Successful Endeavours - Electronics Designs That Work!

Smart Cities

This follows on from our look at Smart Cities and the technology mix being considered for how you implement them. For this post we will look at the development of a Smart City Telemetry sensor suite and the ICT communications that go with it. This is also a classic IoT case study.

I also want to point out that a Smart World will only happen if we have Smart Regions, Smart Countries, Smart States or Territories, Smart Cities and Smart Neighbourhoods.

arcHUB

My thanks go to The Active Reactor Company for giving me permission to share their story about the development of the arcHUB Telemetry sensor suite which is aimed at the Smart Cities programs as well as being more widely deployable.

arcHub Telemetry Module

arcHub Telemetry Module Logo

A few days ago I had the opportunity to speak with Daniel Mulino who is the State Member for Eastern Victoria. The picture below comes from his visit to our office in Narre Warren. The original post he made along with my explanation is here. I’m giving a more detailed explanation below including some history.

Ray Keefe - arcHUB - Daniel Mulino

Ray Keefe – arcHUB – Daniel Mulino

For those wondering about the device I am holding, it is an arcHUB Smart Cities Telemetry module aimed at Smart Cities projects and environmental monitoring where you don’t have access to, or want the cost of, connecting up mains power. This is designed for The Active Reactor Company and is already involved in 1 Smart Cities deployment and multiple trials of low cost sensor modules by councils and government agencies in 3 states. I can’t yet provide specific details on those as they are covered by non-disclosure agreements.

To understand how we got here, it helps to know the history.

The Active Reactor Company make a product called The Active Reactor. It improves both the efficiency and the life of arc lamps such as low pressure sodium street lights, high pressure Sodium  and metal halide lamps.

The Active Reactor

The Active Reactor

With the advent of LED street lighting their current product is not needed for new installations and so they wanted to secure the future of the business. So a great example of addressing an issue that will arise in the future so you are ready for it rather than just reacting to it once it happens.

Initially the new product was aimed at monitoring LED street lights. One of the big issues with LED lighting is that the LEDs either fail over time or they fade and lose brightness. Or a mixture of both. The fading is a result thermal diffusion in the semiconductor substrate. When they fall by more than 30% then you have to address that as they no longer comply with legal standards for lighting levels. The other catch is that the claimed life of 10+ years isn’t yet proven and so it is expected that there will be many lights that fail early or fade early or both.

Of course, once you have a communicating device that can monitor one thing and report it, it can also monitor other things and report them as well. Plus there were issues with being allowed to monitor the light. And where would the power come? Their inquiries with authorities responsible for the poles would not give permission to tap the power in the pole or light.

So this set us the follow set of constraints to work within:

  • must be battery operated
  • easy to install
  • low cost to make and also run
  • communicate using the cheapest data transport
  • monitor the LED light at night and keep track of the brightness trend
  • send an alert when it is persistently out of specification
  • field life to match the street light (10+ years)

As The Active Reactor Company talked to target users (initially the same people who buy their current product) and got an idea of what they wanted, a very different picture emerged. The people who cared about LED street lighting, also cared about micro climates, and soil moisture levels, and air quality, and foot traffic, and …

So that lead to a change of direction and a look at what else was required. The result is a device aimed at the Smart Cities market that also suits a wide range of other end customers and has the following features you won’t find combined together in conventional devices:

  • battery operated (either solar charged or primary cells)
  • minimum 2 year battery life for standard AA cell alkaline batteries
  • 10+ day running time if solar charging is lost
  • up to 20 days on board non-volatile storage
  • compact form factor
  • multiple sensor types per node (up to 20)
  • sensor area network to minimise data costs
  • over the air firmware upgrades
  • over the air configuration updates
  • variable sample rates and upload timing
  • still has to be low cost to make and also run
  • easy to install

So here is the range of sensors already trialed:

  • wind speed (external anemometer attached)
  • sunlight level
  • night light level (street light monitoring etc)
  • temperature
  • PM2.5 particulate levels
  • PM10 particulate levels
  • Gasses – CO, H2S, SO2, NO2, H2S
  • Humidity
  • People counting (PIR based anonymous counting)
  • Soil moisture levels (external probe)

