posted by Bryon Moyer
Change may be coming to the world of camera autofocus. Traditional smartphone autofocus uses a voice coil to move the lenses and change the focus. While this has obviously worked, a company called poLight thinks it could work better. In particular, faster and smaller.
They’ve fashioned a MEMS autofocus module. By goosing a couple of piezoelectric electrodes on a thin plate of glass, they can warp the glass – and therefore change the surface of a polymer block, turning it into a lens. The amount of actuation determines the curvature and hence the focus.
They claim that, unlike voice coil, this arrangement can withstand reflow solder temperatures, simplifying manufacturing and reducing cost. It also operates faster than a voice coil, improving performance for users.
You can find more on their website.
posted by Bryon Moyer
MEMS is entering yet another space traditionally done with electronics: RF switching. The switching comes as a result of the ridiculous number of bands (currently 26, by DelfMEMS’s count) that vie for love and attention. Transistors have typically been used for these switches.
That’s fine when the transistor is on, but when it’s off, well, it leaks and behaves non-linearly – especially at high frequencies.
So DelfMEMS (we looked at some cap arrays of theirs before) thought that a micromechanical switch would be better. Instead of an electrical channel created in a FET, they use a membrane that, depending on its position, opens or closes a mechanical connection. So when it’s open, it’s open – no leaking.
And what size switch to make? DelfMEMS says that, in particular in Asia, 12 ways is typical – it’s one of the first questions they get. The high and low bands are typically split first, after which the 12-way switch takes care of the rest (yeah, I know… 26/2>12… details…). Technically this is a single-pole, 12-throw switch (one circuit with 12 choices).
(Image courtesy DelfMEMS)
For a digital guy like me, this looks a lot like a demux. Or a mux, if you turn it around. Except that, with standard digital logic, you can’t simply turn a mux around and use it as a demux. But this isn’t digital logic; these are switches, and yes, you can turn them around and use them either to mux 12 signals into one or to take one signal and send it one of 12 ways.
You can find more info in their announcement.
posted by Jim Turley
Did not see that coming.
American chipmaker Freescale will be acquired by Dutch rival NXP in a cash and stock deal worth about $11.8 billion. The combined firm will have a valuation of about $40B, making it one of the larger semiconductor vendors in the world. Freescale shareholders will receive about one-third of a share of NXP stock and $6.25 in cash for each share of Freescale stock.
The deal gives Freescale an "enterprise value" (the net worth of the company minus its cash in the bank) of $16.7 billion. The purchase price is considerably below that sum because Freescale doesn't actually have cash in the bank; it's in debt. So NXP will be acquiring Freescale's debt in addition to its intrinsic value as a company, a pretty typical arrangement in these situations.
For the historically minded, Freescale was originally called Motorola Semiconductor after it was spun off from parent company Motorola (which is now part of Google). Motorola/Motorola Semi created many of the embedded world's most popular microprocessors, including 68HC05, 68HC11, and the 68000 family that powered early Sun workstations and Apple's first Macintoshes. The company had some misses, too, like the 88000 RISC architecture and the "RISC-ified" ColdFire. In recent years, the company had most of its success in automotive and deeply embedded industrial segments. The company got its start almost 100 years ago, making radios for automobiles, hence the name Motorola: motorized Victrola.
For its part, NXP was once Philips Semiconductor, the chip-making arm of the giant Dutch electronics firm, before being spun off in 2006. The acquisition is expected to close in the second half of this year.