Showing posts for July 2022
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.
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