System Design

Many electronics engineers create board level products, but their boards are integrated into systems at some point. And systems need things like enclosures, power supplies and environmental management.

New Electronics recognises the importance of system design and its impact on the final product. In this section, New Electronics reviews the latest developments in system design and brings visitors to the website information on how these developments are being applied.

New technology is driving new ways to customise electronic enclosures

Not that long ago, any customisation offered by enclosure manufacturers tended to be limited to drilling a few holes for connectors or machining apertures for displays. If you were looking for any additional customisation – whether that was painting, anodising, silk screen printing of legends and logos or EMC shielding – then you had to contend with a long chain of suppliers in which even minor problems could cause long delays or result in enclosures having to be redesigned.

A new VITA specification is set to enable rugged systems the size of a Rubik's Cube

Since its early days, components for VME and similar systems have been measured in terms of units – or U. At the larger end of the scale, boards have been manufactured in the 6U format – measuring 19 x 10.5 x 19.5in. Many of these products were used in military applications and, at the time, size was not a major issue. In fact, the combination of ruggedness and ease of maintenance was more important.

Pre-empting and overcoming obsolescence

New Electronics talks to Debbie Rowland, Sales Manager at Charcroft, an independent, specialist distributor based in the UK, about how obsolescence management has and is changing and how organisations can better prepare and plan for obsolescence.

How to ensure your SCM system is fit for purpose in today's electronics design industry

A couple of decades ago, version control – often referred to as software configuration management (SCM) – was largely unheard of outside the software development industry. Then the sheer volume and variety of the different elements which electronics designers have to keep track of began to increase. That pushed the electronics industry to adopt version control, to the point where, today, the approach is pretty much ubiquitous.

How do you keep your IP secure against counterfeiting?

If you have a user installable part, can your system tell whether it is authentic or not? Can you be sure whether a subcontractor is shipping to counterfeiters extra versions of your product? One of the weapons which chip and system builders are using to deal with these problems is to make each part identifiably unique.

When it comes to designing a clock tree, what do you need to take into account?

A clock tree is intended to generate the reference timing required by all the ICs in a PCB design and the challenge for an engineer is to design one with the fewest number of components possible, while at the same time meeting system-level performance requirements. Design engineers need to take into account real estate restrictions – can they simplify complex PCB layouts? – and they have to be clear as to whether the clock generation IC is expected to do jitter attenuation or clock synthesis.

The importance of thinking thermal early in the design process

Thermal management is often left until pretty near the end of the design engineer's checklist of elements to cover off on a project. There are often reasons offered for this, some being more logical and valid than others. But by building an understanding of heat management techniques and working with experts in what still remains a somewhat mysterious aspect of electronic product design, there are significant performance, cost and reliability benefits to be had. These can prove to be crucial differentiators in the final design specification and be the difference between a compelling, high selling idea and a 'me too' product that may be late to market and taken an inefficient and torturous route to get there.

Complex devices require complex packaging

Packaging a semiconductor component is becoming an increasingly complex business. It's never been an easy task, even for simple devices, but when it comes to leading edge products, there is more than a degree of boundary pushing involved.

'Total Cost of Ownership' methodology becomes more sophisticated

The notion of 'Total Cost of Ownership' (TCO) was a common sense reaction to the increasing flow of electronics manufacturing to the 'low cost geographies'. With low real estate costs and wage rates two orders of magnitude lower than in developed countries, the developing world could offer prices that won many contracts, whether based on end product or price per placement or any other such metric.

Process aims to take the thermal stresses off the electronics

'Big Data' is big and getting bigger. As the world moves from analogue to digital, all of that data passes through and is stored in data centres. And on top of the data stored there is also the move to do more computation in the cloud. The more data going in and around, the bigger the data centres get, the more power they use and the more heat is generated – although data centres that are devoted to storage do less processing and generate less heat than a centre whose main function is cloud computing.

Boxes of tricks: Choosing the right enclosure for your design

Metal or plastic? Choosing an enclosure is not as straightforward as some might think, so what are the options when you are looking to house your precious electronic designs? Robert Cox, sales and marketing director of OKW Enclosures, gave his opinions on the pros and cons of the major enclosure materials of construction.

Solving the system architecture jigsaw

Is a system architecture created from the apocryphal clean sheet of paper any longer? No, according to design consultancy Plextek's chief technology officer Paul Martin. "Have I ever had a clean sheet of paper to design on?" he wondered. "If I did, what was I guided by and what were the design constraints?" Pushed, he admitted he'd probably done it once, with a telecoms system.

WaRP speed ahead for wearable electronics

Wearable electronics has been a topic pursued for some years, but with little obvious progress beyond entry level devices. While initial offerings were invariably some form of clothing based device, the technology has advanced slowly and it appears its day may be arriving. In fact, analysts expect the wearables market to be worth $50billion by 2017.

An engineer's guide to selecting and using a resonator

Increasing demand for complex and compact consumer electronics applications is driving the need for low power, small and reliable components. The Internet of Things is driving the need for connectivity of the simplest devices, while wearable applications are becoming popular.

FPGAs open up new system design possibilities

System architecture has evolved from being an instinctive dark art – the balance between implementing functions on hardware and software often being swayed by the amount of legacy software or, perhaps, the limited hardware resource.

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