12 July 2016


Advances in medical robotics
are dramatically improving
the consistency, safety and
quality of surgery

articles and more.newelectronics.CONTENTS VOL 49 NO 13 16 12 23 20 Cover image: Hamlyn Centre/Imperial College COMMENT 5 How can we realise the full potential of robots while maintaining public trust? NEWS Technology developed by Roke Manor allows 3D reconstructions to be made from a single video input 6 UK institutions come together to represent the engineering profession in the aftermath of the Referendum 7 As the Memec name disappears from the distribution landscape after 40 years. surgical robots are likely to be smaller. Bristol’s VENTURER consortium has started trials of an autonomous vehicle on public and private roads POWER Powering change 23 The USB port has become ubiquitous since its introduction in the 1990s.newelectronics. cheaper.co. go to www. the way in which chips are designed will have to change. We explore how some EDA companies are reacting to developments COVER STORY Smaller. set up simplified and test parameters upgraded New Electronics’ weekly eZine features the latest blogs. news. But the recently announced USB-C interface will require careful decisions when it comes to power system design 16 SYSTEM TEST Developing better test approaches 26 Having a good grasp of how measurement tools operate can provide engineers with valuable insight into how test methods can be improved. new devices and applications will need to be tested in the real world.uk 12 July 2016 INTERVIEW 10 Complex problems. providing such benefits to patients as less trauma and faster recovery times SMART CITIES / SMART TRANSPORT Beyond the laboratory: the smart city playground The Internet of Things is not a ‘one size fits all’ concept and. as cities become more complex and more populous. a distribution veteran retires 8 PCB design platform expanded as developer looks to address needs of ‘mainstream engineers’ 9 www.uk 3 . Meanwhile.co. system solutions ELECTRONIC DESIGN AUTOMATION 20 Chip design for the rest of us Systems and software expertise have seen this communications technology company receive two Queen’s Awards: one for Innovation and another for Export Achievement With interest in the Internet of Things growing rapidly. more intelligent 12 In the future. To register for your copy. cheaper. sensor rich and more targeted.

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Editor (neil. they say. at a time when cyber attacks.tyler@markallengroup. the panel agreed that scientists need to ‘innovate responsibly’ and that robots need to be ‘engineered to a very high standard’.co. is everything. any standards will need to have teeth to underpin any future regulations.” Inevitably. He pointed to the passenger airline industry as one which is regulated.com) www. While the panel agreed that robotics and autonomous systems were generating real benefits for society – for example. Neil Tyler. But.newelectronics. in particular. said Prof Winfield. driving innovation in surgery and healthcare – it was crucial that. “it is difficult to see how the technology will succeed in winning consumer confidence. Prof Winfield said there is a strong case for an equivalent body to the Civil Aviation Authority to oversee driverless cars. “Without a regulated framework. Robot ethics aims to understand the ethical implications and consequences of robotic technology. hacking and security issues were challenging the protection of personal data – it was vital that trust in robots was not undermined. Accepting that the potential benefits of robotics are immense. Work is already underway.COMMENT ROBOTIC ETHICS ‘Scientists fear revolt of killer robots!’ HOW CAN WE REALISE THE FULL POTENTIAL OF ROBOTS WHILE MAINTAINING PUBLIC TRUST? T hat sensationalist headline from a Sunday newspaper raises concerns about the development and use of robots – how can we ensure that people trust the technology? Speaking at Robots: faithful servants or existential threat? – part of UK Robotics Week 2016 – Professor Alan Winfield of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory joined a panel looking to address a range of ethical questions relating to robotics and autonomous systems. just a day after this event.uk 12 July 2016 . A robotics ethical working group published the world’s first guide to the ethical design of robots and autonomous systems in April 2016. Timing. deploying a ‘reverse and transparent process for air accident investigations’. autonomous robots. Tesla announced that one of its vehicles had been involved in a fatal accident. Prof Winfield said there was a real need for an ethical discussion when it came to robotic innovation. as ethics would underpin any standards and regulations which would be crucial in effectively assessing and mitigating the risks associated with robotics technologies. but which has an ‘amazing’ safety record.” he noted.

The system operates using data captured from a single dashboard camera. the team coated graphite flakes with nanoparticles of iron oxide and aligned them using a magnetic field. the device is thin and flexible. who led the research. head of PSI’s battery materials research group. [our] technology uses computer vision algorithms to enable the precise position and orientation of any vehicle. 6 TECHNOLOGY ALLOWS 3D RECONSTRUCTIONS FROM DASHCAM VIDEO. tantalum sulphide and boron nitrate – to create a voltage controlled oscillator (VCO). “However. GRAHAM PITCHER REPORTS. According to the team. Since then.com Publisher Peter Ring peter. Dartford.com ISSN 0047-9624 Online ISSN 2049-2316 Annual subscription (22 issues): UK £108.” Battery performance boosted Graphene photodetection The Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and ETH Zurich have developed a way to enhance the performance of Li-ion rechargeable batteries. recording or any information storage or retrieval system. New Electronics. Addressing the issue.newelectronics.co. No part of New Electronics may be reproduced or transmitted in any form.The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the editor of New Electronics. Silicon based photodetectors do not perform well in the near infrared.ring@markallengroup. By orienting them in the correct direction.cherry@markallengroup. lithium ions flow more readily. Airmail.NEWS AUTOMOTIVE TECHNOLOGY ‘Black box’ for 3D images Editor Neil Tyler neil. electronic or mechanical.com Contributing Editors Chris Edwards. Instead of making anodes from densely packed graphite flakes. said: “Unlike current dashcams. DA2 7TJ.” Commercial batteries.” he said.uk Art Editor Martin Cherry martin.com Illustrator Phil Holmes Sales Manager James Creber james.lee@markallengroup. Printed by Pensord. Hawley Mill. John Walko Louise Joselyn editor@newelectronics. London. it has been developing and miniaturising the technology with the help of funding from Innovate UK. Origination: CCM.pitcher@markallengroup.com Executive Director Ed Tranter ed. including photocopying.mckenna@markallengroup. Hawley Road. Overseas. cheaply and work at different wavelengths. Roke’s engineers then developed a high definition 3D reconstruction. The car avoided a number of hazards before simulating a road traffic accident. Apart from having the potential of being an alternative to silicon based technology. Dr James Revell. Advertisements in the journal do not imply endorsement of the products or services advertised.com Online Editorial Peggy Lee Assistant peggy. £163. said the system is the first functional VCO comprising 2D materials that operates at room temperature. by any means. the part is the first useful device that exploits the potential of charge density waves to modulate an electrical current through a 2D material. A Graphene Flagship project has shown that graphene can enable silicon based photodetection in the near infrared. she added. Roke showed the ‘black box’ fitted to an autonomous Toyota Prius. Claire Villevieille.tyler@markallengroup. UCR’s Professor Alexander Balandin. said: “Under laboratory conditions. Prototypes are said to operate at MHz frequencies.com Moving on? If you change jobs or your company moves.co.tranter@markallengroup.creber@markallengroup. is published twice monthly by MA Business. All rights reserved. a consultant engineer at Roke. £199. T: 01322 221144 E: ne@markallengroup. Riverside (UCR) and the University of Georgia have used three 2D materials – graphene. without permission in writing from the Publisher. we enhanced storage capacity by a factor of up to three. What is said to be the first viable 3D ‘black box’ technology for vehicles has been demonstrated by Roke Manor Research. could see a 50% boost in performance.uk . Early iterations of the technology were developed by Roke in research undertaken for the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. making it suitable for use in wearables. we believe our device … can potentially become a low power alternative to conventional silicon technologies in many different applications. but the team suggests that operational frequency could increase to the THz region. incorporating Electronic Equipment News and Electronics News.” 12 July 2016 www.” VCO created from 2D materials Researchers from the University of California.com Group Editor Graham Pitcher graham. This allows for the near perfect 3D reconstruction of any accident – even if the vehicle loses complete control. the team interfaced graphene with silicon on chip to create Schottky barrier photodetectors with a responsivity comparable to that of silicon germanium detectors.com Production Manager Nicki McKenna nicki. please contact circulation@markallengroup to continue receiving your free copy of New Electronics © 2016. Professor Andrea Ferrari from the Cambridge Graphene Centre said: “This proves that graphene can compete with the state of the art by producing devices that can be made more simply. “It is difficult to compete with silicon. Changing the way in which anodes work was said to be key.

