Successful Endeavours - Electronics Designs That Work!

Technology


Printed Circuit Boards

In our series on Electronics Design we have looked at the Electronics Design Process from Requirements Capture, Technology Selection, Component Selection, Schematic Capture and finally the Printed Circuit Board or PCB Layout. Now we have a design and the Electronics CAD files to make a Prototype. 

There are a number of steps involved in making a PCB and the following infographic provides an overview.

PCB Manufacture Steps

PCB Manufacture Steps

This infographic is courtesy of Newbury Electronics.

PCB Manufacturing Problems

That is a lot of steps. And there are things that can go wrong. The main pitfalls to avoid in the PCB Design Process are:

  • track widths too narrow
  • clearances between tracks are too small
  • acute angle entry to pads
  • component footprints have pins in the wrong place or the wrong size
  • component outlines are wrong
  • silkscreen or overlay over solder pads
  • via annulus too thin
  • mounting holes in the wrong place or the wrong size
  • PCB outline incorrect
  • PCB 3D profile doesn’t fit into the intended enclosure

 And there are a range of issues that can affect the PCB Manufacturing Process. These include:

  • misalignment of drill holes to tracks to PCB outline routing
  • internal cut outs missed / not routed
  • over etching or under etching of the copper
  • incomplete plated through holes
  • poor surface finish
  • poor FR4 and copper bonding or moisture ingress leading to delamination

Maybe you are wondering how a PCB ever gets made successfully? This comes back to undertaking the PCB Design with an understanding of both electronics engineering design principles and the process capability of the manufacturer into account. And when you get it right, the final product can be pretty awesome. A good example can be found at this post about making a Fine Pitch PCB

RGB LED Array Close Up

RGB LED Array Close Up

Next we will look at the PCB Assembly process.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2015 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

PACE Zenith Awards 2015

We have only just heard. You probably already know that we are finalists for the Endeavour Awards 2015 this year with 3 of our projects. Today we got the news that we are finalists in 4 categories at the PACE Zenith Awards for 2015. I’m sure at least one of you is wondering whether I spend all my time just applying for awards. The answer is no. I didn’t even apply for these. PACE saw the entries we put into the Endeavour Awards and decided they would also be good candidates for the PACE Zenith awards and asked me if it would be OK if they entered them for us. You can guess the answer I’m sure.

PACE Zenith Awards 2015

PACE Zenith Awards 2015

As a result, we are finalist in 4 categories for the 3 projects they nominated us for. The 4 categories are:

  • Water and Wastewater

  • Best Fieldbus Implementation

  • Power and Energy Management

  • Transport Power and Infrastructure

Both out IoT Platform (Internet of Things Platform) and Telemetry Host web hosted back end qualify for all of these, and the ABB CQ930 power factor correction controller and multi-bank or multi-stage capacitor controller supports the Power and Energy Management and also the Transport Power and Infrastructure categories.

 The awards winners are announced at the PACE Zenith Awards dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney on June 11th 2015. 

 Wish us luck.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2015 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd

PCB Layout

After the Schematic Capture component of the Electronics Design  is complete, the logical connections for the electronics components have been determined. If the Electronics CAD package also supports it, you can add rules to guide the Printed Circuit Board Layout, also abbreviated to PCB Layout which we will use from here on.

The PCB provides both the mechanical support for the components and is many cases is a critical part of the circuit since the length of tracks, their thickness, their clearance from other tracks and the relative placement of components and tracks can significantly influence the final performance of the PCB. This is particularly true as power levels, clock speeds or frequency increases.

The Electronic Schematic defines the electrical connections between components, the value of components such as resistors, capacitors and inductors, the type of semiconductors used (silicon chips) and the connectors that take signals and power on and off the PCB. Each item on the schematic has to be linked to a physical shape that will go onto the PCB. This is done by assigning a footprint to the schematic item.

Schematic Symbol

I will explain  it works. The Schematic Symbol for an FT232RL USB Serial Interface device is shown below. This is arranged with the signals conveniently placed to suit logical connections and to make the overall Schematic easy to read and understand.  The signal name is shown inside the symbol boundary, and the pin number of the IC package is shown on the outside. 

FT232RL Schematic Symbol

FT232RL Schematic Symbol

Schematic Circuit

So this  is the symbol for a single part, an IC or Integrated Circuit. The Schematic Circuit or Electronic Schematic shows the connections to the other parts of the circuit. Below we see USB connector wired up the the FT232RL IC and the power supply bypass capacitors. The logic level UART signals are shown at the top right. This section of the Electronic Schematic provides the logical connections for a USB serial interface.

