Showing posts tagged 'electronic component'
17 August 2022
Circuit boards, Assemble!
We’re not quite the Avengers, but we do know a thing or two about assembly.
As an electronic component supplier, Cyclops works to get customers the electronic components they are looking for. Further down the line, manufacturers construct the printed circuit boards (PCBs) featuring our sourced components.
The assembly of a PCB is a delicate and painstaking process. Just one millimetre of misalignment could mean failure of the whole board. Here’s a brief run-down of what’s involved.
Applying solder paste
The first step in the assembly of a PCB is applying a layer of solder paste. The PCB is overlayed with a stencil, and the solder paste is applied over this. The right amount must be used, as this is spread evenly across the openings on the board.
After the stencil and applicator are removed the PCB will be left and moves on to stage two.
Pick and place
The automated placement of the surface mount devices (SMDs) is done by a ‘pick and place’ robot.
The pick and place machine will have a file containing all of the coordinates for the PCB’s components. Every component will have its X and Y coordinates and its orientation included. This information enables the robot to place components on the layer of solder on top of the PCB accurately.
From the pick and place machine, the PCBs are directly transferred to a 250⁰ oven, where the solder paste melts and secures the electronic components to the board. Immediately after this, the boards are moved into a cooler to harden the solder joints.
The alternative to reflow soldering is a process called wave soldering. Much like the name suggests, in this method a ‘wave’ of solder moves across the board instead of being pasted on to start with.
Once the reflow solder is cooled the PCBs are checked. If anything became misaligned or any solder or components are in the incorrect position, this inspection mitigates the risk to the customer.
When it comes to inspection methods, there are a few options:
Manual inspection – The most basic form of inspection, done with the naked eye. Better for PCBs with through hole technology (THT) and larger components.
Optical inspection – Using high resolution cameras, machines can check large batches of boards for accuracy at a high speed.
X-ray inspection – Give technicians the ability to check inner layers of multi-layer PCBs. This inspection method is usually reserved for more complex boards.
What a Marvel!
Cyclops Electronics can supply obsolete, day to day, and hard to find components to PCB manufacturers. We can source components efficiently to keep your production line running. Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.
27 July 2022
What is fabless production?
A fab is short for ‘fabrication’, which is a facility that produces electronic components. When it comes to fabless production, it refers to when companies outsource their manufacturing. The development of fabless production is a pretty recent development, but one that has flourished since its conception.
How did it come about?
Fabless production didn’t exist until the 80s, when surplus stock led to IDMs offering outsourced services to smaller firms. In the same decade the first dedicated semiconductor foundry, TSMC, was founded. It is still one of the biggest foundries in operation to this day.
In the following years many smaller companies could enter into the market as they outsourced manufacturing. More manufacturers, each with different specialities, also came to the fore.
One of the original reasons it became so popular was due to the cost reduction it provided businesses. With the actual semiconductors being manufactured elsewhere, companies saved money on labour and space.
With production outsourced, companies also had the ability to focus more on research and development. No doubt this gave way to many advancements in semiconductor technology that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
Having a choice of which manufacturers to work with is beneficial too. Depending on your requirements you can choose someone who best suit your needs.
When you outsource production, you are putting part of your business under someone else’s control, which can be risky. There could be a higher chance of defects if manufacture isn’t being directly overseen.
It also means that, in terms of quantity of product and price of production, you don’t have total control. If a manufacturer decides to change the quantity they produce or the price, customers are limited to their options. They either have to accept the changes, or search for an alternative which, in a fast-paced market, would be risky.
The fabless business model, as it is known, will probably continue long into the future. TSMC’s continued profit, among other companies, is a key indicator of its success. And with big names like Apple, Qualcomm and Nvidia working fabless, it would be safe to say it’s popular.
That’s not to say that an integrated business model, with every stage of production occurring in-house, is a bad choice either. There are many just as successful IDMs like Samsung and Texas Instruments.
