, the highly integrated AOZ9530QV SMM is a half-bridge power stage with a slew of features and protections that simplify motor drive designs. It is suitable for use in a large number of BLDC fan applications ranging from PC and server fans to seat cooling and home appliances.
Learn more.


Application Note: Wireless -- Decoupling high-frequency signals from a DC supply

From 5G systems to radio and antenna applications, wireless communication accompanies us throughout our daily lives, so the demand for universal high-frequency amplifiers is correspondingly high. By selecting the optimal passive components, the transmission characteristics of the amplifier can be improved during development. A well-designed layout further improves RF performance. The aim is to transmit both RF signals and the DC supply on a single line without interference or cross-talk. A key component is the inductor for decoupling the RF and DC supplies.
Read this in-depth W├╝rth Elektronik application note.


Smallest all-in-one LIN driver propels relay window lifters

Melexis' new LIN pre-driver IC for relay DC motors offers a combination of high power, compactness, and attractive pricing. The MLX81160 is the latest addition to the company's Gen3 family of compatible embedded motor drivers. Its 48-KB of memory (16 KB ROM for the included LIN protocol and 32 KB Flash for the application software) is suitable for applications like window regulators.
Learn more.


Pull-type solenoids in a range to meet tons of applications

Magnetic Sensor Systems (MSS) has released their S-20-100X model of high-efficiency, low-cost Pull Type Tubular Solenoids (1 in. diameter x 2 in. long). Their S-20-100X series features 18 different solenoids to select from based on the voltage, duty cycle, force, and stroke requirement of the user. MSS solenoid coils typically use Class F 23- to 40-AWG windings with Class A insulation for better protection of the solenoid during longer duty cycles. Applications include: vending machines, medical dispensing, mixing, valve control, farm machinery, disconnects, transmission shifting, fire suppression systems, cabinet locks, door controls, and sorting equipment.
Learn more.


Industrial imaging at warp speed

When fast-moving scenes need to be captured in all their details, a high-performance transmission interface is essential in addition to the right sensor. With uEye Warp10, IDS Imaging Development Systems GmbH is launching a new camera family that, thanks to 10GigE, transmits data in the Gigabit Ethernet-based network at a very high frame rate and virtually without delay. The first models with the IMX250 (5 MP), IMX253 (12 MP), and IMX255 (8.9 MP) sensors from the Sony Pregius series are now available.
Learn more.


Top Tech Tips: How to specify electric rod-style actuators for optimal performance, reliability, and efficiency

Andy Zaske, Vice President, Tolomatic, provides his Top 10 Tips for specifying electric rod-style actuators, which have a higher initial cost, more advanced design, and more predictable performance compared to fluid power cylinders. This is a really thorough presentation filled with useful information.
Read the full article.


Standard IP65 slip rings with short lead times

The Orbex Group, a leading manufacturer of high-performance electric motors and slip rings, introduces standard slip rings with an IP65 protection rating, providing washdown tolerance in many food, beverage, and pharmaceutical manufacturing applications. These washdown-ready slip rings feature stainless steel or aluminum housings. They offer flexible mounting options with through-hole diameters ranging from 25 to 100 mm, or capsule style when a through-hole is not required.
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New polymers engineered for e-motor applications

Freudenberg Sealing Technologies has expanded the use of its Thermally Conductive, Electrically Insulating (TCEI) materials to produce walled slot liners for electric motor applications. The company's TCEI material grades demonstrate superior thermal conductivity and better electrical insulation when tested against other thermoplastic materials currently available.
Read the full article.


Heatsink solutions for electronic housings

Phoenix Contact has increased the breadth and depth of its popular Industrial Case System (ICS) housing family to include both customizable passive heatsinks and heatsink fillers. New heatsink solutions allow design engineers to choose from a wide range of thermal management solutions to keep their components from overheating. To support the new heatsink solutions, a web-based, intuitive platform for thermal assessment has been incorporated into the Electronic Housing Online Configurator tool on Phoenix Contact's website.
Learn more.


Mini-FAKRA cable assemblies for automotive and industrial applications requiring high data transfer rates

Amphenol RF has expanded its AUTOMATE Type A Mini-FAKRA product series with pre-configured cable assemblies. These assemblies feature a straight quad port mini-FAKRA jack on both ends and are designed on low-loss TFC-302LL. AUTOMATE assemblies support data transmission rates up to 20 Gbps, which makes them ideal for automotive and industrial applications that require high data transfer rates to communicate information for safety, performance, and entertainment without lag.
Learn more.


New compact touchless linear position sensors

The TFD Series of touchless linear position sensors from Novotechnik provides wear-free operation in tight spaces. The TFD-4000 Series uses a magnetic position marker to provide a touchless measurement range of 0 to 14, 24, or 50 mm -- depending on model. These sensors make measurements through air and non-magnetic materials. Sensing direction can be either parallel or perpendicular to mounting holes. Applications include textile, packaging, and sheet metal machinery; medical applications; marine; mobile engine management; and construction, agricultural, and forestry machinery.
Learn more.


Top Tech Tip:
2D, 3D, or 2.5D? Choosing a vision system for your automation project

If you're looking at machine vision systems for automation, you will need to decide whether to invest in a 2D, 3D, or 2.5D camera system. That choice will have a major impact on the deployment's cost, complexity, capabilities, and functionality. OnRobot's Kristian Hulgard, General Manager - Americas, explains the differences, benefits, and shortcomings of each system type.
Read this informative OnRobot article.


Next-generation electronic digital comparators

The Millimess 2000 W(i) and 2001 W(i) Digital Comparators from Mahr set new standards in metrology with unique and innovative features such as touch display, inductive measurement system, and integrated wireless connectivity. The systems combine practical and reliable operation with maximum precision using a unique inductive measuring system.
Learn more.