0 smart factory practices. designing products for automated assembly and empowering and training our flexible workforce. That means embracing Industry 4. said: “We are committed to high quality manufacturing in the UK.co. The group contends that with engineering accounting for 27% of the UK’s GDP and more than half its exports. Brendan Dolan-Gavitt. the 38 strong group has established a project to gather evidence. say as few as 2% of bugs in some programs are detected by current tools. Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian universities. which is exactly what we do with LAVA.uk 12 July 2016 environments – all of which are ideal for testing low-power radio network performance. The team reached its conclusion after research introduced known vulnerabilities into software using a technique called LAVA – Large Scale Automated Vulnerability Addition. The network will enable the development and use of devices such as building and indoor environmental monitors. Glasgow launches LoRa network A consortium composed of Stream Technologies. said: “The only way to evaluate a bug finder is to control the number of bugs in a program. We expect significant productivity gains to be made along with the increase in capacity. Following a meeting on 29 June.newelectronics.” The team now plans to develop a benchmark for bug finding software. We are building a new. The Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) will be leading the project. Glasgow was selected because of its similarities to many major metropolitan areas worldwide. A number of engineering organisations have come together to provide advice to the government in future EU negotiations following the UK referendum.NEWS Engineering collaboration UK ENGINEERING UNITES AFTER BREXIT RESULT. working with MIT and Northeastern University. RAE chief executive. the UK could be seriously affected by adverse changes to its trading relationship with European export markets. Philip Greenish. proactive framework for making engineering advice available to government on these critical matters for now and for the duration of the change process. which provides increased automation and R&D facilities. Semtech. older historic spaces and a mix of urban and extra-urban www. The automated system inserts known quantities of synthetic vulnerabilities which possess many of the same attributes as computer bugs ‘in the wild’. analyse the risks and opportunities. as well as produce advice to underpin a strong position and a positive result for the UK in future negotiations. The £3million. Boston Networks and CENSIS has set up a LoRa network in Glasgow. pollution sensors and devices designed to support independent living. The city includes a grid system like major US conurbations. investing in the latest equipment. an assistant professor at NYU Tandon.” According to the group it is important the UK remains embedded in globally recognised codes and standards. 3000m² building increases the facility’s floor space by 33%. The consortium is also working on installing a similar sensor network in Inverness to monitor conditions in more rural environments. ENGINEERING PROFESSION Harwin expands UK manufacturing Harwin has officially opened its new manufacturing centre in Portsmouth.” Poor bug detection Researchers from the New York University Tandon School of Engineering. Damon de Laszlo. has access to the skills the industry needs and retains competitiveness in export markets. Harwin’s chairman. 7 . the group has installed a wireless IoT network covering 12km2. PEGGY LEE REPORTS. Working with Glasgow. said: “Never in my lifetime has there been an issue that so emphatically requires strategic collaboration across the engineering profession.

amongst the five largest distributors of electronics in the world. Future is investing heavily. but not so many that we become overloaded. Coincidentally. buying the business back in 2000. BY GRAHAM PITCHER. “Today. then selling it to Avnet in 2005. “Holding inventory to support customer requirements.” Looking forward Looking to the future. Previously. “There are global companies with UK design operations and these are important because they bring global partnerships. Future sees itself as are often short of time different from its competitors. what was Avnet Memec has merged with Avnet’s Silica organisation. founded Future in 1968 with the we can help view of helping the them to electronics industry deliver.” McAneny sees three tiers of company in the UK.” McAneny recalled. Jermyn and ITT – have all gone and are now part of other organisations. rather than simply shipping components. A DISTRIBUTION VETERAN STEPS DOWN. “It reminds me of one of Pasquale Pistorio’s famous sayings. McAneny said: “We’ve all changed over that time. Macro.” 12 July 2016 www.” One thing which Future is unlikely to do is to take on the two big high service companies.” McAneny continued. Now. Today. Founded by Dick Skipworth in 1974 and run initially from his house.” he continued. has called time on a 40 year career.co. people started out working for big companies. “different companies have followed different routes. But recent times in distribution have been typified by consolidation within two large blocks – the broadliners on one side and the so called ‘high service’ companies on the other.” McAneny McAneny claimed. In 1991.” he continued. Skipworth could be seen as having invented demand creation. Talking exclusively to New Electronics. when it went public in 1980. the offer was oversubscribed by more than 50 times.” In McAneny’s view. “How can we help companies deal with longer product life times. providing technical resources and value added services.NEWS FEATURE T ELECTRONICS DISTRIBUTION he Memec name has disappeared from the distribution world after more than 40 years. Future has a chain of system design centres. the turns model hasn’t changed significantly and the company remains driven by demand creation.” “Our Although a customers broadliner. we’re now looking to help them solve problems and the System Design Centre network is a significant unit. Chris McAneny. It would be hard to include Memec in that description: at one point. And that’s what’s happened in the distribution sector over the last few years.” – and the principles he applied then still Chris hold. and short of “Robert Miller resources. McAneny sees Future continuing to invest. we will continue to see the UK creating world beating companies with good products.newelectronics. companies like Memec would have been strong on technology.” However. covering everything from new product introduction onwards.” Pistorio was CEO of STMicroelectronics until 2005. there are more apprenticeships becoming available and companies are looking for engineers. the core principles remain the same. Famous names – including Abacus. many people are looking to set up their own business. demand creation remains important. distribution was more about fulfilment. Memec specialised in finding new components from start up companies – predominantly on the US West Coast – and selling them aggressively into Europe. “Those remaining are effectively stuck in the middle. with the Memec name being consigned to history. but shorter product cycles?” Lazlo Mudriczki. Mudriczki noted: “While Future has put in place a new management team over the last couple of years. In between these two blocks were companies which fall into Pistorio’s description and have been acquired by one of those blocks. “We have always wanted to be relevant to our customers. Such was the company’s success that. “Although the market is expected to show low growth in the next five years. where our engineers can work on the challenges faced by customers. director of strategic business development with Future Electronics. we can help them to deliver. including the distribution sector. helping them to develop solutions. “don’t have the scale and business will be difficult for them in the future. it’s important to support customers through the life cycle of a product. As long as we can encourage the development of engineering and electronics. another long time name in the electronics distribution industry has announced his retirement. For example.” he said. Then there a good mid range UK companies. McAneny: “Future has pretty much the right number of products on its shelves and we don’t want to stock every available semiconductor. Then there is a level of companies with good ideas and we are looking to reach those in order to help them grow.” How does McAneny see the state of UK electronics? “You can look back with nostalgia or forward with optimism.” Mudriczki added: “It’s all about partnerships with those companies. “There’s also obsolescence management. noted: “Our FAEs don’t go into customers with datasheets any longer. “Since then. who is taking over McAneny’s role. “In the past. Memec was 8 A shifting landscape AS THE MEMEC NAME DISAPPEARS AND PREMIER FARNELL IS ACQUIRED. “Some companies are too big to be small and too small to be big.uk . In some ways. Memec – Microelectronics and Memory Company – shot to fame by rewriting the rules of how electronic components were sourced and sold. We need enough product lines to give us scale. Our customers are often short of time and short of resources.” McAneny was talking as the news of Premier Farnell’s acquisition by Swiss company Dätwyler broke. Skipworth sold Memec to German company Veba.

