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.

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.

The challenges of taking COTS to top speed

There's nothing new in the concept of using COTS – commercial off the shelf – backplanes and boards in a range of applications. It's an approach rooted in good sense, as long as the various elements you select can interoperate.

Can intermittent faults in operation be cured at the design stage?

Intermittent faults can be irritating. Often attempts to repair them will result in the phenomenon of NFF – No Fault Found – as the product fails to reproduce its failures when sent for service or repair. Such problems cease to be irritating and start to become very expensive and potentially dangerous when they start to appear in safety critical systems like aircraft or trains.

It might have just turned 40, but the party is definitely not over for Ethernet

Ethernet, the data networking protocol often hailed as the most ubiquitous enabling technology in the communications sector, celebrated its 40th birthday a few weeks ago. It was invented and developed at PARC – Xerox' legendary Palo Alto Research Centre – by a team of engineers led by Bob Metcalfe. Metcalfe had been tasked with devising a simple, yet flexible, networking scheme that would link several hundred pcs and some printers at a distance of a mile and operate at several hundred kbit/s – and with a minimum of cabling, to get rid of the 'rat's nests' of wiring common at the time.

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