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Electronic Components

The future of memory

Memory is an essential electronic component. Not only can it store data, but it can also process vast amounts of code. As it is so vital, manufacturers are upgrading it and adding improvements constantly. This could improve the way our computers and gadgets run but could also help people’s memories in the future.

Next-gen memory announcements

This year Samsung announced new products during the Flash Memory Summit in August. One of the products announced was the new ‘Petabyte Storage’, able to store as much data on a single server. A petabyte of storage (equivalent to 1,024 terabytes) would let manufacturers increase their storage capacity without requiring more space.

The company also announce Memory-Semantic SSD, combining flash and DRAM to to supposedly improve performance twenty-fold. This technology may be perfect going forward, suiting the increasing number of AI and ML operations with faster processing of smaller data sets.

SSD demand is increasing and other companies are vying for a share of the market. Western Digital also announced a new 26TB hard drive 15TB server SSDs earlier this year. Its new SSDs have shingled magnetic recording (SMR), which allows for higher storage densities on the same number of platters.

Market Worth

In 2021 the next-gen memory market was valued at $4.37 billion, and is expected to reach $25.38 billion by 2030. This demand is partly driven by high bandwidth requirements, low power consumption and highly scalable memory devices.

The need for scalable memory comes from the continually rising use of AI and ML. Lower-spec memory devices are causing bottlenecks in the functioning of these devices. Data centres are needed to process more data than ever before, so scalability is key for this market.

Futuristic Products

One promising product for the future of memory technology is Vanadium Dioxide. VO₂ is usually an insulator, but when it is heated to 68⁰C its structure changes and acts like a metal.

When an electrical current is applied to the circuit the metal would heat to its transition point. When it is cooled it would transition back.

Upon further study it was discovered that, when heated multiple times, the material appeared to remember the previous transitions and could change state faster. In a way, the VO₂ had a memory of what had happened previously.

The exciting discovery could mean the future of memory is brighter than ever. VO₂ could be used in combination with silicon in computer memory and processing. Especially for fast operation and downscaling, this material is an interesting prospect.

Our memories

Today our regular blog post coincides with world Alzheimer’s day. Dementia is a collection of symptoms caused by different diseases, that can result in memory loss, confusion, and changes in behaviour. If you would like to learn more about dementia or Alzheimer’s, visit Dementia (who.int)

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Electronic Components

What is fabless production?

What is fabless production?

A fab is short for ‘fabrication’, which is a facility that produces electronic components. When it comes to fabless production, it refers to when companies outsource their manufacturing. The development of fabless production is a pretty recent development, but one that has flourished since its conception.

How did it come about?

Fabless production didn’t exist until the 80s, when surplus stock led to IDMs offering outsourced services to smaller firms. In the same decade the first dedicated semiconductor foundry, TSMC, was founded. It is still one of the biggest foundries in operation to this day.

In the following years many smaller companies could enter into the market as they outsourced manufacturing. More manufacturers, each with different specialities, also came to the fore.

Advantages

One of the original reasons it became so popular was due to the cost reduction it provided businesses. With the actual semiconductors being manufactured elsewhere, companies saved money on labour and space.

With production outsourced, companies also had the ability to focus more on research and development. No doubt this gave way to many advancements in semiconductor technology that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

Having a choice of which manufacturers to work with is beneficial too. Depending on your requirements you can choose someone who best suit your needs.

Disadvantages

When you outsource production, you are putting part of your business under someone else’s control, which can be risky. There could be a higher chance of defects if manufacture isn’t being directly overseen.

It also means that, in terms of quantity of product and price of production, you don’t have total control. If a manufacturer decides to change the quantity they produce or the price, customers are limited to their options. They either have to accept the changes, or search for an alternative which, in a fast-paced market, would be risky.

Conclusion/Disclaimer

The fabless business model, as it is known, will probably continue long into the future. TSMC’s continued profit, among other companies, is a key indicator of its success. And with big names like Apple, Qualcomm and Nvidia working fabless, it would be safe to say it’s popular.

