Electronic Components

SnapEDA-Samtec to accelerate design process

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Samtec is releasing new digital models for over 100,000 of its products on SnapEDA, the industry-leading circuit board design library. Traditionally, designers have spent days creating digital models – such as symbols and footprints – for each component in their respective designs.

ElizabethWith this Samtec-SnapEDA collaboration, designers can now easily discover, download, and design with over 100,000 ready-to-use Samtec connector models, helping accelerate the design process. The new models include USB, card edge, board-to-board, headers, and RF coaxial connectors.

Elizabeth Bustamante, CAD Manager, SnapEDA, spoke from San Francisco, USA, on why Samtec chose to go with SnapEDA. She said: “We’re thrilled to work with Samtec because they are one of the most in-demand connector manufacturers on SnapEDA. Our users will benefit greatly from these new PCB libraries that will save them days of time, and allow them to quickly design-in Samtec parts.

“Samtec chose SnapEDA because over half a million engineers use SnapEDA each year to select and design-in parts into their designs. With our massive community of hardware designers, and their high-quality components that are high in demand with our community, it was the perfect match.”

Competing against existing models
How will Samtec compete against other such existing models? She added: “It’s not so much that Samtec is competing to get their models into a design, but rather, their physical products. The digital model (or, what are in fact, manufacturing files), are really when they design-in comes to fruition.
1 - Samtec Symbol _ Footprint
“Samtec has high-quality and reliable products, and an incredible focus on service and support. I think, that’s why so many engineers trust their products. Ultimately, engineers will make the decision based on which specs are right for them, and the model is really the ‘icing on the cake’, after they’ve made that selection decision as a reward to help them design it in more easily.”

Samtec has over 100,000 new models on SnapEDA. The new models include USB, card edge, board-to-board, headers, and RF coaxial connectors, because the new models include USB, card edge, board-to-board, headers, and RF coaxial connectors. Since Samtec focuses on connectivity solutions, that’s where the focus was for this project. However, SnapEDA has millions of models for all kinds of products.
Snap1

Boosting electronics designers’ productivity
How can electronics designers boost their productivity with free symbols and footprints for Samtec products? Elizabeth Bustamante said: “Finding high-quality models for the exact part number, in the exact format and version you need is actually quite difficult. With these models, Samtec’s Signal Integrity Team is working directly with defining every element.

“Additionally, SnapEDA’s translation technology ensures that it is available in every format. The commitment to quality, and the breadth of our database and design formats supported is why we’re the #1 parts library on the web in terms of traffic.

“On top of this, creating connector models (which these are) are especially time-consuming, due to their non-standard shapes, pitches, pads, and cutouts regions. Having these models available to download, designers can spend more time in improving their design, allowing them to focus on optimization and innovation.”

Finally, how are newer, unreleased digital models going to be handled? She said: “We have a popular service, called InstaPart, which allows the engineers to request any models in 24 hours, and fulfilled by SnapEDA’s in-house component engineering team. Furthermore, the SnapEDA and Samtec teams are working closely to deploy new models to the SnapEDA platform as they become available.”

It is really great to have a lady address the queries on behalf of an organization. Many congratulations to the SnapEDA-Samtec combine.

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SiFive presents RISC-V product overview

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SiFive recently presented the RISC-V product overview. Krste Asanovic, co-founder and chief architect, said: “Have you ever heard of a $1 billion hardware company with 13 employees? Instagram turned into a $1 billion acquisition with only 13 employees.

“SiFive provides RISC-V core IP. SiFive RISC-V core IP product offering includes E Cores and U Cores. E Cores are the industry leading 32- and 64-bit embedded cores. U Cores are the high performance 64-bit application cores.”

The Core Series offer unique design points which can be customized for application-specific requirements. Standard Cores are pre-configured implementations of Core Series, free RTL and FPGA evaluations.

E2 Series RISC-V Core IP
E2SiFive E2 Series RISC-V Core IP is SiFive’s smallest, lowest power core series. It provides clean-sheet design from the inventors of RISC-V. It has a new interrupt controller enabling fast interrupt handling. It also has support for coherent heterogenous MP with other SiFive cores. The E20 and E21 are Standard Cores within the E2 series.

