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Electronic Components

Electronics to measure climate change

Semiconductors are being used to track and combat the effects of climate change. Their use could help scientists better understand the impact and process global warming has on the planet.

Climate change and global warming are topics that are often discussed in modern society, both by governments and individuals alike. There are certain industries that are thought to be larger contributors to the current situation. However, the electronics industry may be able to help rather than hinder the battle against climate change.

Accelerometers

These electronic components have been used to measure the effects of climate change through trees.

Accelerometers measure the vibration or acceleration of motion of a structure. Inside is a piezoelectric material, which makes an electrical charge proportional to the force caused by the motion.

The electronic device can be used for a variety of things, from spaceships to smartphones. But recently, researchers have been tying them to trees.

These so-called ‘tree fitbits’ can track the timing of tree activities like blooming or the leaves changing. Two ash trees in East Boulder were fitted with high-resolution accelerometers which tracked how they responded to the changing seasons.

The hope is that in the future tree phenology (the study of periodic events in biological life cycles) can be studied in relation to climate change. The accelerometers measured the amount that the trees swayed and the high frequency vibrations of the tree itself. This helps scientists track the phases of the tree (phenophases) as the seasons progress.

The data means that the start and end of each season for the tree, for example flowering in spring, can be measured and compared to data from previous years. The differences can be indicative of climate change and could be used as a warning sign.

Sensors

Miniscule sensors inspired by dandelion seeds could be scattered to track climate change indicators as well. The sensors were produced by a team from the University of Washington in Seattle. The electronic devices are made from polyimide films, and were manufactured using a laser-powered tool. Throughout its structure there are tiny holes, which aids it in floating like a dandelion seed.

The benefit of these tiny sensors means researchers can reach dangerous places without putting themselves at risk. Tracking temperature, humidity and other environmental signals across a large area would be beneficial to climate change research.

On board there are tiny solar panels and a capacitor that can store energy overnight when conditions are not optimal.

Indicators of change?

The future of the planet is not set in stone, and electronic devices can make a difference. Both in prediction and prevention, electronics are aiding us in our efforts. Lantek can provide electronic components for you to make your own change. Trust Lantek to supply you, contact us on sales@lantekcorp.com or 1-973-579-8100

This blog is purely for entertainment and informational purposes, it is in no way instructional.

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Electronic Components

One week until Electronica!

This year one of the largest electronics trade fairs in the world is taking place in Munich, Germany.

Lantek founder has been attending Electronica since it first began, so the convention has always been a highlight of our calendar. We have met many clients and partners through the connections provided to us by Electronica.

The convention is focusing on the promotion of sustainability this year. Bringing the industry together in one location with the aim of “Driving Sustainable Progress”, Electronica hopes to show the role the world that electronics will help, not hinder, sustainability.

The previous Electronica in 2020 was purely virtual, but having hundreds of exhibitors back in Messe München, spread over 13 halls, will be an event to remember.

 In 2018 there were more than 81,000 visitors to the trade fair from 101 countries. 3,124 exhibitors attended the event, we’re hoping for an even more enthusiastic turnout this time around.

In 2021 there was a 9.8% increase in industry revenue from the previous year, at €200 billion, which is astounding progress during the pandemic.

Electronica will have a supporting program full of knowledge and professional talks. During conferences experts will analyse market activity.

The convention has been held every other year since 1964, and has continually grown and evolved over the years.

In the final week leading up to the trade fair, we want to organise meetings with all our clients who are also attending. Whether you are a returning or new customer, we want to show you what Lantek can do for you.

We have the expertise and drive to go the extra mile for you. Whether you are looking to buy or sell, Lantek has a solution for you.

Whether you are a returning customer or are completely new to Lantek, we want to meet you. If you are attending Electronica you can book an appointment with our staff to discuss your needs at Eventbrite now.

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Electronic Components

3D printing of electronic components

We talk a lot about the ways modern technology are a benefit to the electronics industry. There’s no better example of this than the ability to 3D print electronic components.

Print preview

The first 3D printer was invented in the 1980s, and used a technique called stereolithography (SLA). You might recognise the term from photolithography, a process used in the manufacturing of semiconductor wafers. Stereolithography is slightly different, it uses a laser to harden layers of photopolymer successively in a pre-defined shape. Photolithography is for etching patterns onto semiconductor wafers.

SLA is still the most commonly-used method of 3D printing. There are, however, other methods that have come into use, including digital light processing and liquid crystal display.

With the printing of components or circuits that can conduct electricity, special inks that contain conductive nanomaterials are required.