“At a time when electronic designs are becoming more complex. DDR implementation and electrically correct design sign off.” www.” As more electronic products being developed contain analogue content and need to be designed and validated in the context of the overall system. Professor Susan Smith. The PADS AMS Cloud – a cloud-based circuit exploration/simulation environment and user community – will be free for all PADS users. The PADS AMS Design Suite allows engineers to simulate analogue and mixed signal and digital designs within one schematic session and the HyperLynx DDR option allows engineers to identify and solve signal integrity and timing issues. eliminating the need to recreate circuits manually in order to perform advanced analysis and drive the PCB design flow. STFC launches technology centre An advanced engineering technology centre has opened at the STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory. It will also be possible to transfer designs to the PADS AMS Design Suite. mean we will be able to give engineers greater access to technologies that have tended to be out of reach of the mainstream PCB market. we felt it was important that we not only addressed the needs of larger technology companies but also SMEs – design teams. BY NEIL TYLER.uk 12 July 2016 9 . This is intended to speed the prototype process. product marketing manager. said: “The CTH has one purpose – to provide companies with affordable access to the best skills and facilities in engineering research and development so that they can solve their technology challenges to better compete on a national and international level. and electronic test and measurement equipment. combined with recently launched PADS HyperLynx DC Drop and PADS FloTHERM XT. analogue/ mixed signal simulation is becoming essential for product creation. “The new products are intended to streamline the design process and ensure circuit performance goals are met. It will be available to universities.co.” explained Jim Martens.” According to Martens. head of the Daresbury Laboratory. These additions are very affordable.NEWS PRODUCT DESIGN Design platform extended NEW PRODUCTS LOOK TO ADDRESS THE NEEDS OF ALL MAINSTREAM ENGINEERS. research organisations and businesses of all sizes. reducing the need for prototypes and design respins. Too many analysis tools are targeted at companies with large EDA budgets and we wanted to make those tools available to the mainstream engineer. Mentor Graphics has made what it describes as significant additions to its PADS PCB Product Creation Platform. including new analogue and mixed signal and high speed analysis products. The Campus Technology Hub (CTH) aims to provide UK businesses and entrepreneurs with an affordable access to an array of technology including 3D printing and prototype facilities. who will be able to create and share designs in an online environment. The HyperLynx DRC tool accelerates the electrical sign-off process by allowing engineers to perform electrical rules checks and identify violations affecting the design integrity and board performance. “These products address engineering challenges associated with mixed signal designs. no matter what size. board systems division. “All products are becoming more challenging to develop … and these new PADS products.newelectronics. face the same challenges.

including test equipment. as well as the ability to recruit graduates from Loughborough University. system An award winning company tells Graham Pitcher how its focus on exploiting technology niches has paid dividends. by the mid 2000s.co. for 4G and 5G mobile network and related applications. as well as the Deloitte UK Fast 50 in 2012 and 2013. as well as LTE PHY/stack software. riding on the back of the boom in demand for digital signal processing in one form or another. a provider of LTE software solutions for mobile handsets and wireless infrastructure. Blue Wave was acquired by Motorola and. “We were aiming for a high quality product which could tune from 600MHz to 4GHz. He left to form CommAgility.” More recently. the company merged with US based Mizar to form Blue Wave Systems.” True to its roots. CommAgility has enjoyed success in developing embedded signal processing and RF modules. L oughborough Sound Images was one of the UK’s rising stars during the 1990s.newelectronics. CommAgility received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise 10 in Innovation in 2016.” Young said. But the dot com bubble burst. we have been taking combinations of hardware and software 12 July 2016 www. the company acquired German based MIMOon. Since then. “More recently. according to Edward Young. In the late 1990s. but also through strategic acquisitions. It has also featured in a 2015 list of the fastest growing technology companies. “It needed to be configurable and flexible. MIMOon has pioneered and promoted the use of software defined radio. “and we find the location good in terms of local contacts. not only through organic growth.” The company unveiled its first RF product in 2011.” Young asserted. We are also involved in wireless research. on top of a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade in 2013.Complex problems. CommAgility remains based in Loughborough. “We have focused on LTE and grown with it. Young said: “We have found a niche in wireless communications. Since being set up in 2006.” Young explained.uk . ‘things weren’t going well’. with ambitions to grow the combined entity significantly. “We manufacture in the UK.

we need to prove our worth. “you need both. people are happy to interact with us. 11 . Our technology development is guided by the markets we think we can compete in. it was good to be recognised for our technology. With the second award.” Young says the award brought in good customers. because it’s a technical field. “We got our first one three years ago for our export achievement.” This work has seen the company recognised in the Queen’s Awards. he said. “We’re a technology company. “For example. He holds a Masters and first class Honours degree in Electrical and Information Sciences from Cambridge University. air to ground communications.uk 12 July 2016 seeing larger companies wanting to move to LTE. satellite communications and surveillance. we saw customers trying to do the kind of products we offered – and it took them a long time. Our technology development is guided by the markets we think we can compete in.INTERVIEW EDWARD YOUNG “We’re a technology company. we have far more systems and software expertise.” Edward Young into new areas. the company has looked to use more DSP cores. Prior to cofounding CommAgility in 2006. in general.” he said. he served in a range of marketing.” solutions LTE development. in the areas of telecomms. Edward Young Edward Young is managing and sales director of CommAgility. customers would program the hardware we developed. digital signal processing and image processing. while we were doing good technology.” he continued. “Our IP experience in both hardware and software is allowing us to get involved in complex projects where LTE is being modified.” Young concluded. it’s classic outsourcing. However. sales and engineering roles at Motorola. We’re having to work hard to keep up to date in those areas we want to do business in. “Everything can be done in a single chip.newelectronics. “because we bring expertise in IP. But. including wireless test.” So how has the wireless industry changed since the days of LSI and Blue Wave? “In those days. “Now.” One industry trend of which CommAgility and similar companies have been able to take advantage is the decline in expertise across industry. “We could show commercial success and technical innovation. but which don’t have the knowledge in house. “When we were hardware only. in surveillance. but we’re exploiting niches.” One example provided by Young is an application where standards need to be customised. Customers today depend on us far more than in the past. but some more complex applications will need multichip. you might want a lot of parallel small channels and to listen to the base station and mobile sides. “but that’s not the case and we have to get around that.” Young stressed. “This might make the hardware look easy.co. It reflected the fact that we work in a global market and. is moving ahead rapidly.” One thing which Young says CommAgility is not interested is competing with the likes of Ericsson.” How hard is it for CommAgility to work in a global market? “It varies. “There are already companies out there with Release 10 based products. Loughborough Sound Images and Lucas Industries. “Our approach gives customers a time to market advantage.” CommAgility has always based its hardware on a combination of FPGA and DSP. We address such areas as taking LTE technology into test equipment and do some work in the small cell market. “While two to three years ago. We are www. we provided hardware with low level software. but there’s a lot of talk about LTE and IoT narrowband communications – Release 12 and 13. for example. even multiboard. it was good to win one for export. an award winning developer of embedded signal processing and RF modules and LTE PHY/stack software for 4G and 5G mobile network and related applications. for example. which allows us to get involved in testing of complete systems. “Our advantage is that we specialise in particular technologies. We’re offering them a reduction in the investment needed. as well as more ARM cores and more accelerators.” More recently. we are now providing technology for specialised applications.” Young admitted. but we’re exploiting niches. But. so they work with companies like CommAgility.” he said. so people looking for that technology will find us. “If you want a good system. We address such areas as taking LTE technology into test equipment and do some work in the small cell market. what used to take multiple chips has been condensed into one chip.” he added. solutions.