That’s not to say that an integrated business model, with every stage of production occurring in-house, is a bad choice either. There are many just as successful IDMs like Samsung and Texas Instruments.

For a ‘fab-ulous’ stock of both foundry and IDM components, check out Lantek. We specialise in obsolete, day to day and hard to find electronic components. Send us your enquiry at sales@lantekcorp.com, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.

This blog post is not an endorsement of any particular business model, and is purely for informational purposes.

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Electronic Components

Traditional fuses and eFuses

Fuses are an essential electronic component in most circuits, and act as a safety feature to keep the other components within the circuit safe. Billions are used today to safeguard against circuit failures.

The purpose of fuses

If a circuit is overloaded, or there is a voltage surge, the fuse essentially self-destructs to protect the rest of the circuit. A traditional fuse contains a central fusible element that, when heated to excessive temperatures, melts and stops the flow of current through the circuit.

The speed that the thermal fuse melts depends on the how much heat is being caused by the current, and what temperature the fuse is designed to react to. The fuse can be designed with different melting elements that have varying melting points and resistance, so the currents they can cope with can differ.

eFuses

The new kid on the block is the newer electronic fuse, or eFuse. This component is an updated, re-usable version of the more traditional thermal, one-use fuse.

This component comprises of a field-effect transistor (FET) and a sense resistor. The resistor measures the voltage across it, and when it exceeds a certain limit, the current is cut off by the FET. Usually, the eFuse is placed in series with a thermal fuse rather than replacing it, giving the circuit a second layer of more localised protection for components.

Often eFuses are used as a protection when components are plugged into a computer while the power is still on, also called hot-swapping. In automotive applications, programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and battery management eFuses are a great tool to protect the circuits.

An offer you can’t reFuse.

As thermal fuses have been around for so long, it’s unsurprising that there are certain things the more recent eFuse can do slightly better.

The first and most straightforward advantage is the lifespan: once a thermal fuse is activated and the element inside it fuses, it will have to be replaced. The eFuse, however, can be reset and used multiple times without requiring replacement.

The eFuse is also able to respond to a circuit overload more quickly and works in circuits with a lower current and voltage. For some eFuses the current level it reacts at is set, but for some types it can be altered by an external resistor.

It’s possible to create a homemade eFuse too, just by putting together a few FETs, a resistor and an inductor, which filters the output and acts as your sense resistor.

Reaching melting point

Both fuses have their uses, and utilised together are even more effective as a circuit failsafe. However, each designer must consider their requirements and what will best suit their clients. There are scenarios where the thermal fuse just won’t do the job, and it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?

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Electronic Components

Could conductive ink replace conventional circuitry?

Intro

It seems like the stuff of dreams, having a pen or a paintbrush that could conduct electricity. Well, those dreams are very real, readily available to buy online, and at a relatively cheap rate, too.

Conductive ink pens and conductive paint that can be used with a pen, paintbrush, or a printer is a reality, and is already being put to work.

What is it?

Conductive ink and conductive paint are liquid materials mixed with nanoparticles of a conducting material like silver or graphite. The paint and ink are technically slightly different, in that the paint sits on the surface of a substrate, while the ink would sink into a substrate it was applied to, like regular ink on paper.

Although the metals are usually in a solid state at room temperature, if it’s in a nanoparticle form it can be mixed with a liquid. When the liquid is spread and begins to dry, the nanoparticles and electrons within them begin to form conductive chains that the current is then able to travel through.

The inks used normally work at 12V, and can be transparent which means it would be a good choice for companies to integrate it invisibly into their graphics.

Uses

One notable way silver-infused ink is currently used is to print Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags in tickets.

Another common place to find conductive paint or ink is in the rear windscreen of cars. The resistive traces applied to windscreens to help defrost them contain conductive paint. Traces printed on the window can also serve as a radio antenna in more recently manufactured cars.