For a ‘fab-ulous’ stock of both foundry and IDM components, check out Cyclops Electronics. We specialise in obsolete, day to day and hard to find electronic components. Send us your enquiry at email@example.com, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.
This blog post is not an endorsement of any particular business model, and is purely for informational purposes.
20 July 2022
Thermal management of semiconductors
Too hot to handle
Every electronic device or circuit will create heat when in use, and it’s important to manage this. If the thermal output isn’t carefully controlled it can end up damaging, or even destroying the circuit.
This is especially an issue in the area of power electronics, where circuits reaching high temperatures are inevitable.
Passive thermal dissipation can only do so much. Devices called heat sinks can be used in circuits to safely and efficiently dissipate the heat created. Fans or air and water-cooling devices can be used also.
Feelin’ hot, hot, hot!
Using thermistors can help reliably track the temperature limits of components. When used correctly, they can also trigger a cooling device at a designated temperature.
When it comes to choosing a thermistor, there is the choice between negative temperature coefficient (NTC) thermistors, and positive temperature coefficient (PTC) thermistors. PTCs are the most suitable, as their resistance will increase as the temperature does.
Thermistors can be connected in a series and can monitor several potential hotspots simultaneously. If a specified temperature is reached or exceeded, the circuit will switch into a high ohmic state.
I got the power!
Power electronics can suffer from mechanical damage and different components can have different coefficients of thermal expansion (CTE). If components like these are stacked and expand at different rates, the solder joints can get damaged.
After enough temperature changes, caused by thermal cycling, degradation will start to be visible.
If there are only short bursts of power applied, there will be more thermal damage in the wiring. The wire will expand and contract with the temperature, and since both ends of the wire are fixed in place this will eventually cause them to detach.
The heat is on
So we’ve established that temperature changes can cause some pretty severe damage, but how do we stop them? Well, you can’t really, but you can use components like heat sinks to dissipate the heat more efficiently.
Heat sinks work by effectively taking the heat away from critical components and spreading it across a larger surface area. They usually contain lots of strips of metal, called fins, which help to distribute heat. Some even utilise a fan or cooling fluid to cool the components at a quicker speed.
The disadvantage to using heat sinks is the amount of space they need. If you are trying to keep a circuit small, adding a heat sink will compromise this. To reduce the risk of this as much as possible, identify the temperature limits of devices and choose the size of heat sink accordingly.
Most designers should provide the temperature limits of devices, so hopefully matching them to a heat sink will be easy.
Hot ‘n’ cold
When putting together a circuit or device, the temperature limits should be identified, and measures put in place to avoid unnecessary damage.
Heat sinks may not be the best choice for everyone, so make sure to examine your options carefully. There are also options like fan or liquid-based cooling systems.
Cyclops Electronics can supply both electronic components and the heat sinks to protect them. If you’re looking for everyday or obsolete components, contact Cyclops today and see what we can do for you.
13 July 2022
Superconductivity is the absence of any electrical resistance of some materials at specific low temperatures. As a starting point this is pretty vague, so let’s define it a bit more clearly.
The benefits of a superconductor is that it can sustain a current indefinitely, without the drawback of resistance. This means it won’t lose any energy over time, as long as the material stays in a superconducting state.
Superconductors are used in some magnetic devices, like medical imaging devices and energy-storage systems. They can also be used in motors, generators and transformers, or devices for measuring magnetic fields, voltages, or currents.
The low power dissipation, high-speed operation and high sensitivity make superconductors an attractive prospect. However, due to the cool temperatures required to keep the material in a superconducting state, it’s not widely utilised.
Effect of temperature
The most common temperature that triggers the superconductor effect is -253⁰C (20 Kelvin). High-temperature superconductors also exist and have a transition temperature of around -193⁰C (80K).
This so-called transition temperature is not easily achieved under normal circumstances, hence why you don’t hear about superconductors that often. Currently superconductors are mostly used in industrial applications so they can be kept at low temperatures more efficiently.