FT232RL USB Schematic

FT232RL USB Schematic

PCB Footprint

 Before we can do the PCB Layout, we have to associate the PCB Footprint each Schematic Symbol will use. The PCB Footprint for the FT232RL IC is shown below.

FT232RL PCB Footprint

FT232RL PCB Footprint

This is one of the 2 possible footprints for the FT232RL. This one is a 28 pin SSOP package.

Once each Schematic Symbol has a PCB Footprint, we are ready to do the PCB Placement.

PCB Placement

 The first step is to create the outline for the PCB and its mounting points, then to place each PCB Footprint so it is in the correct place. For some components, such as connectors, there is a specific place it must go. For other components, there is more freedom to choose the position and there are groups of components that must be in a specific relationship to each other. An example of this are the power supply bypass capacitors which must go very near to the IC they are supporting.

An example of a completed PCB Placement is shown below. This is a USB to RS232 serial converter.

PCB Unrouted

PCB Unrouted

PCB Routing

Now we have the components where we want them, we turn on the autorouter and the PCB is finished. Sorry but I couldn’t help that. The autorouting features of most PCB Layout CAD software packages are never as good as doing it yourself. They can be useful for testing the ease of routing for a particular placement. There are a lot of manufacturing considerations that need to be taken into account and track size requirements, either for current carrying or voltage drop, can be hard to define from just the schematic. And example of this is the main system voltage such as VCC. In some parts of the circuit the required current is low so smaller track sizes are OK, whereas other areas need heavier tracks. It isn’t easy to define this at the schematic level because they are all the same signal or Net.

The PCB with the routing complete is shown below. The selection of track size is related to the current the circuit needs to carry. A good reference for determining the track size is provided by the standard IPC-2222A.

PCB Routed

PCB Routed

PCB 3D Cad Integration

 It is also important to make sure the PCB will fit into a mechanical enclosure. Most modern PCB CAD tools, such as Altium Designer which we use, can create full 3D models of the PCB. Shown below is an example of just the PCB without the components showing.

3D PCB View

3D PCB View

 So there we have it. A PCB taken from the completed Electronic Schematic through to a PCB Layout.

 Next we will look at prototyping our new PCB.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2015 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Fine Pitch Printed Circuit Board

This example is from a project coming to the end of the Proof of Concept phase. So we have done the Electronics Design and also completed the PCB Layout. I can’t tell you what it does, but you don’t really need to know in order to appreciate the technology. This is an example of a Fine Pitch PCB or Fine Pitch Printed Circuit Board. And even better, it was made right here in Melbourne, Australia.

Pictures first.

RGB Light Emitting Diode Array

RGB Light Emitting Diode Array

Above we have the top surface of a Prototype PCB that drives a 16 x 16 or 256 RGB LED array. The size is 25mm square for the LED Array. You might also have realised that this is a custom RGB LED display. The display is driven as a row x column matrix. This top side has the 16 row drivers.

RGB LED Array Bottom Side

RGB Light Emitting Diode Array Bottom Side

This is the underside with the 16 x 3 = 48 column drivers. 

RGB LED Array Detail

RGB LED Array Detail

This shows some more detail where the Sea of RGB LEDs is sitting. They are in a staggered offset to reduce jagged edges on the image when it is displayed. 

RGB LED Arracy Close Up

RGB LED Arracy Close Up

 This final picture is a close up of the RGB LED array with a lace pin as a size reference. The RGB LEDs are 1mm wide and the pin head is a bit less than 1mm across. This is the smallest pin I could find.

Fine Pitch PCB Technology

Now for some technical details:

  • 4 mil track width (that is 0.1 mm)
  • 4 mil clearance (that is also 0.1 mm)
  • 0.25 mm via hole diameter

 The Prototype PCB was manufactured by PCB Fast in Seaford. We use them for our Prototype PCBs because they still manufacture in Australia. And that is part of our focus, maintaining manufacturing in Australia. So I was very impressed with the work they did and thought this was a great way to show what they can do. I was also impressed with the spirit of adventure Kevin and Leeanne had in taking this one on.

One day I’ll be able to tell you what it was for.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2015 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Endeavour Awards 2015

Endeavour Awards

Endeavour Awards

 As part of National Manufacturing Week, Manufacturing Monthly run the Endeavour Awards to celebrate Australian manufacturing success stories. Last year we were a finalist for the Technology Application of the Year. This year we are very excited to announce that we are finalists in 2 categories and in one of those, we have 2 separate products that are both finalists. That sounds a bit complicated. What it means is that we are listed 3 times as a finalist. The categories are:

  • Australian Industrial Product of the Year – ABB CQ930 3 phase power factor correction controller
  • Australian Industrial Product of the Year – IoT Monitoring Platform
  • IT Application of the Year – Telemetry Host IoT web platform

IoT of course stands the the Internet of Things.