By Neil Tyler. sensor rich and more targeted. minimal scarring. was designed to address prostate surgery and achieved a robotics first when it actively removed tissue from a patient in a clinical setting. providing real and tangible healthcare benefits. cheaper. cheaper. Robotic surgery was originally seen as helping to augment those basic invasive surgical skills. developed for use in orthopaedic surgery. As robot technology has developed. providing such benefits as less trauma on the body. Among the first robots deployed were ROBODOC and Acrobot.COVER STORY ROBOTIC SURGERY Smaller. preventing them from damaging surrounding tissue. “The first generation of medical robots in the early 1990s was intended to improve the dexterity of the surgeon. The main problem with keyhole surgical instruments is that access to the patient The iSnake Surgical System is a device suite designed specifically for Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS).” Robotic surgery is defined as a type of minimally invasive surgery whereby patients are operated on using miniaturised surgical instruments that fit through small incisions in the body. more intelligent Future surgical robots are likely to be smaller. Established in 2008 by Professor Guang-Zhong Yang and Lord Ara Darzi. Acrobot was the first robot to be developed with what is described as active constraint – this allowed surgeons to cut only within defined safe regions.newelectronics. and faster patient recovery times. the centre’s long term aim is to develop advanced minimally invasive surgical robots that combine intelligence.co. sensor rich technologies and seamless human interaction with machines. numerous academic and research centres have been established and one of the most successful is the Hamlyn Centre for Robotic Surgery at Imperial College in London. Another device. usually no more than 6mm in diameter. Probot.uk . 12 12 July 2016 www. Prof Yang says the Post War period saw the development of minimal invasive surgery. “This type of surgery is difficult to perform and employs specific instruments that require considerable dexterity to use properly. While modern surgery can effectively be traced back to the 1860s. R obots have been in use since the 1960s. but it is only 25 years since robotic technologies were first used to assist surgeons in improving surgical outcomes. such as angioplasty and new technologies such as the development of the fibre-optic flexible endoscope. employing an augmented reality system and an innovative control system.

Around 2400 da Vinci robots have been deployed in the US. according to Prof Yang. A fourth arm provides a high definition 3D camera that helps to guide the surgeon during the procedure.newelectronics. we are no longer focused on robotic systems capable of covering an entire surgical procedure. The number of surgical procedures performed using the da Vinci surgical robot are growing at around 14% year on year. the costs of acquiring and then maintaining these systems can be prohibitive. So device pivoting and tissue contact is difficult to perform accurately. however.uk 12 July 2016 of the da Vinci robot by Intuitive Surgical. specialists who are in demand are then able to treat many more people – and help to make long procedures less stressful for surgeons. which aids surgeons by scaling down their motions as well as compensating for and removing any hand tremors. “Over the past 25 years. “Robots are able to provide what we call aligned visiting motor access and motion scaling.000 procedures worldwide. the focus is likely to be on the development of smarter. the device was used in some 600. Costs are less of a problem for private healthcare providers. The surgeon can even change the scale of the robot’s movements so. In 2015. developed out of work originally conducted for NASA by Computer Motion. as well as the development www. by its very nature. remains a challenge.co. we have seen the development of surgical robots. safety and quality of surgery – surgeons do not always need to be in the same room as their patients. for example. miniaturised devices which are mechatronically enhanced to assist the 13 . limited. the market is much larger than in Europe. using a 4:1 scale.” Successful surgical robot Prof Yang identifies two significant milestones in the development of medical robots – the first being the medical licensing of the Zeus surgical system.” argues Prof Yang.” The ultimate effect is to give the surgeon unprecedented control in a minimally invasive environment. For example. In the US. “But today. “The defining moment for modern robotic surgery came when you saw a significant take up of the technology. “I doubt that in the future we will see ever larger surgical robots being developed. micro-robots and flexible systems that are intended to better support this type of surgery. “Surgical robotics is costly and it is vital that a vibrant ecosystem is developed that combines academia and business to support them. surgical robotic research is evolving towards the development of platforms that are capable of performing specific types of surgery which are intended to support or assist surgeons. with a further 1200 operating in the rest of the world.” Prof Yang suggests.is. The da Vinci medical robot has become one of the most successful surgical robots and its latest version uses miniaturised instruments deployed on three separate arms to enable surgeons to maximise the range of their motions and the precision of their actions. “That means every movement the surgeon makes with the master controls is replicated precisely by the robot. “While robotics can improve the consistency.” The economics of robotics. especially for modern healthcare systems whose budgets are already under considerable strain. At present. Traditional robotic systems use a surgeon master console and a patient slave manipulator. the tip of the robot’s arm will move just an inch for every four the surgeon’s hand moves. robots are not cheap. compared to the more socialised healthcare that tends to be on offer in Europe.

newelectronics. “Virtual reality is not new and has been around for many years as a tool for training surgeons. software architectures and multiple robot co-operation. Growing awareness As computers become more powerful.” However. the fusion of data from a variety of sensors will help the robot to become more aware of the entire surgical environment. Prof Yang believes surgeons will be able to make greater use of robotic assistance and. According to Prof Yang: “While the use of miniaturised slave instruments has increased. “Obviously. in order to succeed. linking them to at least 144 deaths and more than 1300 injuries. New techniques will ultimately lead to new and safer as well as more accurate procedures. Prof Yang believes that augmented reality holds greater potential when it comes to robotic surgery. Prof Yang suggests that smarter robotic instruments will integrate imaging and sensing technologies. especially in more complicated surgery and where there was less experience and expertise among users. the technology needs further development and its use on more advanced procedures remains limited.COVER STORY ROBOTIC SURGERY surgeon. “This is a relatively long term research focus on the part of the centre.7million robotic procedures was taken into account.uk . including cost effectiveness. but which also involves a great deal of repetition. sharing command of the tools being deployed. A survey conducted in the US has raised some concerns over the safety of robots. but will also enable enhanced levels of visualisation to better control the manipulator. MIT and Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center. conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. if they are to meet the ambitions of researchers and surgeons alike. as a result. imaging technologies that can provide detail down to the cellular level are already being used. By knowing what is going on. combined with haptic feedback. navigation.” In the future. surgical robots will become more clinically relevant but. 12 July 2016 www. with a large footprint in the operating theatre. in some cases.co. patient outcomes will certainly be improved. it is focused on a range of innovative techniques and technologies. including mobility. removing the need for invasive surgery. As a result. autonomous microrobots and perceptual docking and active constraints. And while there may be an element of hype around the whole concept. The Hamlyn Centre has been developing medical robotics since the early 1990s. this will be conducted under the supervision of a surgeon. conduct optical biopsies. “We are able to see what is happening at the cellular level and.” he believes. I also expect to see the growing use of augmented vision to help improve the surgeon’s experience by delivering immersive visualisation and high definition images. surgeons can only see the exposed tissue – augmented reality will enable them to ‘see’ beyond that. While it is by no means a new technology. “These robots will require a large number of enabling technologies. Robotic systems have tended to be complex and expensive. “It is an exciting development in surgery. the technology will need to address a number of issues.” he says. as well as recording more than 8000 device malfunctions.” According to Prof Yang. However.” suggests Prof Yang. “Alongside these advances. allow robots to perform autonomously surgery which requires high accuracy. Imaging is crucial in performing accurate and safe surgery – it provides the navigational tools. 14 “Augmented reality holds great potential when it comes to robotic surgery” Prof Yang The research. the displays are much improved. Today. it did suggest there were some risks associated with robots. will enable surgeons to perform ‘perceptually enhanced’ actions in which the surgeon and the robot will be able to work together. The focus will be on developing more accessible and more cost effective technology. covered a 14 year period up to the end of 2013 and while it suggested that the number of incidents was limited when the overall figure of 1. Another development is in autonomous microrobots. considerable work is required in terms of fault tolerance and the physical recovery of the robotic device. While research is focused on simpler. what is below the surface and the consequences of any surgical activity.” Prof Yang says. “We have developed flexible snakelike manipulators (i-Snake) that are able to navigate in confined spaces and can move around obstructions to gain access to restricted areas. At the moment. including flexible telemanipulators.” While there is much excitement around the potential of virtual reality. actuation. lower cost devices. non-image sensing. we are very aware of its use in the surgical environment.” This intelligent flexible endoscope will allow an anatomically natural approach that will not only cause less internal damage. Prof Yang believes that augmented reality.