E2 Series is the smallest, most efficient RISC-V MCU family. It is:
– RV32IMAFC capable core
– 2-3 stage, optional, Harvard Pipeline

It is configurable to meet application specific needs. It is the first RISC-V core with support for for the RISC-V Core local interrupt controller (CLIC). Drop In Cortex-M0+ and Cortex-M3/M4 replacement.

E21 is 12 percent higher performance per MHz vs Cortex-M4 in CoreMark, when using equivalent GCC Compilers. E20 is 28 percent higher performance per MHz vs Cortex-M0+ in CoreMark,  when using equivalent GCC Compilers.

SiFiveE3 and E5 Series RISC-V Core IP are high performance 32-bit and 64-bit RISC-V MCUs. Features include pipelined multiapplication unit, multicore support, fast interrupts and memory protection.

U5 Series RISC-V Core IP
SiFive U5 Series RISC-V Core IP is 64-bit RISC-V Multicore Linux-capable. The U5-MC allows for instantiation of up to 9 U5 and/or E5 cores as well a configurable Level 2 cache. Flexible memory system allows for application-specific resource partitioning.

It has broad market applications – general-purpose embedded, industrial, IoT, high-performance real -time embedded, automotive.

The U54 -MC4 Standard Core is also 64-bit RISC-V multicore Linux capable.

“RISC -V delivers a platform for innovation, unshackled from the proprietary interface of the past. This freedom allows us to bring compute closer to data to optimize special-purpose compute capabilities targeted at Big Data and Fast Data applications,” according to Martin Fink, CTO, Western Digital.

Faster-to-market processes key for success in automotives: Fisker

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There has been a partnership between global automotive design icon, Henrik Fisker, and Berlin-based automotive and mobility tech investment group, motec Ventures.

FiskerMotec Ventures has made the commitment to source talent from all over the world, beginning in Europe and branching out, to cultivate new and innovative tech companies and usher in the next generation of the automotive industry. It is also important for all automotive and technology talent based outside of Silicon Valley.

I asked Fisker how he is focused on discovering new, agile mobility technology companies in Europe and abroad to disrupt the automotive sector. Also, his joining the Board of Motec Ventures is to facilitate increased collaboration between promising new suppliers, SMEs and OEMs in an effort to lower manufacturing costs and enable smarter scale-up.

Fisker said: “I’m already engaged with Motech Ventures, and have had several discussion where we review new start-ups. We study the start-up’s technology, and I particularly see if it’s applicable to any of the future programs at Fisker Inc., as well as the global automotive industry.

“If we see that the start-up can contribute to part of the supply chain with a breakthrough idea, Motech Ventures will invest into the start-up and we use our network to help the start-up grow. If the technology is applicable to any of Fisker Inc.’s future products, Fisker Inc. may participate in the investment round and engage with the start-up directly.

“The automotive industry is changing forever, where much shorter development cycles and faster-to-market processes are necessary to be successful. By working with new start-ups, extreme short development cycles are possible, as they are not bogged down by traditional long automotive processes, and they must be faster to succeed.

“Several new technologies can be developed and tested faster today, due to extensive use of new software. If an OEM can make fast decisions, the technology can be implemented much faster. The days of 3.5+ year development cycles are over, it’s too long for the product to stay relevant.”

How will Fisker help guide efforts to increase collaboration between the suppliers, SMEs and OEMs to lower manufacturing costs and enable smarter scaling?

He added: “Motech is partly formed by e&Co., an automotive consultancy that works with many SMEs and OEMs including Fisker Inc. e&Co has the ability to make the introductions and actively work with the new start-ups.”

Fisker will co-invest in motec portfolio companies in sectors, ranging from smart manufacturing, AI-based process optimization to concrete autonomous driving applications.

He said that Fisker Inc. has the ability to co invest if the technology is applicable to a Fisker project. Fisker Inc. would engage with the start-up directly and have them work as a Fisker supplier on a program.

How is the project aimed at tapping into the hotbed of engineering and tech talent in Germany, Europe and abroad?

Fisker said: “Motech is actively seeking out start-ups with innovative technologies that the board of motec ventures can see the need for in the automotive industry. We are all actively working on future automotive programs in various ways.

As for helping drive down manufacturing costs and to enable smarter scaling, he noted: “Motech is focusing on the collaboration part. Fisker Inc. will focus on driving down cost and smarter scaling on our own Fisker Inc. programs. For competitive reasons, we are not sharing any details of those efforts. We are constantly reviewing and engaging with new start-ups.”

