All the Signal Integrity You Can Shake A Stick At

Fish Fry Takes On DesignCon

by Amelia Dalton

Eye diagrams, Bert Scopes and more SerDes than anyone knows what to do with...what could it be? DesignCon of course. In this week’s Fish Fry, I look into to why DesignCon was so popular this year and why signal integrity issues were the un-offcial theme of the show. I also interview Brad Griffin of Cadence about why we need power distribution analysis and why he thinks DesignCon is the best show of the year.

 

The Valley of FPGA

Where Green Pastures End

by Kevin Morris

Just about every electronic technology on the market today has alternatives. Between custom chips, ASSPs, pre-built modules, embedded processors, microcontrollers, FPGAs, and a host of other silicon-based goodies, there are always numerous ways to solve any given problem. As engineers, we make our choice based on any number of criteria - cost, power, size, reliability, our familiarity and experience with the technology, our company’s preferences... all of them weigh into our decision.

 

There Goes the Neighborhood

Zuken Redesigns their Board Tools from Scratch

by Bryon Moyer

Anyone who’s ever done any serious remodeling of their home knows the big decision. At some point, wouldn’t it really be easier just to mow down the existing structure and start over?

Little by little, as you add new ideas – “while you guys are at it” – the costs mount, and that’s even without considering the surprises that are inevitably encountered. And if you go from a two-dimensional home – one story – and add a third dimension, it gets crazier. Most single-story homes aren’t built strong enough to support a second story. So you end up doing things like building a separate support framework to hold up the new top floor or, even more crazily, hoisting the original house up to make it the top floor and then building a new first floor under it. (Yes, people do this.)

 

Hi-Tech Spark Arrestor

by Bryon Moyer

Hoover Dam is pretty damn impressive. Why, some might simply say it’s a pretty dam.

As you take the tour, much is said about its size, the effort to build it, the clever techniques used to cool the concrete, and, if you’re lucky, the volume of water rumbling through the penstocks inches below the ominously vibrating surface you’re standing on.

 

(un)Rolling with the Times

by Brad Dixon and Anil Khanna, Mentor Graphics

A HW engineer and an embedded SW developer, who are slated to work together on a common project, strike up a conversation at the proverbial water cooler.

HW guy: “I just finished a month long evaluation for a new co-verification tool. We finally made a decision on the product and vendor we’re going with.”

SW guy (nonchalantly): “Really? I wouldn’t know much about evaluations, I build my own toolchain.”

 

Methods of Estimating Component Temperatures

Part 3 – Board Temperature

by Matt Romig and Sandra Horton, Texas Instruments

In electronics systems, the board temperature adjacent to the component often is known or controlled as a part of the system design. This means that by measuring the board temperature during operation, you can estimate the component’s junction temperature. You can use the thermal parameter Psi-JB (ΨJB) for this purpose since it is unique to a particular device, and is generally provided by the component manufacturer. This Part 3 in this three-part series details the proper method to determine the component junction temperature by measuring the board temperature. By carefully addressing component temperature, you can ensure operation within the thermal limits of the component.

 

Methods of Estimating Component Temperatures

Part 2 – Case Temperature

by Matt Romig and Sandra Horton, Texas Instruments

In electronics systems, the case temperature (sometimes referred to as top temperature) of a component often is easy to measure. Fortunately, the component case temperature is very close, both physically and thermally, to the component junction temperature. This means that you can estimate the component’s junction temperature by measuring it’s case temperature during operation. You can use the thermal parameter Psi-JT (ΨJT) for this purpose since it is unique for a particular component under typical use conditions, and is generally provided by the component manufacturer. This article details the proper method to determine the component junction temperature by measuring the case temperature. By carefully addressing component temperature, you can ensure operation within the thermal limits of the component.

 

Methods of Estimating Component Temperatures

Part 1

by Matt Romig and Sandra Horton, Texas Instruments

It is well known that IC components heat up during operation as they dissipate power while doing their analog and digital magic. But how can the user determine if a component (semiconductor device) is too hot? Many engineers have seen videos on this or may even have personal lab experience with overloaded components which start to smoke or melt. What is not commonly known, however, is that well below this temperature the component function or reliability starts to degrade. How can you be certain that each component in an electronic system is within its safe operating range?