The official Manufacturing Monthly announcement is at Endeavour Awards 2015 Finalists.

The Endeavour Awards ceremony is being held at the The Crown Casino Melbourne in the River Room on 28 May 2015. We hope to have even more good news on the night.

Endeavour Awards 2015 Finalist

Endeavour Awards 2015 Finalist

And we also have a couple of logos we can use to promote our finalist position, and of course, the Endeavour Awards themselves.

Endeavour Awards 2015 Finalists

Endeavour Awards 2015 Finalists

 Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2015 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd

2015 Australian Technical Events

 My thanks go to Paul Daniels of Circuit Challenges and LC Circuits for preparing this list.
 

11-14 Mar 2015
Sydney

South East Asia Protection and Automation Conference
17-18 Mar  2015
Sydney

International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing
19-24 Apr 2015
Brisbane
 
CONNECT — Expo 2015 
21-22 Apr 2015
Melbourne
 
International Conference on Telecommunications
27-29 Apr 2015
Sydney

Systems Engineering Test Evaluation Conference
27-29 Apr 2015
Canberra

CeBIT
5-7 May 2015
Sydney
 
Solar 2015 Conference & Exhibition 
7-8 May 2015
Melbourne

Gartner IT Infrastructure, Operations & Data Centre Summit
18-19 May 2015
Sydney
 
International Conference on Electromechanical and Power Systems
22-23 May 2015
Perth

Vivid Sydney 
22 May – 8 Jun 2015
Sydney

National Manufacturing Week
26-29 May 2015
Melbourne

Picture Coding Symposium
31 May – 3 Jun 2015
Cairns

Comms Connect 2015
3-4 Jun 2015
Sydney

IEEE International Symposium on Sensorless Control for Electrical Drives  
7-8 Jun 2015
Sydney

IEEE International Conference on Power Electronics and Drive Systems
9-12 Jun 2015
Sydney
 
International Symposium on Network Coding
22-24 Jun 2015
Sydney

International Conference on Information Technology and  Applications
1-4 Jul 2015
Sydney
 
Security Exhibition & Conference
15-17 Jul 2015
Melbourne
 
Integrate 2015 
25-27 Aug 2015
Melbourne

Electronex 2015  
10-11 Sep 2015
Melbourne

IEEE Multi-Conference on Systems and Control
21-23 Sep 2015
Sydney

Australian Power Engineering Conference  
27-30 Sep 2015
Wollongong
 
International Maritime and Naval Exposition
6-8 Oct 2015
Sydney
 
International Conference on Accelerator and Large Experimental Physics Control Systems
17-23 Oct 2015
Melbourne

International Symposium on Antennas and Propagation
9-12 Nov 2015
Hobart
 
International Conference on Electrical Engineering and Technology
10-11 Dec 2015
Sydney
 
International Conference on Industrial Information Systems and Management
10-11 Dec 2015
Sydney

International Conference on Vehicular Electronics and Safety
13-14 Dec 2015
Melbourne

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2015 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd

Schematic Capture

Schematic Capture is the process of defining the logic connections between different components in an Electronic Circuit. At the end of the process you have a diagram or Schematic of the circuit. That’s a complicated way of saying that it shows the connections between the selected components. We use Altium Designer as our EDA or Electronics Design Automation tool. 

That is a lot of links but this is an important part of the process. Get this wrong, and you have a product that doesn’t work.

Electronics Schematic

Electronics Schematic

This the Electronic Circuit Schematic for a 5VDC Switch Mode Power Supply, also known as SMPS. It can deliver up to 0.5A and includes a number of novel features to reduce noise and ripple. The RC damper across D5 is one of these. The other is the 82R series resistor that limits the maximum current through the charge pump diode C14. The measured ripple is less than 1mVRMS.

I’ve gone into a bit of detail because this shows how effective Component Selection can lead to a great outcome. We started with the design objective of a non-isolated power supply to get a 5VDC rail for our circuit from the incoming 12VDC rail. I wanted an efficiency above 80%, low noise, small footprint and low cost. So we looked at a wide range of suppliers including some like Texas Instruments, or TI as they are usually referred to, who have tools on their websites that will select suitable components for you. In this case they didn’t have a suitable offering but Microchip did. 