www.uk 12 July 2016 15 .co.newelectronics.

rather than use the constrained and controlled environment of a more traditional research environment. will have to be delivered in a safe environment.” he explains. many of the cities that are embracing the ‘Smart City’ concept do so by taking a radical ‘bottom up’ approach to the development of new. an assistant professor at the University of Antwerp and iMinds in Belgium. this approach is described by Professor Steven Latré. perhaps more accurately.” Singapore is another city looking to become an international guinea pig for smart technologies. This will mean that large population concentrations will have to be provided with a broad range of stable and sustainable public services which. Another striking figure is that more than 60% of the world’s economic growth in the next 10 years is expected to come from city areas. Increasingly. through the intelligent use of Internetbased communications and applications. the City of Things. innovative services that.Beyond the laboratory: the ‘Smart City’ playground The Internet of Things is not a one size fits all concept and. the national research funding body said: “We are trying to virtualise the whole city and looking to build 3D models of each 12 July 2016 www. CEO of the National Research Foundation (NRF). By Neil Tyler. in turn.newelectronics. some 70% of the global population is expected to be living in cities by 2050. 16 making transport systems smarter and providing more efficient and effective water. bring government. as ‘the quadruple helix’ that is intended to ‘combine and safeguard public interests while at the same time facilitating and supporting creativity’. The Smart City is focused on delivering better use of resources. rather than a ‘top down’ governmental approach. “We’ve turned Antwerp into a large testbed where data will be collected and analysed on a large scale. Cities are having to address these pressures in a sustainable and economic way and this has given rise to the concept of the ‘Smart City’ or. new devices and applications will need to be tested in the real world. “We want people. Professor Low Teck Seng. “Our aim is to connect citizens across the city with solutions that will improve their quality of life. waste management. Hundreds of smart sensors and wireless gateways have been deployed across the city to create what is in effect a ‘living laboratory’ for the IoT. In Antwerp. heating and lighting services.co.” he says. Commenting. citizens. in turn. A ccording to the United Nations. We’ve created a real life testing environment.uk . to have far more control over their lives. however. academia and industry together. as cities become more complex.

whether in terms of sustainability. more than 30 cities either have what can be described as smart initiatives taking place or are looking to roll out such a programme – the landscape is changing rapidly. Connectivity is key: most broadband or wireless providers have tended to provide connectivity based on what businesses’ currently need rather than providing additional capacity. mobility or governance.co. since its launch last year. hardware and telecom networks in order to better promote more machineto-machine communication. cement and the internal geography of the building.” In the UK.newelectronics. “Discussions about Bristol is Open started a few years ago. has emerged as one of the UK’s largest smart city initiatives. including glass.uk 12 July 2016 17 . Bristol is determined to turn itself into a ‘high tech testbed for innovation’ and. I lead The Bristol Brain aims to create a 3D-printed largescale city model on top of which. where the ‘Bristol Is Open’ initiative is intended to provide the city with an ambitious research infrastructure to help it better explore developments in software. according to Prof Simeonidou: “We have a 30Gbit/s fibre broadband network powering it. as a foundation for new digital services around the city.SECTOR FOCUS building. We are looking to integrate live data from cameras in order to use it for traffic or disaster management.” The Bristol is Open initiative is using a high performance software defined network as its operating system. Using SMART CITIES the NetOS a growing number of IoT platforms and big data analytics are now in place to support an emerging number of smart city applications. Council: “We are looking to give people the ability to interact. According to Stephen Hilton. where people can gain access to more bandwidth than they need to get started. where the ‘Bristol Is Open’ initiative is intended to provide the city with an ambitious research infrastructure to help it better explore developments in software. “We are using high performance fibre available for research. Futures Director at Bristol City One leading city is Bristol.” explains Professor Dimitra Simeonidou.” Much like Antwerp. One leading city is Bristol. real-time data and sophisticated analytics can be projected and visualised www. “Bristol is Open is a joint venture between the city council and the University of Bristol which. work and play with the city that they live in. hardware and telecom networks in order to better promote more machine-tomachine communication. chief technology officer of Bristol is Open.

that is and will be generated by the network of sensors being deployed. This will allow for experimentation and research into machine to machine communications creating an Internet of Things. “In Bristol. enabling applications to be built around. education and city transport sectors to monitor and manage the city’s traffic congestion problems and we’re looking at real time transport information that can be transmitted openly. which was developed originally by the university’s High Performance Networks research group. free for anybody. “and the platform that we have created means that smaller companies which are interested in developing applications and services to sit on top of it. A creative community Bristol is Open.” The city’s fibre network fibre runs across several miles of council owned BNet ducts and has been upgraded to a 144 fibre core. We have to be able to connect data to the individual in order to highlight then influence the choices they can make. up 18 to 1500 photocells incorporating RF technology will be hosted on street furniture with nine sites used to link the mesh onto the 144 fibre core.the High Performance Network Group at the university and was focused on open programmable networks. and provides an experimental test bed for wireless technology such as 5G mobile broadband.co.” All these applications are being built on the NetOS. Prior to Bristol is Open. The Brunel Mile connects the city’s Temple Meads rail station to the SS Great Britain. As an example. open software and hardware for networking.” Crucially. in order to manage the mass of data. according to Simeonidou. who left a significant physical imprint on Bristol – from the Clifton suspension bridge to the Temple Meads railway station and the Great Western Railway itself. which is receiving funding of £75million to cover investment in both infrastructure and technology. Crucially. “The application which has been developed is able to recognise different types of mobility. including vehicles and groups of pedestrians. This is the Brunel Mile. anchored in the dock area of Bristol.” “We have developed an applications store. we had been working on a number of projects around the world looking to open up infrastructures to both technical and vertical market users. according to Prof Simeonidou: “Our technology is ‘agnostic’. for example. the city is deploying a mile of wireless connectivity which. a family day out to provide better analysis of leisure and retail activity in order to improve services in the future. “We need to be able to tap into the city’s creativity. the network is being sliced.newelectronics. “Tracking technology is being used by health. ‘working with communities and software companies to develop applications that will support a wide range of smart city projects’. and then makes data available for research. she points to a traffic control application that uses cameras to monitor movements of traffic and people around the city. will be able to do so. In addition.” “It’s not just about new technology.” explains Prof Simeonidou. If we are to improve it. “People in Bristol are concerned by the quality of air. and provides an experimental test bed for wireless technology such as 5G mobile broadband.uk .” Hilton explains.” explains Prof Simeonidou. We need to nudge people towards more sustainable activities. which at the moment is internal. but which 12 July 2016 www. The Brunel Mile connects the city’s Temple Meads rail station to the SS Great Britain. as well as assisted living for the elderly. as Prof Simeonidou explains. with each application handed a portion of the available bandwidth. is ‘a first for smart city’. anchored in the dock area of Bristol. we are looking to use big data to solve a variety of problems – from air pollution to traffic congestion.” suggests Hilton.” Bristol has also developed an emulator to assist in future developments in the City. “But we will be gradually opening it up for users and to communities for commercial exploitation. named after the illustrious Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. “In addition to the Brunel Mile. will be complemented by an RF mesh canopy covering Bristol. The system is based on software defined networking and network virtualisation principles which. in turn. involves. which means that we are able to make all of the applications that have or will be developed more easily transferable into other environments. people also need to behave differently and make different choices.