 

Creating a Virtual Factory

Averna’s Proligent Keeps Tabs and Makes Changes Where Needed

by Bryon Moyer

We in the semiconductor world live in a relatively self-contained environment. Processing is highly specialized, equipment is expensive and not really usable for anything else, and risks are high if something goes wrong.

So we tend to get a little, oh, inbred, with a few companies providing the variety of tools and services in a small-town supply chain.

 

Leading Lattice

Billerbeck Steers a Fresh Course

by Kevin Morris

Darin Billerbeck looks out of place and restless in the dark, heavy, ostentatious ambiance of Lattice Semiconductor’s boardroom. Like a well-trained athlete donning his grandfather’s hat and cane, his energy bursts through the seams - fighting with the oppressive atmosphere that echoes the values of his predecessors. Lattice was once a house of hierarchy - a top-down, micro-managed, dictatorship where blame flowed downward and credit upward.

Today, the baroque trappings of the company’s tumultuous past are being cleared to make way for a cleaner, more welcoming future. Pieces of art that adorned the hallways as silent reminders to the passers-by that they were in the presence of power far greater than their own are being sold off - and ping-pong tables and discussion lounges are appearing in their place. Lattice is undergoing a cultural transformation of epic proportions, and evidence is everywhere you look.

 

Packing Them In

A Look at High-Density PC – er – PWBs and Persecution of Solder

by Bryon Moyer

The world of PC boards – or, as they seem to be more widely called in the official literature, “printed wiring boards” or PWBs – has been a conservative one. For the most part, things are still done today like they were a few decades ago. Sure, dimensions have gone down, and we can do many, many more layers, and we can put passives on the back side, but, except for the bleeding edge, we pretty much do things the old-fashioned way: etch metal off of a board made out of some kind of resinous material, glue several of those together if needed, poke parts through the holes or stick them onto pads, and run the whole thing through a wave-soldering line. Some wires (particularly, white ones) may even be soldered by hand.

 

Board Market Mysteries

Unraveling the Paradox of PCB Tool Rankings

by Kevin Morris

We talk a lot about chips around here - custom ICs, FPGAs, embedded processors, memories - silicon gets a good bit of coverage in the pages of EEJ. However, all that silicon has to eventually get parked and connected up somewhere, and that somewhere is usually on a PCB.

Unlike chips, unless you’re shipping your product with a standard board or module, you have to design the board yourself, specifically for your product. That means, although we spend way more time talking about design tools for the creation of custom and customized chips, most of the EDA tools actually being used out there in the world are doing board design.

 

You Got It

They Want It

by Jim Turley

Security is an arms race. The good guys come up with new ways to hide data and the bad guys eventually find ways to break in anyway. You update your security; they update their attacks. In true arms race fashion, both sides spend a lot of time and energy to stay right where they are.

And, like a grimmer sort of arms race, civilians can wind up among the casualties. In our case, engineers are learning that they need to include security features in their products whether they like it or not. Seemingly innocuous products like vending machines, home appliances, and handheld gizmos now often need security features because somebody might hack the device and make something unpleasant happen. As we design and sell more of these gizmos, their security becomes more of an issue.

 

Shanghaied in Sydney

If You Dig a Hole Through the Bottom of the EDA Market - Do You Wind Up in China?

by Kevin Morris

No one has ever made the mistake of calling Altium “timid.” As long as they’ve been in business, the company co-founded by Nick Martin has been making bold and controversial moves. This week, Altium’s announcement that their company headquarters would be moving from Sydney, Australia to Shanghai, China is no exception.

In the beginning, the company provided the alterna-tool for designers who wanted to do their own PCB layout but didn’t have big corporate budgets. ProTel made a name for themselves in low-cost desktop PCB design. Competing with rivals like OrCad (now part of Cadence), the company put the world on notice that they weren’t content with the status-quo in EDA and that they were going to be following their own drummer. ProTel became synonymous with low-cost PCB design.

 

Papa's Got A Brand New Bag

Texas Instruments Buys National Semiconductor, Re-learning the Lesson of the Osborne 1 and an O-Scope That Will Run on Your iPhone

by Amelia Dalton

In this week’s Fish Fry, Amelia tries to unravel the complexities of Texas Instruments’ recent (planned) acquisition of National Semiconductor, celebrates the birthday of the world’s oldest portable computer and checks out a new o-scope coming to your iPhone or iPad.

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