Conductive inks and paints were originally intended to be used for e-textiles and wearables. The potential for clothes that could detect temperature and heart rate, among other features, is an area receiving considerable investment.

Problems

When compared to conventional circuity and conductors, conductive inks and paints will never be able to emulate the strength of conductivity. In a way, it would be unfair to pit the two against each other, like putting boxers from vastly different weight classes in a ring together.

The reliability and connectivity of traditional conductors is much higher so is preferred for regularly used products, however conductive inks and paints would be utilised in areas that traditional means could not. So, as much as these factors are disadvantages they would be irrelevant when it comes to the product.

Layers of the ink or paint may not always be thick enough to have any conductive strength at all, and it could take several layers of it to properly form a current-conducting pathway. Additionally, the user is relying on the nanoparticles in the liquid to align correctly for conduction. The material would work only for smaller direct voltages too, probably up to around 12V.

Silver is a material that has a higher cost than other conductors like graphite, and could make the price of some paints unreasonable for some customers. The low cost alternative is graphite, but this also has a higher resistivity than metals like silver.

The future

As far as development goes, nanoparticle paint is still in its infancy. Its uses are limited and occasionally unreliable, so although it has cornered a niche conductive market it’s unlikely we’ll see it permeating the sector for a while.

If you are looking for trustworthy day-to-day or obsolete electronic components, Lantek are here for you. Don’t paint yourself into a corner, contact Lantek today to find what you’re looking for, at sales@lantekcorp.com

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Electronic Components

How transistors replaced vacuum tubes

Electronics has come on leaps and bounds in the last 100 years and one of the most notable changes is the size of components. At the turn of the last century mechanical components were slowly being switched out for electrical ones, and an example of this switch was the vacuum tube.

A lightbulb moment

Vacuum tubes were invented in the early 1900s, and the first ones were relatively simple devices containing only an anode and a cathode. The two electrodes are inside a sealed glass or aluminium tube, then the gas inside would be removed to create a vacuum. This allowed electrons to pass between the two electrodes, working as a switch in the circuit.

Original vacuum tubes were quite large and resembled a lightbulb in appearance. They signalled a big change in computer development, as a purely electronic device replaced the previously used mechanical relays.

Aside being utilised in the field of computing, vacuum tubes were additionally used for radios, TVs, telephones, and radar equipment.

The burnout

Apart from resembling a bulb, the tubes also shared the slightly more undesirable traits. They would produce a lot of heat, which would cause the filaments to burn out and the whole component would need to be replaced.

This is because the gadget worked on a principle called thermionic emission, which needed heat to let an electrical reaction take place. Turns out having a component that might melt the rest of your circuit wasn’t the most effective approach.

The transition

Transistors came along just over 40 years later, and the vacuum tubes were slowly replaced with the solid-state alternative.

The solid-state device, so named because the electric current flows through solid semiconductor crystals instead of in a vacuum like its predecessor, could be made much smaller and did not overheat. The electronic component also acted as a switch or amplifier, so the bright star of the vacuum tube gradually burned out.

Sounds like success

Vacuum tubes are still around and have found a niche consumer base in audiophiles and hi-fi fanatics. Many amplifiers use the tubes in place of solid-state devices, and the devices have a dedicated following within the stereo community.

Although some of the materials that went into the original tubes have been replaced, mostly for safety reasons, old tubes classed as New Old Stock (NOS) are still sold and some musicians still prefer these. Despite this, modernised tubes are relatively popular and have all the familiar loveable features, like a tendency to overheat.

Don’t operate in a vacuum

Transistors are used in almost every single electronic product out there. Lantek have a huge selection of transistors and other day-to-day and obsolete components. Inquire today to find what you’re looking for at sales@lantekcorp.com or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.