And the Schematic above is the result of the Component Selection process, review of the datasheet to get the circuit requirements for things like calculating the output voltage feedback divider (R10 and R12) correctly. And now we have our Schematic ready for creating the PCB Layout

Altium

Altium – EDA

Altium have a comprehensive tutorial on the whole process using their tool at Get Started With PCB Design.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2014 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd

Sound Manipulates Water

Every now and again I come across something that is entertaining to watch and shows how amazing the use of technology can be. This is a simple example of using vibration from a speaker to excite a water stream leading to an Amazing Water & Sound Experiment. I especially like the part where it looks like the water is flowing upwards against gravity.

Enjoy. 

 Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2014 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Collaboration

So what is Collaboration? The first thing it is not is convincing someone to work for you for nothing with the vague promise you will make it worth their while in the long run.

Collaboration = Working Together

Collaboration = Working Together

Let’s look at a few formal definitions:

  • Collaboration is working with each other to do a task and to achieve shared goals.
  • Collaboration: To work together, especially in a joint intellectual effort.
  • Collaborate: to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something.

Of these, the first I like best. Shared Goals is a key point for me. And it also supports the idea of each party freely bringing something to the other.

Collaboration matters?

Australia has the lowest rate of inter-business Collaboration in the OECD! Seriously!

This is a huge problem. And we see it at every level from Federal Politics down to union engagement with enterprises through to the 3 million Small Businesses in the SME sector who are all operating in silos and not working together. I have come to the view that this is one of 2 structural problems in the Australian economy that most prevents us from being competitive. And it is a problem we can’t rely on government fixing. This needs a grass roots revolution since it is attitudes and values based.

The above data was put together by Professor Goran Roos based on OECD statistical data. His role as Thinker in Residence in South Australia was to look at how to revitalise manufacturing in the state. And to solve a problem you have to first understand it. And then understand the different possible solution spaces to work in.

South Australia Thinker in Residence

Professor Goran Roos

The solution to today’s problems will require better thinking than got us into them in the first place. Albert Einstein. That is probably a paraphrase as he has expressed several versions of this same truth. But the core point, is that more of the same will get you more of the same. To get a better outcome you need better thinking. So for me it is time to think differently. This also leads to Innovation but that is another topic.

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

So rather than rant I decided to do something to show how we can get beyond the current situation. And was very fortunate to find George Zeidan of Zeidan who are a digital agency that amongst other things can develop custom web API based back ends for pretty much anything and the web and mobile interfaces that go with that. 

Successful Endeavours have a lot of experience in the design of remote telemetry devices and data loggers. And we had an existing problem. A great water dispensing device that allowed remotely located tank stands to provide water to tankers and record who, when, where, how much and then transport that back over GSM to a back end so that councils can keep track of it. It also had “Over the Air” firmware upgrade capability and “Over the Air” configuration update capability. However the client’s back end was taking forever to build and we had concluded it would never have the features we needed. The web developers were going to kill the opportunity. Another 9 months later and obviously still a problem, George Zeidan and I got talking and decided to Collaborate. 8 weeks later we had a working system with a feature roadmap in place and our first sale. 

Collaboration between Successful Endeavours and Zeidan leads to a new opportunity

Collaboration between Successful Endeavours and Zeidan

The picture above shows Ray Keefe of Successful Endeavours and George Zeidan of Zeidan,  rather like proud parents, with some examples of the internals of hardware devices already supported by the Ritri system. That is the name given to the web API back end product. You won’t be able to do much without a login so leave a comment if you want a demo.

The press release for the collaboration effort is available on line at Networking in the Net.

Planned future products to be supported by the system are:

  • Corrosion protection data loggers
  • Apartment water metering and sub-metering
  • Water Bulk Filling Stations
  • Septic Tank monitoring systems
  • fill in your product idea here…

So this is our official notification that if Australia is open for Business, Successful Endeavours is open for Collaboration.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2014 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

iAwards

The iAwards are an annual celebration of Innovation in driving economic growth in Victoria. This year we were pleased to see one of our clients, Rectifier Technologies Pacific, nominate for an award. They were encouraged to do so and I was pleased that they followed through on that encouragement.

iAwards

iAwards

iAwards Winners 2014

The iAwards 2014 Winners for Victoria have been announced and Rectifier Technologies Pacific are winners in 2 categories:

  • Research and Development
  • Sustainability

This was for their RT15 240V 100A HRE Rectifier. This is a high power level and high efficiency AC to DC Power Converter.

Rectifier Technologies Pacific

Rectifier Technologies Pacific

One of the reasons we are familiar with the product is that we did some of the core Embedded Software Development and know just how good the hardware design in the power stage is. You can get more information from Rectifier Technologies Pacific AC/DC Product Range.

So congratulations again to Rectifier Technologies Pacific and to all the rest of the winners at this year’s iAwards.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2014 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd

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