It is also the HUB and coordinator of a Sensor Area Network that can include modules that can measure any of the above as well as:

  • vibration
  • shock
  • movement
  • water level
  • GPS location
  • USB charger current (for usage analysis)
  • counting any device or system that has a pulse output
  • analog voltage measurements (AC and DC)
arcHUB trial at Fitzroy Gardens

arcHUB trial at Fitzroy Gardens

The arcHUB is solar powered and includes a cellular modem to allow reporting back to a web service. It is designed to mount to a pole using straps but can easily be mounted to a wall or any other typical structure. A typical scenario is measurements every 15 minutes (except people or pulse counting which are continuous) and uploading to the web service every hour.

With the release of CAT-M1 services across Australia by Telstra, we are expecting migrate to this communications standard because it will reduce power consumption by at least a factor of 4 which will further improve battery life.

Quectel BG96 CAT-M1 Module

Quectel BG96 CAT-M1 Module

The arcHUB Peripheral Modules connect via 915MHz ISM Band communications and use standard AA batteries. They can run for between 2 and 5 years depending on what sensors are attached and how often they are read and reported. If you used primary lithium cells then you can expect life beyond 10 years.

The arcHUB Peripheral Modules are also capable of stand alone operation with the addition of an internally fitted cellular modem so you can have a portable people counter module that can be easily moved to a new location and doesn’t require an electrician to install it.

And pretty exciting to also announce that this is not only a designed in Australia product range, but it is also a made in Australia product range.

Again, my thanks to The Active Reactor Company for permission to share this story and if you want to know more, leave a comment and I will put you in touch with them.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Smart Cities

Smart City is a blending of current and emerging technologies being employed to allow a city to better manage its assets and deliver value to its residents. It is an emerging concept and still very much in exploration. The 2 core technology areas being investigated as the primary value creators are ICT (Information and Communications Technology) and the IoT (Internet of Things).

Smart City

Smart City

What isn’t fully understood is the relationships between any or all of the list below:

  • what is worth measuring?
  • how to measure it (what sensor, what platform)?
  • how often?
  • in what detail?
  • to learn what from?
  • how quickly to transport the reading?
  • how much will it cost to transport the data?
  • via what technologies?
  • stored how?
  • accessed how?
  • analysed how?

Quite a big list.

Did you know there is a Smart Cities Plan for Australia? I only recently found out. And if you read through it there are more questions than answers. Which I think is the right balance given where we are positioned in trying to understand what is possible versus what is useful.

Smart Cities Plan

Smart Cities Plan

There are some obvious areas already being tackled by ICT systems. These include:

  • transport logistics (road, rail, freight, air, sea)
  • public transport
  • utility services (gas, water, electricity, waste)
  • weather prediction
  • environmental monitoring

And there are a range of trials underway to try and understand what using a broader sensor mix and more widely deployed sensors might do to improve amenity, even if they aren’t all very high quality sensors. Again the questions come back to:

  • what sensors?
  • how many and where?
  • how accurate?
  • how much do they and their platform cost?
  • measured how often?
  • at what latency?
  • what to do with the data?
Smart Cities Segments

Smart Cities Segments

IoT Challenges

Although the Internet of Things (IoT) has a huge promise to live up to, there is a still a lot of confusion over how to go about it. This breaks up into 3 distinct areas.

IoT Hardware

The first is the IoT Hardware device that is deployed to the field. These come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, power profiles and capabilities. So we are seeing everything from full computing platform devices (Windows, Linux, Other) deployed as well as tiny resource constrained platforms such as Sensor Node devices. Examples of the later are Wimoto Motes and our own FLEXIO Telemetry devices which are OS-less Sensor Nodes.