All about slip rings: How they work and their uses

Rotary Systems has put together a really nice basic primer on slip rings -- electrical collectors that carry a current from a stationary wire into a rotating device. Common uses are for power, proximity switches, strain gauges, video, and Ethernet signal transmission. This introduction also covers how to specify, assembly types, and interface requirements. Rotary Systems also manufactures rotary unions for fluid applications.
Read the overview.


Customizable encoders for white goods, automation, controls, more

Elma Electronic now offers the E18 family of price-competitive, robust mechanical incremental encoders that offer a high-quality alternative to system designers struggling to find a drop-in, rugged encoder for harsh environments with a footprint that matches their current PCB design. E18 encoders are available in a variety of configurations, including with or without push buttons and threaded bushings. Their "Swiss Click Indexing System" epitomizes quality turning feel.
Learn more.


Ultra-low power chips help make small robots more capable

An ultra-low power hybrid chip inspired by the brain could help give palm-sized robots the ability to collaborate and learn from their experiences. Combined with new generations of low-power motors and sensors, the new application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) -- which operates on milliwatts of power -- could help intelligent swarm robots operate for hours instead of minutes.

To conserve power, the chips use a hybrid digital-analog time-domain processor in which the pulse-width of signals encodes information. The neural network IC accommodates both model-based programming and collaborative reinforcement learning, potentially providing the small robots larger capabilities for reconnaissance, search and rescue, and other missions.

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology demonstrated robotic cars driven by the unique ASICs at the 2019 IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC). The research was sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) through the Center for Brain-inspired Computing Enabling Autonomous Intelligence (CBRIC).

"We are trying to bring intelligence to these very small robots so they can learn about their environment and move around autonomously, without infrastructure," said Arijit Raychowdhury, associate professor in Georgia Tech's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "To accomplish that, we want to bring low-power circuit concepts to these very small devices so they can make decisions on their own. There is a huge demand for very small but capable robots that do not require infrastructure."

The cars demonstrated by Raychowdhury and graduate students Ningyuan Cao, Muya Chang, and Anupam Golder navigated through an arena floored by rubber pads and surrounded by cardboard block walls. As they searched for a target, the robots had to avoid traffic cones and each other, learning from the environment as they went and continuously communicating with each other.

The cars use inertial and ultrasound sensors to determine their location and detect objects around them. Information from the sensors goes to the hybrid ASIC, which serves as the "brain" of the vehicles. Instructions then go to a Raspberry Pi controller, which sends instructions to the electric motors.

VIDEO: Combined with new generations of low-power motors and sensors, the new application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) could help intelligent swarm robots operate for hours instead of minutes.

In palm-sized robots, three major systems consume power: the motors and controllers used to drive and steer the wheels, the processor, and the sensing system. In the cars built by Raychowdhury's team, the low-power ASIC means that the motors consume the bulk of the power. "We have been able to push the compute power down to a level where the budget is dominated by the needs of the motors," he said.

The team is working with collaborators on motors that use micro-electromechanical (MEMS) technology able to operate with much less power than conventional motors.

"We would want to build a system in which sensing power, communications and computer power, and actuation are at about the same level, on the order of hundreds of milliwatts," said Raychowdhury, who is the ON Semiconductor Associate Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "If we can build these palm-sized robots with efficient motors and controllers, we should be able to provide runtimes of several hours on a couple of AA batteries. We now have a good idea what kind of computing platforms we need to deliver this, but we still need the other components to catch up."

In time domain computing, information is carried on two different voltages, encoded in the width of the pulses. That gives the circuits the energy-efficiency advantages of analog circuits with the robustness of digital devices.

"The size of the chip is reduced by half, and the power consumption is one-third what a traditional digital chip would need," said Raychowdhury. "We used several techniques in both logic and memory designs for reducing power consumption to the milliwatt range while meeting target performance."

With each pulse-width representing a different value, the system is slower than digital or analog devices, but Raychowdhury says the speed is sufficient for the small robots. (A milliwatt is a thousandth of a watt).

"For these control systems, we don't need circuits that operate at multiple gigahertz because the devices aren't moving that quickly," he said. "We are sacrificing a little performance to get extreme power efficiencies. Even if the compute operates at 10 or 100 megahertz, that will be enough for our target applications."

The 65-nanometer CMOS chips accommodate both kinds of learning appropriate for a robot. The system can be programmed to follow model-based algorithms, and it can learn from its environment using a reinforcement system that encourages better and better performance over time -- much like a child who learns to walk by bumping into things.

"You start the system out with a predetermined set of weights in the neural network so the robot can start from a good place and not crash immediately or give erroneous information," Raychowdhury said. "When you deploy it in a new location, the environment will have some structures that it will recognize and some that the system will have to learn. The system will then make decisions on its own, and it will gauge the effectiveness of each decision to optimize its motion."

Communication between the robots allows them to collaborate to seek a target.

"In a collaborative environment, the robot not only needs to understand what it is doing, but also what others in the same group are doing," he said. "They will be working to maximize the total reward of the group as opposed to the reward of the individual."

With their ISSCC demonstration providing a proof-of-concept, the team is continuing to optimize designs and is working on a system-on-chip to integrate the computation and control circuitry.

"We want to enable more and more functionality in these small robots," Raychowdhury added. "We have shown what is possible, and what we have done will now need to be augmented by other innovations."

This project was supported by the Semiconductor Research Corporation.

CITATION: Ningyuan Cao, Muya Chang, Arijit Raychowdhury, "A 65 nm 1.1-to-9.1 TOPS/W Hybrid-Digital-Mixed-Signal Computing Platform for Accelerating Model-Based and Model Free Swarm Robotics." (2019 IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference).

Source: Georgia Tech

Published March 2019

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