Type I and Type II
You can sort superconductors into two types depending on their magnetic behaviour. Type I materials are only in their superconducting state until a threshold is reached, at which point they will no longer be superconducting.
Type II superconducting materials have two critical magnetic fields. After the first critical magnetic field the superconductor moves into a ‘mixed state’. In this state some of the superconductor reverts to normal conducting behaviour, which takes pressure off another part of the material and allows it to continue as a superconductor. At some point the material will hit its second critical magnetic field, and the entire material will revert to regular conducting behaviour.
This mixed state of type II superconductors has made it possible to develop magnets for use in high magnetic fields, like in particle accelerators.
There are 27 metal-based elements that are superconductors in their usual crystallographic forms at low temperatures and low atmospheric pressure. These include well-known materials such as aluminium, tin and lead.
Another 11 elements that are metals, semimetals or semiconductors can also be superconductors at low temperatures but high atmospheric pressure. There are also elements that are not usually superconducting, but can be made to be if prepared in a highly disordered form.
06 July 2022
What is Raspberry Pi
If you work in the electronics industry you might have heard of the Raspberry Pi circuit board. This device is a single-board computer, originally made by the UK-based Raspberry Pi Foundation.
Raspberry Pi boards use Linux and have a set of general purpose input/output (GPIO) pins. This means the user can attach electronic components and create different circuit boards.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a charity focused on teaching computing, and aims to make the subject simple and fun. To this end, The Raspberry Pi single-board computer was released to aid students and teachers in learning electronics affordably.
The original Pi was released in 2012 and quickly became popular, not only for education but in multiple industries. Since it uses a Linux-based OS it was also used by programmers and developers.
Raspberry Pi 1 Model B had a single-core 700MHz CPU, an ARM1176JZF-S processor, a VideoCore IV GPU, and had 512MB of RAM, and sold at lower than $35 on its release in April 2012.
Since 2012 there have been several generations of Raspberry Pi. The latest model can have up to 8GB of RAM and a 64-Bit quad-core processor. Additionally, the Raspberry Pi 4 has two micro-HDMI ports that support 4K at 60GHz displays, a MIPI DSI (display serial interface) display port, MIPI CSI (camera serial interface) camera port, 4 pole stereo output and composite video port.
One of the attractions of the Raspberry Pi device is the 40-pin GPIO header and four USB ports. This gives the opportunity for users to connect and build various types of circuits using external components.
Pi comes with an official operating system named Raspbian OS. The OS has a GUI that can be used for browsing, programming, games, and other applications.
Batteries or solar panels can be connected to power the circuit, which at peak would only require 7.6W of power. A power supply can also be connected via the USB port. One such power supply is provided by the Raspberry Pi Foundation itself at 5.1V.
Microphones and buzzers can be connected via the GPIO pins to create simple circuits. Motion sensors, servos and more, can also be attached in any combination.
There are numerous entertaining projects to undertake for those interested, and for the people who need it there is plenty of inspiration available online.
Cyclops Electronics can supply Raspberry Pi products, customers need only get in touch! For this, and all your other electronic component needs, contact Cyclops today.
30 June 2022
RoHS, REACH, and dangerous substance legislation
RoHS and REACH are two pieces of legislation referring to the control of dangerous substances and chemicals. Companies manufacturing and distributing electronic equipment in Europe must comply to be able to trade.
The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive came into force in 2004. With an aim to mitigate the effect of dangerous substances on customers, the Directive restricts the concentration of 10 substances used in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE).
Acceptable levels of restricted substances in a single material are generally less than 0.1% or 1000 parts per million (ppm). For the chemical Cadmium, however, levels must be no more than 0.01% or 100ppm.
Companies must provide proof that they comply with the regulations by way of documentation. This includes a Declaration of Conformity, a record of the assessment procedure for conformity, and any other control documentation.
Since its release in ’04, there have been 3 iterations, with the latest being introduced in July of 2019. RoHS 3.0 introduces 11 new category products and four new substances.