The trade offs are between:

  • power consumption
  • power supply
  • always online versus post on a schedule or by exception
  • cost (device, data, installation, maintenance)
  • size
  • open standard versus proprietary
  • upgrade capable (over the air OTA firmware or software capability)
  • security

As of a month ago, the KPMG IoT Innovation Network reported there are 450 different IoT platforms available. And most don’t talk to each other. Many lock you in. Many only work with their specific hardware. So picking a hardware platform is only part of the challenge. And new products appear every week.

IoT Innovation Network

IoT Innovation Network

IoT Communications

The second area of challenge is the communications. Everyone is trying to get away from Cellular IoT Communications because the Telecommunications Companies pricing model has traditionally been higher than they want to pay, and because the power required means you need a much higher power budget. So there has been a push to find other options which has opened the way for players like LoRa and sigfox.

However the CAT-M1 and NB-IoT Telecommunications Standards mean that the pendulum could easily go back the other way. CAT-M1 reduces the data rate (no streaming video needed for most IoT devices) and changes the modulation scheme so you get a better range at a much lower power consumption. And unlike sigfox, you aren’t severely constrained on how much data you can move or how often. CAT-M1 has just gone live in Australia on the Telstra network and we are about to do our first trials.

Quectel BG96 CAT-M1 Module

Quectel BG96 CAT-M1 Module

NB-IoT doesn’t yet have an official availability date but we aren’t too concerned about that. NB-IoT is really aimed at the smart meter market and similar devices which have low amounts of data and upload it infrequently. So a water meter running off battery for 10+ years is an example of what it is targeting. We will find CAT-M1 a lot more useful. And the modules that support CAT-M1 currently also support NB-IoT so we are designing now and can make the decision later.

IoT Back End

The third area of challenge is the back end. Pick the wrong data service and storage provider and you could find you don’t own your own data and you have to pay every time you want a report on it. And you can’t get at it to port it to another system. And if the volume of data grows the cost can grow even faster as many offer a low entry point but the pricing get expensive quickly once you exceed the first threshold.

Because of this there is an strongly emerging preference for open systems or for systems that do allow you to push and pull data as it suits you.

So our strategy to date has been to provide our own intermediate web service and then republish the data in the required format to suit the end user / client. The result is the best of both worlds. We can deploy resource constrained field devices which are low power and low cost, then communicate with high security and high cost platforms using the intermediate service to do the heavy lifting. And we don’t try and imprison the data and trap the client.

The service is called Telemetry Host and was a finalist for IT Application of the Year in Australia in 2015 at the Endeavour Awards. And again for the PACE Zenith Awards in both 2015 and 2016.

Telemetry Host

Telemetry Host

This isn’t the only approach and so we also create devices and incorporate protocols that allow them to directly connect to other systems. This includes porting our core IP to other URLs which are then owned by our clients. So far we haven’t found that one single approach suits every scenario.

Smart City

You can’t be smart if you don’t know anything. And this is certainly true for Smart Cities. To be a Smart City requires Sensors and Telemetry. But the jury is still out on how much and what kind.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

 

Project Management

This post will look at an aspect of managing projects that is often overlooked. These are the steps you need to take prior to project commencement. The idea for this came from a presentation by Graeme Joy to the Casey Cardinia Business Group covering his expedition to the North Pole.

Graeme Joy with Australian Flag

Graeme Joy with Australian Flag

Planning a Project

The thing that stood out the most from his presentation was how much of the project depended on the up front planning, and how little they could do to influence the final outcome once they set foot onto the ice.

On The Ice

International North Pole Expedition On The Ice

So how did they do it?

Pick the right team

If you want a High Performance Team, then every member needs to be able to carry their weight and to be able to continue to do so during the whole of the project and in cooperation with the rest of the team members. So friction is OK as long as it leads to a good outcome. In fact you need divergent view points to prevent group think settling in.

So how do you pick the team members?