The Formula 1 Williams team has put a huge amount of work into developing simulators and the vehicles are themselves being kitted out with virtual technology as we look to test the human aspect when it comes to operating these vehicles.SECTOR FOCUS “The Bristol Brain. which is made up of among others Bristol Council. which was originally a 2000 Millennium project. it’ll be a period of evolution in which autonomous and driven vehicles will have to operate side by side. He concludes: “Big business must not be allowed to dominate the smart city concept. the BAE Systems Wildcat. will also be available to help other smart cities around the world “The Bristol Brain. but by doing so in a people friendly manner. air quality.co. such as congestion.” enthuses Hilton. SMART CITIES “We want people to be able to leap into the city model. AXA insurance and Williams Advanced Engineering. but also experience. “is situated in the city’s 360 spherical planetarium.” says Hilton. noise.” according to Hilton.” 19 . to experience an immersive digital environment that will use virtual reality.” According to Hilton. It’s been retrofitted with 4k projectors. “is situated in the city’s 360 spherical planetarium.” explains Hilton. the energy use of buildings or the air quality in the city at different times of the day. “Bristol is very much a pioneer in the development of this technology.” according to Hilton. which was originally a 2000 Millennium project. According to Hilton. different models. Futures Director at Bristol City Council. autonomous vehicle technology offers enormous opportunities to influence not only road safety but also issues of particular concern in Bristol.” Hilton suggests. rather. While we are currently unable to render the city to highest level of detail. Funded by Innovate UK. has a fibre link connecting it to a high performance super computer at Bristol University and will be able to project real time data in a 3D environment. Our aim is to champion experimental solutions through the deployment of ICT and digital technologies. so it doesn’t need a guided pathway.” The project is aiming to create a 3D printed large scale city model on top of which real time data and sophisticated analytics can be projected. “The Wildcat is free range. projects like Bristol is Open are intended to help people to better understand the city they live in. “The acquisition of data will be a crucial part of this project.uk 12 July 2016 consortium’s autonomous vehicle. It’s been retrofitted with 4k projectors. augmented reality and haptic technologies to allow people to experience new developments before they are built – meaning that future different scenarios for the city can be explored and their impact on transport.” The VENTURER trial will run for 36 months and testing of the www. “and this project brings together high quality knowledge and developments in digital solutions.” says Stephen Hilton. light and other factors fully understood before any physical development takes place. “We’ll be able to look at new insurance models and charging schemes as this marketplace evolves. A very efficient city is a sterile city and we want to use Bristol is Open as a platform that encourages not only big business. the consortium. has a fibre link connecting it to a high performance super computer at Bristol University and will be able to project real time data in a 3D environment.” The Bristol Brain could fundamentally change the way the city is planned. climate change and social inclusion. enabling citizens and planners to work more closely together to make better decisions “It will provide a single.newelectronics. “Bristol has a reputation as an innovative city. started on both private and public roads in early 2016. air quality. but creatives and innovative start-ups to help address the challenges of urban life.” Bristol’s Venturer consortium embarks on trials of driverless cars In 2015. “Open to an audience of 180 people. it will enable them to experience new city scenarios at the same time through 3D visualisation. the VENTURER consortium was given the ‘green light’ by the then government to explore the feasibility of driverless cars in Bristol. draws on the expertise of a range of organisations from across different sectors to not only look at the technology but assess its impact on the public and investigate both the legal and insurance aspects of driverless cars. “We will be able to show real time pedestrian and traffic flows. I don’t believe we’ll see a revolution. we see the data dome as a place where people will not only be able to visualise. Fusion Processing. holistic planning tool that will be open for all.

Steptoe said: “They’ve got more than a spec. despite the falling cost of transistors with each jump in process node. This programme fills the knowhow capability gap that many of these customers have.uk . same wafer – to provide samples and even low-volume production parts.” Kevin Steptoe. Nandan Nayampally. Steptoe sees a range of different types of company looking to develop “This class of device turns everything upsidedown. Nayampally pointed to the availability of multiproject wafer services for processes as being relatively affordable. as well as design houses such as Open-Silicon and Sondrel. Steptoe argued. which has signed up for the ARM programme alongside Cadence. they want to move into a larger IoT market by adding an MCU. They’ve got a design that can be retargeted. Jeff Miller. but which have limited experience in the design process.” Kevin Steptoe their own silicon. if any. as well as radio IP. vice president of marketing and strategy of the CPU group at ARM. The idea is that they can buy everything they need to implement a basic SoC and use their analogue know-how for connected sensors for the IoT. I think there will be a lot of those. The customers are not necessarily chip aware people and they don’t have vast sums of money to have a classic EDA tool licensing model.” More speculative. held last month in Austin. Because companies coming from those different angles will often have few. have left digital integration to others.000 for a 16mm2 die aimed at the 65nm node.co. The rise in mask and software tool costs over those same generations has forced many would-be chipmakers to settle for off the shelf microcontrollers and programmable logic. By Chris Edwards. Among those now looking to build their own IoT silicon will be companies looking to improve the performance of existing designs or to reduce overall production costs or power consumption through integration. “A lot of people are coming from the analogue side. The customers are not necessarily chip aware people and they don’t have vast sums of money to have a classic EDA tool licensing model.” ARM expects many to use the lowcost prototyping approach known as multiproject wafer – in which masks for a collection of different ICs are put together to be manufactured on the 20 Chip design for the rest of us As the IoT unfolds. vice president of engineering at design house Sondrel. the rhetoric of integrated circuit design has been one of increasing exclusivity. ARM is one compant betting on a reversal in the downward trend of custom IC design starts driven by a surge of interest around applications for the IoT. said: “A lot of companies are coming into this who haven’t done their own custom SoC before. added: “This class of device turns everything upside-down. a system-level model. Mentor Graphics’ Tanner EDA group.000 for samples of a 25mm2 chip built on a 130nm process and $42. classical EDA design flows will need to change.” Filling the capability gap Chris Shore. sees its main targets as existing chipmakers that. until now.” 12 July 2016 www. product strategy and marketing director for the Tanner group. We are also seeing OEMs in white goods who want to start building their own solutions rather than using standard microcontrollers.F or the past 20 years. providing the ability for companies to group together multiple small chips in what would normally be one slot. potentially. they are likely to turn to design houses to get their ICs to tape out. the processor designer expanded its programme to attract a wider base of companies to use its low end M-series cores by recruiting tools suppliers Mentor Graphics and Cadence. but on ARM’s radar. quoting costs of $16. said: “The main targets are startups and makers. training manager for partner enablement.newelectronics. are companies which have an idea for an IC and. SoC designs under their belt. At the Design Automation Conference. Design support company eSilicon slices the wafer even more finely. noted: “We have a special package of tools available to DesignStart customers. Now.