The materials listed include products that could be harmful to not only human health, but the environment too. As such, non-compliance carries with it the potential for a heavy fine.
RoHS certification takes place in several steps:
- Extraction testing of the components takes place to determine the value of the RoHS substances contained.
- On-site manufacturing processes are inspected to ensure RoHS compliance at the facility.
- Review all relevant documentation, including the BOM (Bill of Materials), assembly drawings, and test reports from suppliers.
- Following this, if all is in order a RoHS Certificate of Compliance is issued.
REACH stands for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. It was introduced a few years on from RoHS, in 2006.
The scope of REACH is more inclusive than RoHS. It encompasses almost all products manufactured, imported, or sold in the EU or UK.
REACH revolves more around Substances of Very High Concern (SVCH), which includes those considered carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction.
Manufacturers and importers need to register the quantities of substances produced every year. Companies need to safely manage and publicise the risks associated with the substances. They’re also responsible for tracking and managing which substances are being used, and produce safety guidelines for each.
Due to events like Brexit in the UK, RoHS and REACH regulations became transplanted into UK law. Since many substances are imported between mainland Europe and the UK, the legislation in both remained very similar.
As part of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, REACH was copied into UK legislation, becoming UK REACH in 2021. Although the difference is seemingly in name alone, the two REACHs operate separately, and manufacturers need to comply with both.
REACH for the stars!
Cyclops can supply products that are RoHS and REACH compliant and can provide this information to our customers. This means Cyclops customers can guarantee if they want RoHS compliant parts, they will receive them. So contact Cyclops Electronics today!
This blog post is designed to be informative and is in no way offering advice or guidance on how to interpret legislation.
08 June 2022
Traditional fuses and eFuses
Fuses are an essential electronic component in most circuits, and act as a safety feature to keep the other components within the circuit safe. Billions are used today to safeguard against circuit failures.
The purpose of fuses
If a circuit is overloaded, or there is a voltage surge, the fuse essentially self-destructs to protect the rest of the circuit. A traditional fuse contains a central fusible element that, when heated to excessive temperatures, melts and stops the flow of current through the circuit.
The speed that the thermal fuse melts depends on the how much heat is being caused by the current, and what temperature the fuse is designed to react to. The fuse can be designed with different melting elements that have varying melting points and resistance, so the currents they can cope with can differ.
The new kid on the block is the newer electronic fuse, or eFuse. This component is an updated, re-usable version of the more traditional thermal, one-use fuse.
This component comprises of a field-effect transistor (FET) and a sense resistor. The resistor measures the voltage across it, and when it exceeds a certain limit, the current is cut off by the FET. Usually, the eFuse is placed in series with a thermal fuse rather than replacing it, giving the circuit a second layer of more localised protection for components.
Often eFuses are used as a protection when components are plugged into a computer while the power is still on, also called hot-swapping. In automotive applications, programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and battery management eFuses are a great tool to protect the circuits.
An offer you can’t reFuse.
As thermal fuses have been around for so long, it’s unsurprising that there are certain things the more recent eFuse can do slightly better.
The first and most straightforward advantage is the lifespan: once a thermal fuse is activated and the element inside it fuses, it will have to be replaced. The eFuse, however, can be reset and used multiple times without requiring replacement.
The eFuse is also able to respond to a circuit overload more quickly and works in circuits with a lower current and voltage. For some eFuses the current level it reacts at is set, but for some types it can be altered by an external resistor.
It’s possible to create a homemade eFuse too, just by putting together a few FETs, a resistor and an inductor, which filters the output and acts as your sense resistor.
Reaching melting point
Both fuses have their uses, and utilised together are even more effective as a circuit failsafe. However, each designer must consider their requirements and what will best suit their clients. There are scenarios where the thermal fuse just won’t do the job, and it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?
26 May 2022
Could conductive ink replace conventional circuitry?
It seems like the stuff of dreams, having a pen or a paintbrush that could conduct electricity. Well, those dreams are very real, readily available to buy online, and at a relatively cheap rate, too.
