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National Electronics Week are dedicated to providing the very latest up to the minute electonics industry news covering manufacturing, hardware and software. Our particular speciality id consumer electronics.

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Semiconductor Design

Microprocessor Design

Power Supply Design

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Electronics Design - The Future

High Reliability Electronics – The Future

Recently, the chip or integrated circuit had its fiftieth birthday. And it goes without saying that IC technology has become commonplace is all sort of products around the world. It has transformed the way we live, work and play. But what many lay people do not realise is that integrated circuits possess vulnerabilities which impact on their reliability in the long term which can result in the failure of the devices and systems that utilise them.

The defence industry are particularly sensitive to such vulnerabilities given their mission critical responsibilities. However, the military are not unique users of integrated circuits in equipment and systems. Take for example control systems used in industry where programmable logic controllers are required to perform in hostile environments and perform reliably year after year and decade after decade. The actual manufacturing process also is being refined and streamlined with the latest adavnces in electronics technology. For example in order to reduce inventory costs and improve safety. For instance, the performance of a lifting equipment inspection is critical to an manufactuing organisation's future. So, make sure that each LOLER lifting equipment inspection is conducted as professionally as possible. Each time a LOLER inspection is performed, a number of details need to be investigated in order to grant conformity. Such equipment and systems perform a vital role in our everyday life for manufacturing products, delivering services as well as providing water, sanitation and energy.

Car manufacturers have been utilising integrated circuits in vehicles since they became available in controls for chassis, anti-lock brakes, engine management, gear boxes and air conditioning systems. Given the critical safety functions of a number of these systems, their reliability is of vital importance. Moreover, any faults arising after manufacture and sale to the public caused by premature component failure could be devastating from a personal safety perspective and have a horrendous financial impact on a manufacturer that is involved in a vehicle recall. So it’s palpably clear why the pursuit of long term reliable integrated circuits is of prime importance to designers and manufacturers.

Even seemingly more mundane applications are being revolutionised by the introduction of emerging electronics technologies. One such example are water coolers where the relative temperature of either hot or cold dispensing tempaeratures are maintaining to plus or minus a quarter degree accuracy. The enables the delivery of optimal beverage for the consumer and minimal electricity consumption for the water cooler owner.

Our planet would be a completely different without reliable modern electronics. Following the invention of the integrated circuit, semiconductor manufacturers have achieved great advances towards to ever improving reliability of even the most humble everyday devices.  As the journey progresses through the twenty first century, there will be increasing demand for reliability and performance in order to create improved products and brand new products and systems which offer high reliability and economical manufacture and operation.

Semiconductor design is being driven toward ever smaller and smaller components yet at the same time striving to reduce failure rates to infinitesimally small percentages. Design and manufacture will continue their battles to balance the trade off between performance size and cost.

However, that is just one perspective relating to “everyday” technologies. When you consider the fact that outer space is becoming increasingly more accessible, there is an increasing demand for even greater reliability and the accommodation of high altitudes and increased radiation.

Could The Future Of Electronics Design Be Altered By A New Technology Standard?

The Journal Scientific Reports have published a study which describes the evolution of the memristor which is a smaller and simplified alternative device to the transistor. A memristor is capable of changing its resistance values and storing several different memory values. However, scientists at Southampton University Have carried out successful experiments with new types of component material which yield increased levels of performance.

Processing of electronics data up till now has relied on the use of integrated chip microprocessors. These integrated circuits contain a large quantity of the microscopic switching devices ie transistors which turn the electrical current flow on and off. Since their introduction over 50 years ago, transistors have been made much, much smaller in order to meets the latest electronics technology demands. The microprocessors in contemporary smart phones are said to contain in the region of 5 billion transistors.

Their format is much simpler, are much smaller in size compared with transistors, that have low energy consumption and are capable of or memorising the level of charge that is passed through them. This means that memristors could provide the key to new enabling functionalities which could enable computers to be switched on and off without forgetting their processing state. This new technology has the capability of storing a maximum 128 memory states for each switching device which is nearly 4 times greater than was reported previously. The Southampton University team’s study describes how they achieved this performance level which involved the evaluation of many different configurations of functional oxide materials which provide the vital component that enables the memristor to change its resistance values in its operational state.

This discovery is really exciting electronics designers because it has enormous potential to revolutionise contemporary electronics. In 2020, in excess of two hundred billion devices interconnections are anticipated in the framework known as the “Internet of Things” which is expected to generate hitherto unimaginable levels of data which requires processing. So, memristors are seen as a critical technology for enabling future generations of microprocessors that require high reconfiguration functionality, be efficient users of electricity, scalable and above all affordable.

And looking even further ahead, memristor technology could pave the way for even more sophisticated artificial intelligence providing hardware which will “learn” and adapt to its environment like a human’s brain!