International North Pole Expedition Team

International North Pole Expedition Team

Step one is that a High Performance Team needs a High Performance Leader or leadership group. The High Performance Leader has to be able to set the scene for the purpose the team exists for and also gain commitment from the team members toward that purpose. The steps include:

  • Vision – Create and Develop commitment within your team. Defining success and the
    measurement of performance.
  • Empowerment – creating leaders within your organisation.
  • Urgency – A Sense of Urgency is critical
  • Communicate – You have to be an excellent communicator
  • Attitude – a positive attitude is more important than skill
  • Empathy – understand who your team are and what they are going through

Attitude is the one I want to focus on here. You can learn skills, but if your Attitude is not right, you can still fail. One example is the likelihood of survival. A trip to the north pole is entirely carried out over ice floating on top of the Arctic Ocean. Unlike Antarctica, there is no rock underneath. This carried with it 2 things I hadn’t considered until I heard Graeme Joy‘s presentation.

Progress

How do you measure progress. Easy, my current position and how much closer to the North Pole am I today compared to yesterday. Seems OK. Except I am on drifting ice. They planned on making 36km per day. One day, they travelled the distance but actually went backward by 6km due to the ice drifting. It takes quite a lot of resilience to handle that. So they made sure everyone knew in advance that it was going to happen. On the plus side, one night they got 12km closer while they slept.

Dragging Gear Over Arctic Ice

Dragging Gear Over Arctic Ice

Survival Belief

The Arctic is harsh. Temperatures are low. Down to -55C. There are polar bears. There are ice floes and high winds and the real danger that their tent could be damaged. To emotionally prepare for this they practised sleeping in the open in just their sleeping bags in the high Swiss Alps so they knew they could survive in the event their tent was ripped.

Arctic Ice Tent

Arctic Ice Tent

Engineering Application

So how does this apply to Engineering, and in particular what Successful Endeavours does, Electronics Design and Embedded  Software Development? The point about Attitude is everything. Henry Ford once said, “The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right“. And I agree this is the case. When we take on a project, it isn’t that we necessarily know exactly how we are going to do it, but it is with the Attitude that we will find a way. And we do. IBM statistics show that 80% of R&D projects fail. Yet we routinely succeed. It defies the statistics so how do we do it?

We recently took on 2 projects for a client who had not been able to get a solution from their current engineering services suppliers. In one case we were the 3rd business to look at the project and the project was running more than a year late. They needed to present to their end customer in 6 weeks. So how can we take on that risk given 2 other teams have failed and with a lot more time to work with?

Looking at the risks for the North Pole Expedition, surviving if the tent was damaged was managed as a psychological risk by trialling the risk management strategy before the expedition set out. This way they knew they could handle it.

In the case of the project we took on (I can’t say more because the product isn’t on the market yet) we did a quick trial and created a test rig and measured the physical parameters we would be working with and then analysed them using excel and then a program written to run on a Windows PC and trialed the solution outside the embedded environment using real data pulled from the test rig.

Simulation

Simulation Example – click to see full size

So we were able to see the data we would be working with and determine that a solution could be developed based on fully understanding the problem that needed to be solved. Then we started the main development phase knowing we would be able to get to a solution. And our client had confidence to authorise the additional expenditure knowing it was likely to be a good investment this time. End result, our client was able to take a working proof of concept prototype to their end customer on the expected date. And we were able to utilise most of the mechanical engineering work already done as well as the LCD panels so they were also able to leverage some of the historical investment.

So that was the process: understand the problem, manage the risk, do the required homework, then execute with confidence.

When we hire (we are hiring now), Attitude is one of the key things I assess for. Because we can teach skills. And provide experience. But I can’t overcome a defeatist or overly risk averse mindset. And I won’t hire someone who doesn’t have a hunger for the client to succeed. We exist to support Australian Electronics Manufacturers and the primary outcome I want from each project is a local manufacturing success story.

The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t are both right“, Henry Ford.

Graeme Joy Bio

So who is Graeme Joy?