Conductive ink pens and conductive paint that can be used with a pen, paintbrush, or a printer is a reality, and is already being put to work.
What is it?
Conductive ink and conductive paint are liquid materials mixed with nanoparticles of a conducting material like silver or graphite. The paint and ink are technically slightly different, in that the paint sits on the surface of a substrate, while the ink would sink into a substrate it was applied to, like regular ink on paper.
Although the metals are usually in a solid state at room temperature, if it’s in a nanoparticle form it can be mixed with a liquid. When the liquid is spread and begins to dry, the nanoparticles and electrons within them begin to form conductive chains that the current is then able to travel through.
One notable way silver-infused ink is currently used is to print Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags in tickets.
Another common place to find conductive paint or ink is in the rear windscreen of cars. The resistive traces applied to windscreens to help defrost them contain conductive paint. Traces printed on the window can also serve as a radio antenna in more recently manufactured cars.
Conductive inks and paints were originally intended to be used for e-textiles and wearables. The potential for clothes that could detect temperature and heart rate, among other features, is an area receiving considerable investment.
When compared to conventional circuity and conductors, conductive inks and paints will never be able to emulate the strength of conductivity. In a way, it would be unfair to pit the two against each other, like putting boxers from vastly different weight classes in a ring together.
The reliability and connectivity of traditional conductors is much higher so is preferred for regularly used products, however conductive inks and paints would be utilised in areas that traditional means could not. So, as much as these factors are disadvantages they would be irrelevant when it comes to the product.
Layers of the ink or paint may not always be thick enough to have any conductive strength at all, and it could take several layers of it to properly form a current-conducting pathway. Additionally, the user is relying on the nanoparticles in the liquid to align correctly for conduction. The material would work only for smaller direct voltages too, probably up to around 12V.
Silver is a material that has a higher cost than other conductors like graphite, and could make the price of some paints unreasonable for some customers. The low cost alternative is graphite, but this also has a higher resistivity than metals like silver.
As far as development goes, nanoparticle paint is still in its infancy. Its uses are limited and occasionally unreliable, so although it has cornered a niche conductive market it’s unlikely we’ll see it permeating the sector for a while.
If you are looking for trustworthy day-to-day or obsolete electronic components, Cyclops are here for you. Don’t paint yourself into a corner, contact Cyclops today to find what you’re looking for, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
25 May 2022
Chip shortage impact on electric car sales
Many renowned car companies have, by this point, tested the waters of the electric vehicle (EV) market. However, thanks to the roaring success of electric car sales last year, and governmental and environmental incentives, the EV market is about to shift up a gear.
The vehicle market was not able to avoid the semiconductor shortage that has been prolific for the past few years. Safety features, connectivity and a car’s onboard touchscreen all require chips to function.
This, combined with the work-from-home evolution kick-started by the pandemic, meant that car sales decreased, and manufacturers slowed down production. New car sales were down 15% year-on-year in 2020, and the chips freed up by this ended up being redirected to other profiting sectors.
Even without the demand from the automotive industry, it has not been plain sailing for chipmakers, who not only had to contend with factory closures due to COVID-19, but also several natural disasters and factory fires, and a heightened demand from other sectors. Needless to say, the industry is still catching up two years later.
The automaker market
Despite new car sales having an overall decline in 2020, EV sales had about 40% growth, and in 2021 there were 6.6 million electric cars sold. This was more than triple of their market share from two years previously, going from 2.5% of all car sales in 2019 to 9% last year.
Part of the reason why EV sales were able to continue was due to the use of power electronics in the vehicles. While there is a dramatic shortage of semiconductors and microelectronics (MCUs), the shortage has not affected the power electronics market to the same extent. That is not to say that an EV doesn’t need chips. On the contrary, a single car needs around 2,000 of them.
It begs the question, how many EVs could have been sold if there weren’t any manufacturing constraints. Larger companies with more buying power would have been able to continue business, albeit at an elevated cost, while smaller companies may have been unable to sustain production.