package and chiplevel integration has become more pressing. The focusmay switch from classical EDA flows to those that look at the system as a whole. however.RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT The companies moving sideways into a market previously dominated by standard microcontrollers are often looking to capitalise on the specialised processes now available for older nodes. “Cadence is no longer just focused on EDA.” he contended. For example. the place and route tool in Tanner’s IoT offering is based on the Nitro engine. Steptoe said the push to integrate more digital logic into ICs focused on analogue and sensor processing does not change the design flow dramatically. The inclusion of MEMS sensors into designs will. Although much of the flow will be automated. which is used for today’s 14nm finFET based ICs.” The need to build small ICs into flexible boards for wearables and other uses will put more emphasis on the need for codesign. “We are www. the EDA tool suppliers expect customers working on older nodes to be able to benefit from what they have learned implementing designs at the leading edge.” Miller argued. so they are looking at 65nm or 90nm. according to Antun Domic. a EDA likely scenario for many projects will be to have two or three devices pulled into a single package. complicate the flow. claimed the need to analyse tradeoffs between board. We are also seeing OEMs in white goods who want to start building their own solutions rather than using standard microcontrollers. it will still be a matter of synthesising IP written in hardware description languages down to standard cells and then having them organised by a place and route tool.” said Miller. “Others are moving to smaller processes because they have substantial digital content.uk 12 July 2016 “The main targets are startups and makers. potentially pushing more of the work into the intersection between electrical and mechanical design. However. they have to be designed together. senior vice president of Cadence’s custom IC and PCB group. They can more easily cater for multiple power domains on the die that designs were not expected to have when the 90nm or 65nm processes were at their initial peak of development. Steptoe believes hand tuned layout will be increasingly important element of IoT node design. is that tools developed during the past decade have focused increasingly on power consumption – an issue critical to battery powered sensor nodes. We believe the world of unfolding smart products requires unified solutions.” Synopsys found that when it applied its newer tools to older processes. general manager of the Synopsys design group. “Regardless of whether they are packaged or on the same die. Miller said designs on older nodes can take advantage of the analysis of parasitics introduced to deal with the issues surrounding finFET processes to make it easier to ensure circuits hit their timing targets. “There are people doing high voltage designs that are currently dominated by 180nm BCD processes. Although CMOS based MEMS allows for monolithic integration.” Tom Beckley 21 .co.” Nandan Nayampally repackaging it to make it easier to use for the Tanner customer base.newelectronics. “We have a bunch of tools to model the MEMS device. “Energy harvesting circuitry will require a highly customised approach.” Analysing trade offs Tom Beckley. A further advantage. it was possible to increase overall density because of improvements to placement and routing algorithms. “We believe the world of unfolding smart products requires unified solutions. from which we can take the output and feed it as a reduced-order model into the IC design tools to make sure they work together.

newelectronics.uk .22 12 July 2016 www.co.

which would need the boost topology. Here. depending on the 23 . it’s good for a wide range of consumer electronic devices and other applications.uk 12 July 2016 start when designers have a system in which a variable voltage passes over a USB cable. the USB adaptor voltage is handled by either a buck or a boost charger. Jia Wei. the USB adaptor voltage is boosted to a voltage higher than the highest USB adaptor voltage – 25V for example – then down converted using a buck converter to charge the batteries. but not fast. “but need a special cable after that to handle up to 5A. “This increases solution cost and size.5V to 17. which supported higher data rates and more power.” he continued. That was USB 3.” he said. Since its first appearance in the mid 1990s.newelectronics. “Users can pass up to 3A over a passive cable. but also power.0.0 had limited data rate and power delivery abilities. There is no definite ‘input to output’ relationship. Version 2. “It’s probably good enough for phone charging. “This will handle up to 20V.2V battery. USB could transer 5W.” Wei pointed out.” Wei continued.1. designers can use a buck converter for all applications. establishing a USB connector ecosystem that addresses the needs of the latest devices while retaining USB’s functional benefits. so industry decided to work on something better. By Graham Pitcher.” Wei continued.” Another way of addressing the problem is shown in figure 1b.” “However.” In its original format. and no definite ‘output to input’ relationship.” Jia Wei he USB port has proved to be popular. Intersil’s director of marketing and applications engineering for mobile power products. you have to choose.” In Wei’s opinion. which would need the buck topology. with a variable input.” But a new version of the standard called USB-C is set to change that.” said Wei. billions of devices have benefited from its ability to not only transfer data. “but they also need to handle up to 20V in order to support the latest devices. which also means there will be different modes of operation. the problems www. negotiable between both ends of the cable.” He gave an example. “That’s not a lot.co.” Figure 1a shows an approach based on the pre-boost concept. “This requires an additional boost converter. noted: “The specification has evolved over time and is now at v3.” Variable input uncertainty When a fixed input is greater than the output. Because the specification supports power levels of up to 100W. “USB-C charging requires a fundamental change to the existing power delivery architecture and this presents a new challenge to system designers. “These systems have to support 5V in order to be backwards compatible. as well as reducing the overall efficiency due to power loss in the pre-boost stage. T “I think USB-C will win.” Wei noted. but it’s like the early days of Blu-Ray versus DVD. “However. “this relationship is uncertain and requires the use of a buck-boost converter. In the buck charger or boost charger approach. “A challenge is how to use the 5V to 20V adaptor voltage to charge a 2.EMBEDDED DESIGN POWER Powering change The USB-C interface will require more careful decisions when it comes to power system design.

” Wei explained.” Wei said. other approaches are available.” Another issue which designers need to take into account is the fact that USB-C involves power negotiation. “This.1.newelectronics.uk . A more elegant arrangement. This can operate in buck mode when there is ‘input to output’. the part provides a two level adaptor current limit with programmable magnitudes and durations. “they realise that USB-A and -B will be made obsolete by USBC. Compliant with USB 3. we had developed a custom device for a particular client before that.” While USB-C is gaining momentum. but cost will come down as USB-C becomes more of a mainstream technology. “I think USB-C will win. for example. it still requires an additional boost charger. smartphone or the emerging portable power bank products that can be used to charge other products. Another technology is Qualcomm’s Quick Charge. The four switching FETs are grouped into a forward-buck leg and a forwardboost leg. more expensive solution.” Wei concluded. “but it will be segmented. Everything is changing and now it’s one cable for everything. “we saw the need for such a device and entered the general market in 2016. will be starting to think about how they can tap into the USB-C ecosystem. System designers need to understand how to support the power levels and to choose cables appropriately. “allows for a better design. which is a piece of silicon sitting in each connector or port. “but it’s like the early days of Blu-Ray versus DVD. According to Intersil.” He also noted that USB-C has a particularly popular form factor. looking to access such features as power management.” he added. is the buck-boost charger shown in figure 1c. Once people see the benefits. USB Power Delivery features • Power levels of up to 100W • Power direction is no longer fixed. While this configuration eliminates the additional power loss of the pre-boost design. in boost mode when there is ‘output to input and in buckboost mode when there is two way flow and the input is approximately equal to the output.” Wei said. “Cost will be higher. adapter overcurrent.” Only such product available Intersil says it is the only company currently producing a USB-C buckboost charging product – the ISL9237. according to Wei. such as a tablet.” 12 July 2016 www. including data and power. but it might be fixed at 5V.” said Wei. “a designer might decide to save some cost by limiting operation to 12V. “For example. allowing the product or the host to provide power • Allowing each device to take only the power it requires and to get more power when required • Intelligent and flexible system level power management • Allows low power devices.” Wei said. It meets all the system designer’s requirements.” The part consists of four switching FETs and an inductor. we may see more ‘stripped down’ parts appearing. “We’re seeing a lot of industrial style applications turning to USB-C. It can also operate in reverse buck mode to deliver power from the USB port in order to charge an external electronic device. the smallest solution size and the best overall efficiency. By operating either leg. The ISL9237 offers a range of features.co. this topology can operate in forward buck mode or forward boost mode for charging the battery. you have to choose. “The connector is more expensive than devices used in the past. Negotiation sets the voltage level. This is handled by USB-PD (for power delivery).EMBEDDED DESIGN input/output voltage relationship. to negotiate for only the power they require “That’s also appealing and it can be designed into very small devices. “devices will still be capable of power delivery. “Apple Lightning is similar.” “Even without -PD. many of them adopt the technology. battery overcurrent and 24 POWER Fig 1a The pre boost approach ~25V 5 to 20V USB adaptor Boost Buck charger Fig 1b The buck charger or boost charger approach Buck charger 5 to 20V USB adaptor Boost charger Fig 1c The buck-boost charger approach 5 to 20V USB adaptor Buck-boost charger overheating. However. It comes down to market sentiment. as well as a battery connecting FET. it protects against battery voltage drop. including the ability to communicate with an SMBus host. meaning a larger. as well as the latest Intel IMVP8 PROCHOT# and PSYS requirements. Why USB-C? “When I visit customers. but it’s a closed ecosystem.” Wei contended. but that will also limit how much power can be delivered.” he admitted.” But even though USB-C brings benefits there is a downside. As the market evolves. such as headsets. “When the market began to change.” But what about those designing products for markets beyond consumer electronics? “Those designing for the industrial equipment market.