Helix’s MxC 200 DC-DC power IC increases efficiency at data centers

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Fabless power semiconductor company, Helix Semiconductors, announced that Agility Power Systems (Agility) is using the MxC 200 IC for its innovative, 1kW, high-efficiency 48VDC to 12VDC power converter. Agility designs highly efficient switched capacitor power conversion devices targeted at the data center, solar and electric vehicle markets.

As data storage capacity grows exponentially, as does the need for highly-efficient data center hardware and infrastructure.

Jason Young, president and CEO, Agility Power Systems, said: “Earlier this year, Agility Power Systems used the MuxCapacitor technology to create a 1kW 48V to 12V power converter with 97.6 percent peak efficiency using discrete components. This proof of concept unit was first demonstrated at the Helix Semiconductors booth at APEC in early March.

“Agility is now launching a new smaller, more cost effective and more functional version of that converter by integrating Helix’s MxC200 ASIC into the design in a way that amplifies the benefits of the already industry leading efficiency and power density characteristics of the MxC200.”

How is the MxC 200 DC-DC power IC bringing increased efficiency at data centers?

Bud Courville, VP of Business Development, Helix Semiconductors, said: “Our patented MuxCapacitor technology has a higher peak efficiency and maintains that efficiency across a much greater portion of the load curve when compared to traditional magnetic based power conversion devices used in data centers.
Helix1“This feature creates higher operating efficiency and reduced heat generation across a wider range of applications than traditional power converters. Exact sizing of the power conversion device to the application’s specific load becomes less critical when near peak efficiency is maintained through a wider range.

By how much is the financial benefit by reduced cooling costs due to lower heat generation?

To this, he added: “It depends on the Power Utilization Effectiveness (PUE) of the data center and the cost per watt at each facility. Here is a brief definition and description of the PUE.

“Power usage effectiveness (PUE) is a metric used to determine the energy efficiency of a data center. PUE is determined by dividing the amount of power entering a data center by the power used to run the computer infrastructure within it. PUE is, therefore, expressed as a ratio, with overall efficiency improving as the quotient decreases toward 1.”

PUE was created by members of the Green Grid, an industry group focused on data center energy efficiency. Data center infrastructure efficiency (DCIE) is the reciprocal of PUE and is expressed as a percentage that improves as it approaches 100 percent.
Helix2
He said: “While PUE varies from data center to data center, recent studies indicate that the typical data center has an average PUE of around 1.7. This means that for every 1.7 watts in at the utility meter, only one watt is delivered out to the IT load.

“For every watt saved in operating efficiency at the point of load, 1.7 watts worth of energy costs are saved. In a 1kW power conversion device that would mean that an efficiency improvement of 5 percent would equate to a point of load savings of 50 watts and a total energy savings of 85 watts. The cost savings of this reduction in overall energy usage adds up quickly at data centers consuming large amounts of power 24 hours a day.”

How has the bidirectional nature of Helix MuxCapacitor enabled new design configuration?

Courville said: “MuxCapacitor technology can be configured to operate as either a voltage step down or step up device within the same circuit. This makes it ideal for solar, EV and “Prosumer” renewable energy applications where power can be both drawn from or added to the grid or battery storage.”

Finally, what are the other MxC 200’s game-changing features and benefits in large power applications?

Courville said: “There are many features and benefits of the MxC 200 that improve performance in large power usage applications. The most pronounced benefit by far is the significant cost savings that results from improved efficiency both at peak load conditions and across the broader load curve.

“This cost savings comes both from a reduction in power consumed to operate the load and power consumed to temperature control the environment. For a smaller data center facility with a PUE of 2.0, the cost savings is double that of the savings from the reduction in energy consumed to drive the load.

“The power density of the MxC 200 is another key feature. In addition to reducing heat and cost through higher efficiency, the MxC 200 can also reduce the weight and size required for a power conversion device.

“The MxC 200 also has multiple output voltage settings. For Agility’s 48V input device, this feature would allow for output voltages of 24V or 6V in addition to the primary 12V output. The bidirectional nature of MuxCapacitor technology makes it ideal for certain applications.”

To be, or not to be fault tolerant! Or fault intolerant?

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IMG_20180723_183441Semiconductors is a tough business, and definitely not for the faint hearted, said Suman Narayan, senior VP, for Semiconductors, IoT and Analytics, Cyient. If you are in DFT, you are in the insurance business. He was moderating a panel discussion on ‘fault tolerance vs. fault intolerance’.