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Electronic Components

The History of Transistors

The History of Transistors

Transistors are a vital, ubiquitous electronic component. Their main function is to switch or amplify the electrical current in a circuit, and a modern device like a smartphone can contain between 2 and 4 billion transistors.

So that’s some modern context, but have you ever wondered when the transistor was invented? Or what it looked like?

Pre-transistor technology

Going way back to when Ohm’s Law was first discovered in 1820s, people had been aware of circuits and the flow of current. As an extension of this, there was an awareness of conductors.

Following on from this, semiconductors accompanied the birth of the AC-DC (alternating current – direct current) conversion device, the rectifier, in 1874.

Two patents were filed in the 20s and 30s for devices that would have been transistors if they had ever reached past the theoretical stage. In 1925 Julius Lilienfeld of Austria-Hungary filed a patent, but did not end up releasing any papers regarding his research on the field-effect transistor, and so his discoveries were ignored.

Again, in 1934 German physicist Oskar Heil’s patent was on a device that, by applying an electrical field, could control the current in a circuit. With only theoretical ideas, this also did not become the first field effect transistor.

The invention of transistors

The official invention of a working transistor was in 1947, and the device was announced a year later in 1948. The inventors were three physicists working at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey, USA. William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain were part of a semiconductor research subgroup working out of the labs.

One of the first attempts they made at a transistor was Shockley’s semiconductor triode, which was made up of three electrodes, an emitter, a collector and a large low-resistance contact placed on a block of germanium. However, the semiconductor surface trapped electrons, which blocked the main channel from the effect of the external field.

Despite this initial idea not working out, the issue was solved in 1946. After spending some time looking into three-layer structures featuring a reversed and forward-biased junction, they returned to their project on field-effect devices in a year later in 1947. At the end of that year, they found that with two very close contact junctions, with one forward biased and one reverse biased, there would be a slight gain.

The first working transistor featured a strip of gold over a triangle of plastic, finely cut with a razor at the tip to create two contact points with a hair’s breadth between them and placed on top of a block of germanium.

The device was announced in June of 1948 as the transistor – a mix of the words ‘transconductance’, ‘transfer’ and ‘varistor’.

The French connection

At the same time over the water in France, two German physicists working for Compagnie des Freins et Signaux were at a similar stage in the development of a point contact device, which they went on to call the ‘transistron’ when it was released.  

Herbert Mataré and Heinrich Welker released the transistron a few months after the Bell Labs transistor was announced but was engineered completely without influence by their American counterpart due to the secrecy around the Bell project.

Where we are now

The first germanium transistors were used in computers as a replacement for their predecessor vacuum tubes, and transistor car radios were produced all within only six years of its invention.

The first transistor was made with germanium, but since the material can’t withstand heats of more than 180˚F (82.2˚C), in 1954 Bell Labs switched to silicon. Later that year Texas Instruments began mass-producing silicon transistors.

First silicon transistor made in 1954 by Bell Labs, then Texas Instruments made first commercial mass produced silicon transistor the same year. Six years later in 1960 the first in the direct bloodline of modern transistors was made, again by Bell Labs – the metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect Transistor (MOSFET).

Between then and now, most transistor technology has been based on the MOSFET, with the size shrinking from 40 micrometres when they were first invented, to the current average being about 14 nanometres.

The latest in transistor technology is called the RibbonFET. The technology was announced by Intel in 2021, and is a transistor whose gate surrounds the channel. The tech is due to come into use in 2024 when Intel change from nanometres to, the even smaller measuring unit, Angstrom.

There is also other tech that is being developed as the years march on, including research into the use of 2D materials like graphene.

If you’re looking for electronic components, Lantek are here to help. Contact us at sales@Lantekcorp.com to order hard-to-find or obsolete electronic components. You can also use the rapid enquiry form on our website https://www.cyclops-electronics.com/

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component shortage

Ukraine-Russia conflict may increase global electronics shortage

Ukraine-Russia conflict may increase global electronics shortage

Due to conflict between Russia and Ukraine, both of whom produce essential products for chip fabrication, the electronic component shortage across the globe may worsen.