Graeme Joy

Graeme Joy

Graeme Joy is perhaps best known as joint leader and navigator of the International North Pole Expedition, where he became the first Australian to ski to the North Pole, but he is also one of the most focused, effective and highly ranked motivational speakers in Australasia.
His extensive mastery of essential business principles such as, strategic planning, project management, conflict resolution, defining success, personality types and leadership, will answer any questions you may have and leave you feeling empowered to maximise the performance of your team.
Highly praised for his business applicability, take-home value and ability to deliver key results, Graeme Joy is also keen to share his experience with others and runs a company that conducts specialist leadership and team development programs.

The above was taken from his website. But having seen him in action, it is definitely not an exaggeration.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

 

Quantum Mechanics

By definition, Quantum Mechanics acts at such tiny dimensions below what we can visualise. And the Uncertainty Principle by Werner Heisenberg makes it clear that we can’t know where things are and how much energy they have at the same time. So how can we visualise any of this except as a simulation?

Check this out:

My thanks to Derek Muller of Veritasium for this video.

Derek Muller

Derek Muller

And it raises the issue of whether the Copenhagen Interpretation or the Pilot Wave theory is the best explanation for Quantum Mechanics. There is still so much about the universe we are still trying to figure out. Which means a lot of discovery and breakthroughs are still to happen. Exciting times remain ahead.

My thanks to Andrew Walla for bringing this to my attention.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Top Programming Languages

Each of the past 3 years IEEE Spectrum have conducted a survey of the Top Programming Languages. This year they have done it again and the results are in. The overall winner is Python with C taking out the Embedded Software category.

Here is the overall list covering all development platforms considered.

Top Programming Languages 2017

Top Programming Languages 2017

So Python is the winner and for the first time. It’s continued rise in usage is a testimony to the usefulness of the language and the ecosystem that sits around it. But the top 4, Python, C, Java and C++ are a long way ahead of the rest overall.

Top Embedded Programming Languages

And for Embedded Software development we have.

Top Embedded Programming Languages 2017

Top Embedded Programming Languages 2017

There has been some discussion around whether Arduino is a Language since it is a platform with a development tool set built around C and some libraries. But this is a compilation of responses from software development practitioners and so they obviously think it is.

The surprise for me is Haskell. Functional Programming is still in its infancy and there is a lot we don’t fully get about it so I was surprised to see it ranking so highly. What would be really useful is to also get an understanding of what types of problems/solutions/applications the programming was being applied to rather than just the language the solution was implemented in.

Of interest is the correlation with the languages we use here at Successful Endeavours. Here is our short list:

  • C
  • C++
  • Python
  • PHP
  • Perl
  • VHDL
  • Assembly
  • HTML
  • Arduino

The previous results can be found in

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Nanosheets Enable 5nm Transistor Technology

It was less than a year ago that we covered Nanowires Enable FinFET Successor which looked at the use of Nanowires to create transistors and improve on FinFET technology which had become the primary transistor construction technology for complex semiconductors. This was using 8nm Nanowires and was expected to be the next generation of transistor technology.

Now IBM have announced a new breakthrough using Nanosheets to create 5nm transistors. And this is likely to completely take over the role that Nanowires were expected to fulfill. Here is how they did it.

The primary breakthrough is to take the vertical fins of the FinFET and turn them into horizontal Nanosheets as shown below.

5nm stacked Nanosheet transistor structure

5nm stacked Nanosheet transistor structure

And a photograph looks like this.

Nanosheet Transistor

Nanosheet Transistor

For a more complete description of the technology, this video covers some of the details on why this will lead to a scalable production process.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Holograms

Holograms are the product of Holography. This sounds rather self referencing. You can think of this as recording light the way you record sound. So you can have monophonic sound or full surround sound. A 3D Hologram allows you to see the original object from different directions as you move around it even though it is no longer present.

We have all seen futuristic movies where a 3D rendering of someone appears as if it was the person really there. And this is one of the goals of 3D Holograms. So it is exciting to see some breakthroughs in this area being pioneered in Australia at RMIT University.

This is also a good example of collaboration, something we don’t see enough of in Australia.

You can read the full story at World’s Thinnest Hologram Promises 3D Images on Our Mobile Phones.