Rubin Parekhji, senior technologist, Texas Instruments, said that a system is fault tolerant if there is no error. An app is fault tolerant if there is no intolerant fault. An affordable system should be fault tolerant. Which faults are important? How are hardware-software fault tolerant? For instance, if not done well, it will lead to bulky devices. There is a need to optimize and differentiate. There is a need to build fault tolerant systems using fault intolerant building blocks.

Jais Abraham, director of engineering, Qualcomm, said that device complexity has increased 6X times since 2010. There is a disproportionate increase in test cost vs. node shrink benefits. Are we good at fault finding? It’s our fault. Be intolerant to faults, but don’t be maniacal. Think of the entire gamut of testing. Think of the system, and not just the chip. Think of the manufacturing quality, and find remedies. Fault tolerance may mean testing enough such that it meets the quality requirements of customers, who are becoming intolerant. We continue to invest in fault tolerance architectures.

Ruchir Dixit, Technical director, Mentor,  felt that making a system robust is the choice. The key is the machine that we make, and whether it is robust. The customers expect a quality robust system. Simpler systems make up a complex system. Successful system deals with malfunctions. There are regenerative components. The ISO-26262 standard drives robustness.

Dr Sandeep Pendharkar, Engineering director, Intel, felt that there is an increased usage of semiconductors in apps such as ADAS and medical. Functional safety (FuSa) requires unprecedented quality levels. Now, DPPM has changed to DPPB.

Achieving near zero DPPB on the nearest node is nearly impossible. Fault tolerance is the way forward. How should the test flows change to comprehend all this? Should we cap the number of recoverable faults before declaring a chip unusable?

Ram Jonnavithula, VP of Engineering, Tessolve, said that a pacemaker should be fault tolerant, with zero defects. Fault tolerance requires redundancy, mechanism to detect and isolate faults. Sometimes, fault tolerance could mean reduced performance, but the system still functions.

Adit D. Singh, Prof. Electrical & Computer Engineering, Auburn University, USA, highlighted the threats to electronics reliability. These are:
* Test escapes – DPPM. Especially, escape from testing components. Also, timing defects.
* New failures occur during operation. They can also be due to aging.
* Poor system design, which are actually, no solution. There can be design errors and improper shields.

Test diversity helps costs. Design diversity helps fault tolerance costs. Design triplicated modules independently. Avoid correlated failures.

So, what’s it going to be? Be fault tolerant! Or, fault intolerant?

MOS memory investors, China to correct DRAM imbalance

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penn1According to an IC Insights report, the 47 percent full-year 2017 jump in the price-per-bit of DRAM was the largest annual increase since 1978, surpassing the previous high of 45 percent registered 30 years ago in 1988! This sounds interesting!

Are the rising DRAM prices aiding startup Chinese competitors? Are major DRAM suppliers somehow stunting global DRAM demand?

Dr. Walden C. Rhines, president and CEO, Mentor Graphics, a Siemens Business, said: “The DRAM business has always gone through cycles of imbalance between supply and demand. Growth of demand in the last 18 months has been stronger than growth of supply.

“Substantial investments in 2017 by the MOS (metal-oxide semiconductor) memory producers, as well as the addition of China to the supply chain, will correct this imbalance late this year or, at the latest, early next year.”

The DRAM price-per-Gb has been on a steep rise. To this, Dr. Rhines said: “It is a commodity, although there are many types of specialty DRAMs emerging. Because DRAMs are viewed by customers as a near-commodity, the price is heavily influenced by the availability of supply. Supply has been very tight during the last 18 months.

Malcolm Penn, chairman and CEO, Future Horizons, UK, added, “This is supply and demand, pure text-book economics.”

Are the rising DRAM prices opening the door for startup Chinese competitors?

Dr. Rhines noted: “Chinese competitors made their decision to invest in DRAM capacity long before the recent strengthening of demand in the balance of supply and demand. Of course, higher, or stable, pricing may make it easier for new producers to absorb the costs of ramping up new capacity and developing experience with a new technology.”

Malcolm Penn agreed: “Potentially yes, and to anyone else. Coca Cola were contemplating building DRAMs in the 1990s. DSRAM market boom, again, pure text-book economics. Whether or not they succeed is an entirely different matter. If the Chinese do enter the market, can they then survive the inevitable downturn and cycles? That remains to be seen!”