For setups with long load leads. lead resistance is a function of length and wire diameter. each has pros and cons. The voltage of each output can then be set to sum to the total desired voltage. In accordance with Ohm’s law. the power supply will regulate the output at the voltage setting. depending on load resistance and voltage and current limit settings (see fig 1). connection equipment can be kept to a minimum and measurements can be triggered to start with other power related events. plus test performance parameters can be upgraded. in reality. a current shunt or the supply’s built in read back.uk . Accurate device under test (DUT) current can be measured via an ammeter. Power supplies will operate in CV mode while the load does not need more current than the current limit setting allows. or in parallel for more current. Constant current operating line RL < RC Iout IS 12 July 2016 www. then UNR will ensue. When connecting outputs in series for higher voltage. the voltage at the output terminals will not represent the load voltage accurately. Should the load resistance decrease to less than RC – the ratio of the power supply voltage limit to current limit – the power supply will regulate current. Possible causes of UNR include an internal fault. Figure 1: Schematic showing power source output characteristics Constant voltage operating line It is possible to connect multiple power supply outputs in series to get higher voltage. In some circumstances. Again. A parallel connection with remote sense is shown in fig 2. When connecting outputs in parallel for higher current. Setups can be made simpler and more effective. so when a supply delivers current. Current read back can provide measurement accuracy while avoiding the difficulties associated with connecting current shunts. Ohm’s law says the voltage will change if the current stays constant at the current limit setting. Since the control loop senses the voltage at the load. regardless of voltage drops. Remote sensing can correct for voltage drops. This is true for modern power sources.26 Developing better test approaches Insights into how you can improve test methods and make set up simpler. Vs/ RL) is less than the current limit. rather than at the output terminals.newelectronics. another source of power connected across the supply’s output or the output transitioning between CV and CC (or vice versa). leading to CC operation. If the supply cannot regulate its output voltage or current. If the output current (Iout. Each output should also be set to the maximum current limit the load can handle safely. By Howard Peat and Giacomo Tuveri. the internal feedback amplifier will see the voltage at the load. When connecting remote sense terminals to the load. it is critical that: • • • RL = RC = VS/IS vS RL > RC RL: Load resistance RC: Critical (crossover) resistance RS: Voltage setting IS: Current setting Vout H aving a good grasp of how measurement tools operate can provide valuable insight into how test methods can be improved. A power supply’s connections ideally have no resistance but. it may decrease the voltage at the load. the following precautions should be taken: Never exceed the floating voltage rating of any output Outputs should not be subjected to reverse voltages Only connect outputs with identical voltage/current ratings in series Each power supply output should be set independently so the voltages add up to the desired value. Power supplies can operate in constant voltage (CV) or constant current (CC) modes. they may go into an unregulated (UNR) mode. the AC input line voltage being below the specified range. the supply will keep the load voltage constant. maintaining a constant voltage while changing the load resistance will require the current to change.co.

however. start with a unit with very low noise. Over current protection shuts the output off to prevent excessive current flow to the DUT. For critical applications. power supplies bias circuits that require a constant voltage. where complete disconnect between the power supply output and the DUT is mandated. When the DUT trips a protection circuit. Since filtering noise from the power source can be difficult. Some power supplies have an internal output relay option for disconnection purposes. some can also measure dynamic voltage and current using an integral digitiser. the following parameters can be set: Time interval between samples Number of samples acquired Acquisition time Once two of these are set. In order to mitigate the effect of common mode current. with Keysight Technologies. Everything possible should be done to minimise noise on the DUT’s DC power input. more advanced applications may call for a time varying voltage or current. this does not guarantee that no current will flow. While you might assume the power supply output is completely open when in ‘output off’. producing current at the current limit setting. the impedance to ground from the output terminals on the supply should be equalised. check with the vendor whether the output relay provides complete disconnection (see fig 3).uk 12 July 2016 • • • +S Power supply SYSTEM TEST +out –out –S Acquisition time = time interval x (number of samples . they can be large and generate heat. Most power supplies feature over voltage and over current protection. allowing power management to be optimised. However. Modern switch mode supply performance. Instead. However. is now comparable with that of linear supplies. It is possible for a PC to change the power supply’s output voltages for discrete periods. it will not turn off the output. While linearly regulated supplies can accomplish this. Typically. EMEAI. the voltage dips below the voltage setting and the power supply continues in CC mode. a built in digitiser can be configured to trigger and capture power supply output voltage or current waveforms. this may not be the case. then external output disconnect relays will be required.co. The ‘output off’ state will typically set the output voltage/current to zero and disable internal power generating circuitry. Output impedance will vary from While most power supplies can measure DUT steady-state voltage/ current. The DUT is disconnected when the relays are open model to model and can depend upon installed options. below: A power supply with internal relays on output terminals. While CC mode regulates the output current at the current limit. Inside power supply Similarly. Giacomo Tuveri is marketing industry manager. Reverse protection diode RFI/ESD filters Device under test + Output capacitor – – 27 .SYSTEM DESIGN • One output operates in CV and the other (or others) in CC The output load draws enough current to keep the CC output(s) in this mode Only connect in parallel outputs with identical voltage and current ratings Set the current limit of all outputs equally. Internal output relays + Author profiles: Howard Peat is distribution sales manager with Microlease. allowing the DUT to be tested at different voltages. If not. the output is turned off and displays a notification. output capacitors may be connected to the output terminals. but even with this installed. When making a digitising measurement.newelectronics. The most effective way to reduce noise is by ensuring load and sense connections use shielded two wire cables.1) Figure 2. but high enough to prevent nuisance tripping due to normal fluctuations due to output transients. The digitiser will buffer readings. above: Parallel connection of power supplies with remote sense Figure 3. Using the power supply in place of a battery enables acquisition of dynamic information on the current flowing into the DUT. with data retrieved and analysed using any standard software package. Most DC power supplies protect sensitive DUTs and circuitry from exposure to potentially damaging voltages/currents. the remaining parameter is determined via the following equation: +S • Power supply • +out + –out – Load –S • www. The current limit should be set low enough to protect the DUT.