Ukraine produces approximately half of the global supply of neon gas, which is used in the photolithography process of chip production. Russia is responsible for about 44% of all palladium, which is implemented in the chip plating process.

The two leading Ukrainian suppliers of neon, Ingas and Cryoin, have stopped production in Moscow and said they would be unable to fill orders until the fighting had stopped.

Ingas has customers in Taiwan, Korea, the US and Germany. The headquarters of the company are based in Mariupol, which has been a conflict zone since late February. According to Reuters the marketing officer for Ingas was unable to contact them due to lack of internet or phone connection in the city.

Cryoin said it had been shut since February 24th to keep its staff safe, and would be unable to fulfil March orders. The company said it would only be able to stay afloat for three months if the plant stayed closed, and would be even less likely to survive financially if any equipment or facilities were damaged.

Many manufacturers fear that neon gas, a by-product of Russian steel manufacturing, will see a price spike in the coming months. In 2014 during the annexing of Crimea, the price of neon rose by 600%.

Larger chip fabricators will no doubt see smaller losses due to their stockpiling and buying power, while smaller companies are more likely to suffer as a result of the material shortage.

It is further predicted that shipping costs will rise due to an increase in closed borders and sanctions, and there will be a rise in crude oil and auto fuel prices.

The losses could be mitigated in part by providing alternatives for neon and palladium, some of which can be produced by the UK or the USA. Gases with a chlorine or fluoride base could be used in place of neon, while palladium can be sourced from some countries in the west.

Neon could also be supplied by China, but the shortages mean that the prices are rising quickly and could be inaccessible to many smaller manufacturers.

Neon consumption worldwide for chip production was around 540 metric tons last year, and if companies began neon production now it would take between nine months and two years to reach steady levels.

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Technology

What is the Internet of Things?

EveryThing

In terms of IoT, a ‘Thing’ is anything that can transfer data over a network and can have its own IP address. They are most often ‘smart’ devices, that use processors or sensors to accumulate and send data.

These devices have little-to-no need for human interaction, except in cases where the smart device is controlled by a remote control or something similar. Due to the low cost of electronic components and wireless networks being readily available, it’s possible for most things to become, well, Things.

Technically, larger items like computers, aeroplanes, and even phones, cannot be considered IoT devices, but normally contain a huge amount of the smart devices within them. Smaller devices, however, like wearable devices, smart meters and smart lightbulbs can all be counted as IoT items.

There are already more connected IoT devices than there are people in the world, and as more Things are produced this progress shows no sign of slowing.

Applications of IoT

The automation and smart learning of IoT devices has endless uses and can be implemented in many industries. The medical industry can use IoT to remotely monitor patients using smart devices that can track blood pressure, heart rate and glucose levels, and can check if patients are sticking to treatment plans or physiotherapy routines.

Smart farming has garnered attention in recent years for its possibly life-saving applications. The use of IoT devices in the agricultural industry can enable the monitoring of moisture levels, fertiliser quantities and soil analysis. Not only would these functions lower the labour costs for farmers substantially but could also be implemented in countries where there is a desperate need for agriculture.

The industrial and automotive industries also stand to benefit from the development of IoT. Road safety can be improved with fast data transfer of vehicle health, as well as location. Maintenance could be performed before issues begin to affect driving if data is collected and, alongside the implementation of AI, smart vehicles and autonomous cars could be able to drive, brake and park without human error.

What’s next?

The scope of possibilities for IoT will only grow as technology and electronics become more and more accessible. An even greater number of devices will become ‘smart’ and alongside the implementation of AI, we will likely have the opportunity to make our lives fully automated. We already have smart toothbrushes and smart lightbulbs, what more could be possible in the future?