Can the startup Chinese DRAM producers field any competitive product soon? Dr. Rhines noted: “They probably can. But, they will have to develop a production base of “learning” to reduce cost, improve yields and maybe even reliability. This will take some time.”

Penn added: “Technically (i.e., meeting the spec), probably, yes. Reliability, probably no, for the Tier 1 customers (that will take several years to build up the production experience). Cost, definitely not!

“Their small fab scale and late learning curve start means that their die cost will be sizably higher than those of Samsung and SKH, and also Micron. Plus, their yields will be lower. Then, there’s the deep cash pockets issue to fund these ongoing cost disadvantages.”

300mm fabs
In a separate situation, some 300mm fabs closing, for example, ProMOS. Dr. Rhines said: “It’s because of an imbalance of supply and demand for the products they make, thus limiting their profitability. It could also be because they don’t see an adequate investment return from the expensive new capacity investments, and therefore, find it more attractive to phase out some of their existing capacity.”

Malcolm Penn felt that the fabs were too old and technically obsolete.

Finally, are there more IC companies making transition to fab-lite or fabless business model?

Penn noted: “There’s no-one left to change! Everyone’s now fablite or fabless, except for Intel and Samsung (logic) and the memory manufacturers.”

Dr. Rhines said: “Based upon the growth of foundry revenue vs. total semiconductor revenue growth, there must be a continuing transition of capacity away from IDMs toward foundries. In addition, IDMs like Samsung are finding it economic to build the foundry business to increase the volume base of products that utilize their technology and capital investment.”

V-Guard working on digital strategy: Mithun Chittilappilly

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Kochi-based V-Guard Industries Ltd in Kerala state, is India’s leading consumer electrical and electronics major. It has evolved into a renowned consumer brand with market-leading products in select segments.

MithunMithun K. Chittilappilly, Managing Director of V-Guard Industries foresaw the need for market expansion beyond South of India, and consistently increased the footprint in other parts of the country. In 2012, the company established presence in Guwahati, and introduced new products, like solar inverters, switch gears and mixer grinders. His vision is to elevate V-Guard to the next level through long-term growth plans.

Chittilappilly said: “I joined the business in 2006. We have since grown. We had almost 50 percent revenue coming from voltage stabilisers. The revenue for voltage stabilizers has come down from 50 percent to 18 percent. Now, we are present pan India. We are also looking to diversify.

Strong player
“We have entered inverters and batteries, kitchen appliances, and switchgears. We have since become strong players in these segments, especially, water heaters. Today, the new categories are contributing 10-15 percent to the overall revenue. The wires and cables business is doing Rs 60 crore EBIDTA year-on-year. There was also a good boom in the construction industry from 2006-12. For water heaters, we have been doing business worth Rs. 8 crores.”

How did this come about? He added: “We changed the structure to several categories of business. Today, we have 2,000+ people on roll. We are fairly comfortable. We have two to three channels, such as electrical, battery, etc.

“We have DSIR-approved labs in Kochi. In Gurgaon, we have development teams for switchgear. We also have a separate team on industrial designs. We also have a team working on smart products, such as IoT.”

Elaborating, he added: “We are working on products that communicate with consumers. We have products that are connected, controlled and M2M capable. We are bringing capabilities like machine learning as well. We are also in the battery segment. The battery will be an expensive part of an electric car in the future.

“We are also building in auto diagnostics into devices. For instance, the next-gen water heater can communicate to the other water heater as well. In rural areas, farmers need to know when a pump should be switched on/off. We have automated that. We also need to ensure that the products are protected from natural disasters.”

Isn’t there competition from the MNCs? He noted that MNCs don’t bother much about Indian-based products. “Our retail is distributed. We have a great talent pool in India and we develop products. We are in the consumer electrical business and continue to do that well.”

“We have looked at automation, and find that robots prices are declining. We have distribution boards, where intelligent management is built in. We are looking at smart products that can make some difference to consumers. We are thinking of getting into modular switches, and smart home solutions. In kitchen appliances, if you have a mixer grinder, it can control speed.

“We are also working on a digital strategy for the company that includes looking at the predictive maintenance in plants, where AI comes in. AI may help reduce headcounts. We have to wait and see what happens.”