The process

First, a digital model of the desired component is required. This is referred to as a Computer Aided Design, or CAD model. Then a base layer of the material, usually thermoplastics, is formed using fused deposition modelling (FDM).

After this a trace is created, which is the little web of wiring you can see on a regular PCB. These traces need to be much thicker on a 3D-printed board because the nano-inks naturally carry more resistance than copper.

Once this is complete, the additional components of the board are added in layers until it is finished.

Why use 3D printing?

The process of retooling an entire factory setup versus uploading a different design to a single machine are vastly different. Retooling can be a costly and painstaking process, especially if you are manufacturing on a small scale or just prototyping.

The flexibility that comes with 3D printing is also an advantage. Where regular machinery may have limitations, 3D printing could have significantly fewer.

There would also be a reduction in the waste produced by the process. Most of the time, boards are manufactured and then the excess material is cut away. With 3D printing there would be remarkably less waste produced as it only prints what is needed.

3D printing of electronic components is currently used for small batches or for rapid prototyping, but in the future it could easily be used for more complex components and larger batches.

Just a reminder

Although Lantek does not specialise in 3D printers, we do specialise in electronic components of all kinds, and can supply stock as and when you need it. Make Lantek your electronic component supplier.

This blog is meant for informational purposes only and is in no way instructional.

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Electronic Components

The Future of Bioelectronics

Bioelectronics are electronic devices that are specifically used for biological or treatment purposes. Often this circuitry is used as an alternative or to complement medical treatment.

Why are bioelectronics used?

With certain medical issues, medication may not always be the best or easiest choice. There are many pharmaceutical treatments that can have side effects, and some could be unable to use this treatment. A benefit of bioelectronics is that they can be less invasive than the chemical counterparts.

Current bioelectronics

Possibly the most recognisable bioelectronic device is a pacemaker. The surgically-implanted gadget sends small electric pulses through the heart to keep it beating at a steady pace. An Implantable Pulse Generator (IPG) inside the pacemaker contains the electronics and the lithium battery.

Electrocompulsive therapy is also currently used for the treatment of severe depression and other mental health conditions. Instead of being a permanent implant it is a procedure done under anaesthetic.

This kind of treatment could potentially help those who are unable to take the medication. The therapy sends pulses of electric current to the brain which may mitigate certain symptoms of mental health conditions.

Looking to the future

The hope for the future is more conditions can be treated through bioelectronics, like Parkinson’s and epilepsy. Bioelectronics being used for inflammatory conditions, spinal chord injuries and Crohn’s disease are all areas of interest.

A recent innovation has been the use of electronics that imitate skin. Polymer structures and transistor arrays that are flexible and can stick to human skin are currently in development. This could soon be used to extract data from the skin like pulse and blood pressure. The current alternative is gathering this data via a blood test, which is invasive and not instant. Further along the line, the prosthetic ‘skin’ is hoped to help mastectomy patients restore sensation to surgery sites.

We go together

These tiny electrical stimulators could even work in harmony with medicine. Electroceutical treatments could deliver targeted doses of medication to precise sites in the body. The administration method could limit the adverse effects to the rest of the body and could be customisable depending on the patient.

Electroceutical treatments have the potential to be controlled through smart devices. As with other electrical applications, an electronic device could be controlled through a phone or laptop. If this was possible, dosages, or current, could be changed with a more immediate effect than with drugs.

It’s going to take some time

Electronic skin and other innovations are still in the early stages of research and development, and won’t be widely available any time soon. But with the line between electronics and pharmaceuticals already being crossed, we can expect the two industries to become a lot more intertwined.

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Electronic Components

India increasing chip manufacture

In recent years India has been increasing its share in the electronics industry, planning to become a hub in the future.

Currently India has a lot of dependence on imported chips, heavily relying on the Chinese supply chain. One of its goals is to be, in part, autonomous in its chip production. The supply chain issues brought about by covid and other global factors really highlighted this.

But it is not easy to just move production of something so complicated to another country. It would require massive amounts of funding to reshore production.

Make in India

In 2021 the Indian government announced funding equal to $10 billion to improve domestic production over the next 5 years. Several companies have put in bids for the funding, including Vedanta, IGSS Ventures, and India Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp.

The funding is part of the Government of India’s ‘Make in India’ plan, encouraging investment and innovation in the country. Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi announced the initiative in 2014, focusing on 25 sectors including semiconductors and automobiles.

Domestic reliance

One of India’s goals is to move away from reliance on imports, on which they currently spend $25 billion annually. Only 9% of India’s semiconductor needs are met domestically. If production is reshored in part, this would increase local jobs and income for the country.