To make it sustainable and cost-effective, greater measures in security and device standardisation need to be implemented to reduce the risk of hacking. The UK government released guidelines in 2018 on how to keep your IoT devices secure, and a further bill to improve cyber security entered into law in 2021.

If you’re looking for chips, processors, sensors, or any other electronic component, get in touch with Lantek today. We are specialists in day-to-day and obsolete components and can supply you where other stockists cannot.

Contact Cyclops today at sales@lantekcorp.com. Or use the rapid enquiry form on our website to get fast results.

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Electronic Components

Latest electronic component factory openings

We’ve all heard about the shortages in standard components like semiconductors and chips. Cars, phones and computers, items we use every day, are no longer being produced at the speedy rate we’ve come to expect. The cause of this shortage is, in part, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To combat this shortage many electronic component manufacturers have announced the opening or development of new factories. This is especially noticeable in Europe and America, where production has often been outsourced to Asia in the past.

So who are the latest companies expanding operations, and how much are they spending? Check out our quick run-down of factories and when they should open:

Company: Intel

Location: Ohio, USA

Product: Chips

Completion date: 2025

Cost: $20 billion (£14.7 billion)

The latest, and possibly greatest, announcement on our list comes from Intel. The corporation revealed in January that they would be committing to building two chip manufacturing plants in New Albany, Ohio. The move is said to be due to supply chain issues with Intel’s manufacturers in Asia, and should boost the American industry with the creation of at least 3,000 jobs. Construction should begin this year.

Company: Samsung Electronics

Location: Texas, USA

Product: Semiconductors

Completion date: 2024

Cost: $17billion (£12.5billion)

The household name announced late last year that they would begin work on a new semiconductor-manufacturing plant in Taylor, Texas. The Korean company stated the project was Samsung’s largest single investment in America, and is due to be operational by the middle of 2024.

Company: Infineon

Location: Villach, Austria

Product: Chips

Completion date: 2021

Cost: 1.6 billion (£1.3 billion)

After being in construction since 2018, Infineon’s Austrian plant became operational in September last year. The chip factory for power electronics, also called energy-saving chips, on 300-millimeter tin wafers began shipping three months ahead of schedule in 2021, and its main customer base will be in the automotive industry.

Company: Northvolt

Location: Gdańsk, Poland

Product: Batteries

Completion date: 2022

Cost: $200 million (£148 million)

The Swedish battery manufacturer is expanding its operations with a new factory in Poland. While initial operations are supposed to begin this year producing 5 GWh of batteries, it hopes to further develop to produce 12 GWh in future. Northvolt has also just begun operations at its new battery factory in Skellefteå in Sweden.

Company: Vingroup

Location: Hà Tĩnh, Vietnam

Product: Batteries

Completion date: 2022

Cost: $174 million (£128 million)

The Vietnamese electric vehicle manufacturer is due to start production at its new factory later this year, where it will produce lithium batteries for its electric cars and buses. The factory will be designed to produce 10,000 battery packs per year initially, but in a second phase the manufacturer said it will upgrade to 1 million battery packs annually. VinFast, a member of Vingroup, is also planning on expanding operations to America and Germany.

Company: EMD Electronics

Location: Arizona, USA

Product: Gas and chemical delivery systems

Completion date: 2022

Cost: $28 million (£20.7 million)

The member of the multinational Merck Group is expanding operations with the construction of a new factory in Phoenix, Arizona, to manufacture equipment for its Delivery Systems & Services business. The factory is due to be operational by the end of the year, and will produce GASGUARD and CHEMGUARD systems for the company.

A bright future

These electronic component factory openings signal a great increase in business, and will aide in the easing of the component crisis. But it will take a while for these fabs to be operational.

Can’t wait? Lantek is there for all your electronic component needs. We have 30 years of expertise, and can help you where other suppliers cannot. Whether it’s day-to-day or obsolete electronic components, contact us today at sales@lantekcorp.com, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.