The growth of the EV business in China is far ahead of any other region, with more EVs being sold there in 2021 than in the entire world in 2020. The US also had a huge increase in sales in 2021, doubling their market share to 4.5% and selling more than 500,000 EVs.
In Europe last year 17% of car sales in 2021 were electric with Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany being the top customers. Between them, China, the US and Europe account for 90% of EV sales
Predictions and incentives
Several governments have set targets to incentivise the purchase of electric cars, and to cut down on CO² emissions caused by traditional combustion engines. Many of these authorities have given themselves ambitiously little time to achieve this, too.
Biden announced last year that the US would be aiming for half of all car sales to be electric by 2030, and half a million new EV charging points would be installed alongside this. The EU commission was similarly bold, proposing that the CO² emission standard for new cars should be zero by 2035, a 55% drop from the levels in 2021.
Companies are also setting EV targets and investing in new electronic models. Some manufacturers are setting targets as high as 50% of their production being electric within the next decade, while others have allotted $35 billion in investment in their pursuit of EV sales.
Aside from the obvious issues there have been with semiconductor production and sourcing, there are also other factors that may make the future of EVs uncertain. One of the essential components of an electric car is its battery, and the materials that are used are increasing in price.
Lithium, used in the production of lithium-ion EV batteries, appears to be in short supply, while nickel, graphite and cobalt prices are also creeping up. However, research is underway for potential replacements for these, which may help for both supply times and the associated costs.
The shortages are affecting everyone, but thankfully Cyclops is here to take some pressure off. No matter what electronic components you are looking for, the team at Cyclops are ready to help. Contact us today at email@example.com. Alternatively, you can use the rapid enquiry form on our website.
14 April 2022
How transistors replaced vacuum tubes
Electronics has come on leaps and bounds in the last 100 years and one of the most notable changes is the size of components. At the turn of the last century mechanical components were slowly being switched out for electrical ones, and an example of this switch was the vacuum tube.
A lightbulb moment
Vacuum tubes were invented in the early 1900s, and the first ones were relatively simple devices containing only an anode and a cathode. The two electrodes are inside a sealed glass or aluminium tube, then the gas inside would be removed to create a vacuum. This allowed electrons to pass between the two electrodes, working as a switch in the circuit.
Original vacuum tubes were quite large and resembled a lightbulb in appearance. They signalled a big change in computer development, as a purely electronic device replaced the previously used mechanical relays.
Aside being utilised in the field of computing, vacuum tubes were additionally used for radios, TVs, telephones, and radar equipment.
Apart from resembling a bulb, the tubes also shared the slightly more undesirable traits. They would produce a lot of heat, which would cause the filaments to burn out and the whole component would need to be replaced.
This is because the gadget worked on a principle called thermionic emission, which needed heat to let an electrical reaction take place. Turns out having a component that might melt the rest of your circuit wasn’t the most effective approach.
Transistors came along just over 40 years later, and the vacuum tubes were slowly replaced with the solid-state alternative.
The solid-state device, so named because the electric current flows through solid semiconductor crystals instead of in a vacuum like its predecessor, could be made much smaller and did not overheat. The electronic component also acted as a switch or amplifier, so the bright star of the vacuum tube gradually burned out.
Sounds like success
Vacuum tubes are still around and have found a niche consumer base in audiophiles and hi-fi fanatics. Many amplifiers use the tubes in place of solid-state devices, and the devices have a dedicated following within the stereo community.
Although some of the materials that went into the original tubes have been replaced, mostly for safety reasons, old tubes classed as New Old Stock (NOS) are still sold and some musicians still prefer these. Despite this, modernised tubes are relatively popular and have all the familiar loveable features, like a tendency to overheat.
Don’t operate in a vacuum
Transistors are used in almost every single electronic product out there. Cyclops have a huge selection of transistors and other day-to-day and obsolete components. Inquire today to find what you’re looking for at firstname.lastname@example.org, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.
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