3D Hologram

3D Hologram

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Putting Light to Work

Light is a really interesting thing. It has so many different aspects. And it took us a long time to work out exactly how it functioned. And in many ways that is still an ongoing process. So this post is a brief survey of some recent advances in our understanding of light, how to use it, and how to generate it.

Extracting Energy from Light

Recent advances in Quantum Dots have taken us one step closer to improving our extracting of energy from light and Solar Cells continue to improve.

Quantum Dot Solar Energy Conversion from Windows

New record for Solar Cell efficiency

Interactive chart of Solar Cell technologies and inefficiencies

The chart below is from the link above and shows that the fastest improving Solar Cell technologies (the 2 steepest red lines) are Perovskite Solar Cells and Quantum Dot Solar Cells. Click to get a larger version. Or go to the interactive link where you can get more detail for each dot.

Solar Cell Efficiencies - By Time And Technology

Solar Cell Efficiencies – By Time And Technology

And for a good summary of PV (PhotoVoltaic) technologies the link below provides a useful guide.

What makes a good PV Technology

So apart from turning the light in electricity, what else can we do with light?

Light for Communication

Light is also useful as a communications tool. And recent advances in Quatum Dot management of light means it could hold the key to higher levels of computing power in the future, as well as more secure communications.

Quantum Dots set speed record for switching

Phototonic Hypercrystals improve light control

Photonic Hypercrystals

Photonic Hypercrystals

Saucer Shaped Quantum Dots improve LASER brightness

2 steps closer to a Quantum Internet

The last link is particularly interesting because it involved entangling photons at a distance. And the first experiments have already been successful.

Quatum Entangled Photon Communications

Quantum Entangled Photon Communications

But is there more?

Other uses of light

As it happens, yes there is.

Nanoscale structure purifies water using light

Artificial Photosynthesis extracts CO2

So this remains a very busy space.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Printed Electronics

Way back in 2011 we looked at the state of Printed Electronics and concluded this was a rapidly emerging area of Technology and had been since the previous look at The Future of Low Cost Electronics Manufacture in 2009. It has been a while so what has happened since then?

Printed Electronics

Printed Electronics

This is another guest post by Andrew Walla.

Andrew Walla

Andrew Walla

Printed Electronics Overview

Rapid prototyping, also referred to as 3D printing or additive manufacturing is the process of building objects or devices by building up layer by layer [1]. It has been identified as a potentially disruptive technology in the manufacturing industry in the coming years and is particularly well suited to provide benefits to technologies that operate on smaller scales of production [2]. New manufacturing paradigms, such as direct manufacturing (directly printing the sold goods) and home manufacturing (providing the capability for consumers to produce parts themselves) are set to change the way that small manufacturing businesses operate and significantly increase the level of competition in the industry [3].

This post will discuss the manufacturing technique of printing – a technology whose origins date back more than five centuries [4] and in this time a number of different printing methods have been developed. Successive layers are generally printed onto a substrate either by direct contact; via an impression cylinder (such as in flexographic, graviture or offset printing), deposited via a stencil (screen printing); or directly deposited onto the substrate (for example, inkjet printing, aerosol-jet printing or organic vapor-jet printing). Of these technologies, inkjet printing is particularly well suited to rapid prototyping and low volume manufacturing due to its high customisability, relatively high resolution and relatively low set-up cost [1].

Inkjet printed electronics differs to conventional inkjet printing in that the deposited substances need to exhibit desired electronic behaviours. A common method to achieve this is to intersperse the ink (a solvent) with nano-particles (small particles with controlled sizes, typically in the order of nano-meters) with desired conductive, dielectric or semiconducting characteristics. The printed substance might be treated post printing in order to evaporate the solvent and/or facilitate a chemical change in the nano-particles. Examples of such treatment include thermal curing [5], curing by ultraviolet light [6], laser sintering [7], e-beam sintering [8], chemical sintering [9] or plasma sintering [10].

