World Maker Faire 2016 and the Avnet Innovation Lab
It's that time of year again. When the LEDs blink, the DYI drones buzz, and there is a special 3D printed charge in the air. With a little help from Fish Fry special correspondent Larra Morris, this week’s podcast takes you to this year’s World Maker Faire in Brooklyn, New York. Larra brings us a special selection of some of the new fabrication technologies unveiled at this year’s Maker Faire including a super cool PCB printer called Voltera, brand new low-cost pick-and-place, and a company who claims to be the easiest assembly service in the world. Do you have a startup that could use a little extra help and some cold hard cash? This week we also check out how the Avnet Innovation Lab can help you take your startup to the next level.
Electronics Engineering Welcomes Its New Maker Overlords
World Maker Faire is an event defined by its energy. In past years, EE Journal has tried to capture this mix of inspiration, enthusiasm, and community in our coverage of the Faire. But perhaps the best way to convey a sense of the event is to present a collection of quotes from people talking to our EE Journal team this year at the Faire, or that we overheard while walking around:
“My project doesn’t have any practical utility… but it’s cool.”
“The energy here… I mean, there’s things that breathe fire!”
“We kind of want someone else to steal our idea. Because it’s a great idea, but we only kind of know what we’re doing.”
“It’s very different from other industry events… where else are you going to have a press briefing interrupted by a brass band?”
“This might be our FIRST drone race with three finishers! Okay everyone, concentrate and will him through the rest of the course and…. Awwww! He fell victim to the announcer’s jinx!”
“If they don’t have stickers, I’m NOT IN.”
Three New Processors Deal with Noise in Different Ways
Noise is big business these days. And, this week, we look at three brand new chips that all make noise, more or less deliberately.
First up, there’s Cirrus Logic’s new CS47L90, the first of what I suspect will be a series of high-powered audio chips. Cirrus calls it a “smart audio codec,” but that undersells the device’s capabilities. This is a 7-processor beast designed to wrestle audio streams to the ground and make them beg for mercy. If it happens in the audio spectrum, this chip can probably do it.
Why Not Open Source?
Wouldn’t it be great if there were more options in FPGA tools? For decades now, the FPGA community has decried the lack of FPGA design tool options. You’d think that a technology that has been evolving and maturing for over thirty years would have long ago reached the point where there were a wide variety of competitive programming options to choose from. However, we are still basically at the point where there is one and only one option for doing your FPGA design - the tool suite sold and distributed by the FPGA company itself.
It’s not that the third-party and open-source communities haven’t tried to find ways to produce viable alternative design flows. They have. Numerous EDA companies, from fast-moving, highly-motivated, innovative startups to big lumbering institutionalized EDA vendors have poured creativity, energy, determination, and piles of cash into efforts to build a third-party ecosystem for FPGA design. Well-minded communities have unleashed proven formulas for open-sourcing solutions to complex problems, looking for an alternative to proprietary tools. All to practically no avail.
The Antenna Company Leverages the Superformula
Imagine if there were one formula. All of existence, explained by one formula. All of the formulas we use today? Simply special cases of that one formula. Like the elusive unified field theory that would embrace all known forces, this would be a Formula for Everything. And you’d call it the Superformula.
Well, it turns out that there is a thing called The Superformula, and credit goes to one Johan Gielis. It’s relatively recent (by scientific standards, not by technology standards): 2003. But, the name notwithstanding, this isn’t a Formula That Describes Everything. It is pretty super in its own way, but it’s not quite as earth-shattering as the moniker might otherwise suggest.
IP, Ownership, and Cyber Piracy Today
So you’ve built yourself some lovely software. You've shined and polished the corners, field tested it, and even gotten the approval of the VCs on high. But what if, the whole time, there was a tiny hole in your code? And because of that tiny hole, the bad guys were able to waltz right in and are now using your software all willy-nilly-like without paying. Well folks, this is happening a lot more than we know. Or, maybe we do know about it but we just don’t want to talk about it. This week we’re pulling back the curtain on software piracy, IP thievery, and unlicensed software usage with Ted Miracco from SmartFlow Compliance Solutions. Ted and I discuss where the biggest piracy threats are coming from these days and how companies big and small can protect themselves from those sneaky, scurvy-ridden cyber pirates.