Current research efforts are focusing on improving the printing and post-processing technologies available [10-12], improved interconnects [13] and vias [14], improved semiconductors, and printing under less stringent conditions. Examples include printing conductors at room temperature [6] and printing elements such as transistors [15] and diodes [16] with ever increasing performance characteristics. It is forecast that these improvements will continue for some time, as the fastest known inkjet printed transistor has an operating speed of around 20MHz [17-18]. (This is several orders of magnitude behind the capability of existing silicon chip technology.) Researchers are also working on developing transistor characteristics other than maximum frequency. For example, inkjet printing technology has been used to produce flexible and transparent transistors [19].

For those looking to predict where printed electronics will have the greatest future impact, it may pay to think outside the box. In the authour’s opinion, inkjet printing technology is likely to play a larger role in enabling new applications than it is to replace existing electronic technology. It is unlikely that a device with the functionality of a smartphone will be printed anytime soon, but perhaps the capability of printing your own solar panels is closer than you think.

[1] N. Saengchairat, T. Tran and C.-K. Chua, “A review: additive manufacturing for active electronic components,” Virtual and Physical Prototyping, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 31-46, 2017.
[2] A. O. Laplume, B. Petersen and J. M. Pearce, “Global value chains from a 3D printing perspective,” Journal of International Business Studies, vol. 47, pp. 595-609, 2016.
[3] T. Rayna and L. Striukova, “From rapid prototyping to home fabrication: How 3D printing is changing business model innovation,” Technological Forecasting & Social Change, vol. 102, pp. 214-224, 2016.
[4] S. H. Steinberg, Five hundred years of printing, Maryland: Courier Dover Publications, 2017.
[5] N. Graddage, T.-Y. Chu, H. Ding, C. Py, A. Dadvand and Y. Tao, “Inkjet printed thin and uniform dielectrics for capacitors and organic thin film transistors enabled by the coffee ring effect,” Organic Electronics, vol. 29, pp. 114-119, 2016.
[6] G. McKerricher, M. Vaseem and A. Shamim, “Fully inkjet-printed microwave passive electronics,” Microsystems & Nanoengineering, vol. 3, p. 16075, 2017.
[7] S. H. Ko, H. Pan, C. P. Grigoropoulos, C. K. Luscombe, J. M. J. Fréchet and D. Poulikakos, “All-inkjet-printed flexible electronics fabrication on a polymer substrate by low-temperature high-resolution selective laser sintering of metal nanoparticles,” Nanotechnology, vol. 18, pp. 1-8, 2007.
[8] Y. Farraj, M. Bielmann and S. Magdassi, “Inkjet printing and rapid ebeam sintering enable formation of highly conductive patterns in roll to roll process,” The Royal Society of Chemistry, vol. 7, pp. 15463-15467, 2017.
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Andrew Walla, RF Engineer, Successful Endeavours

So there has been some substantial change but we aren’t yet at the point where this type of Electronics Design and Manufacture has begun to significantly disrupt the mainstream industry. But I can imagine the day when some of what I do now can be printed and tested right now on my desk instead of having to go through PCB Design, PCB Manufacture and Electronics Prototyping first. Can’t wait for Printed Electronics to become mainstream.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

 

 

Australian Manufacturing Boom

I’m really pleased to announce that the growth in Australian Manufacturing last year was the biggest since the GFC. Australian Manufacturing Exports now exceed 2009 levels and it was the 2nd largest jobs growth sector in the entire Australian economy.

You can probably tell I’m pretty excited about that.

Here are the statistics:

  • 40,000 new Australian Manufacturing Jobs in the past year
  • $100B in Australian Manufacturing Exports in the past year
  • $8B in raw Australian Manufacturing profits in the past quarter

And as covered in I Nearly Retired, Australian Manufacturing it has been expanding nearly every month for the past 22 months. I’m looking forward to August when it will be 2 straight years.

Australia Manufacturing PMI 2015-2017 shows growth the whole way

Australia Manufacturing PMI 2015-2017 shows growth the whole way

Manufacturer’s Monthly also covered this in Australian manufacturing industry rebounding.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

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