As it stands, India currently has more of a focus on R&D but don’t have fabs for assembly and testing. The nearby Singapore and manufacturing powerhouse Taiwan provide most of its current stock.

A change in the air, and in shares?

The recent approval of the Chips Act in the US means there may be a shift in industry shares. At the moment America has a 12% share, but if production is re-shored this may impact the Asian market.

However, India and the US, alongside the UAE and Israel plan to form an alliance. With financial aid from the bigger players, the alliance plans to focus on infrastructure and technology.

India was the US’s 9th largest goods trading partner in 2021, with $92 billion in goods trade in 2019. India is also the EU’s 10th largest trading partner, but with domestic semiconductor industry growth this might change.

India’s end equipment market revenue was $119 billion at the end of 2021. Its annual growth rate is predicted to be 19% in the next 5 years.

India is aware of the importance of the semiconductor industry, and set up an India Semiconductor Mission (ISM) in 2021. Its goal is to create a reliable semiconductor supply chain, and to become a competitor against giants like the US.

Relish the competition

India’s potential in the semiconductor industry is increasing, and there is likely to be more investment in the future. It is difficult to tell how much further down the line it would be before India becomes a competitor, but the coming years are sure to be interesting.

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Electronic Components

PCB assembly

Circuit boards, Assemble!

We’re not quite the Avengers, but we do know a thing or two about assembly.

As an electronic component supplier, Lantek works to get customers the electronic components they are looking for. Further down the line, manufacturers construct the printed circuit boards (PCBs) featuring our sourced components.

The assembly of a PCB is a delicate and painstaking process. Just one millimetre of misalignment could mean failure of the whole board. Here’s a brief run-down of what’s involved.

Applying solder paste

The first step in the assembly of a PCB is applying a layer of solder paste. The PCB is overlayed with a stencil, and the solder paste is applied over this. The right amount must be used, as this is spread evenly across the openings on the board.

After the stencil and applicator are removed the PCB will be left and moves on to stage two.

Pick and place

The automated placement of the surface mount devices (SMDs) is done by a ‘pick and place’ robot.

The pick and place machine will have a file containing all of the coordinates for the PCB’s components. Every component will have its X and Y coordinates and its orientation included. This information enables the robot to place components on the layer of solder on top of the PCB accurately.

Reflow soldering

From the pick and place machine the PCBs are directly transferred to a 250⁰ oven, where the solder paste melts and secures the electronic components to the board. Immediately after this, the boards are moved into a cooler to harden the solder joints.

The alternative to reflow soldering is a process called wave soldering. Much like the name suggests, in this method a ‘wave’ of solder moves across the board instead of being pasted on to start with.

Inspection

Once the reflow solder is cooled the PCBs are checked. If anything became misaligned or any solder or components are in the incorrect position, this inspection mitigates the risk to the customer.

When it comes to inspection methods, there are a few options:

Manual inspection – The most basic form of inspection, done with the naked eye. Better for PCBs with through hole technology (THT) and larger components.

Optical inspection – Using high resolution cameras, machines can check large batches of boards for accuracy at a high speed.

X-ray inspection – Give technicians the ability to check inner layers of multi-layer PCBs. This inspection method is usually reserved for more complex boards.

What a Marvel!

Lantek can supply obsolete, day to day, and hard to find components to PCB manufacturers. We can source components efficiently to keep your production line running. Contact us today at sales@Lantekcorp.com, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website.

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Electronic Components

Thermal management of semiconductors

Too hot to handle

Every electronic device or circuit will create heat when in use, and it’s important to manage this. If the thermal output isn’t carefully controlled it can end up damaging, or even destroying the circuit.

This is especially an issue in the area of power electronics, where circuits reaching high temperatures are inevitable.

Passive thermal dissipation can only do so much. Devices called heat sinks can be used in circuits to safely and efficiently dissipate the heat created. Fans or air and water-cooling devices can be used also.

Feelin’ hot, hot, hot!

Using thermistors can help reliably track the temperature limits of components. When used correctly, they can also trigger a cooling device at a designated temperature.

When it comes to choosing a thermistor, there is the choice between negative temperature coefficient (NTC) thermistors, and positive temperature coefficient (PTC) thermistors. PTCs are the most suitable, as their resistance will increase as the temperature does.

Thermistors can be connected in a series and can monitor several potential hotspots simultaneously. If a specified temperature is reached or exceeded, the circuit will switch into a high ohmic state.

I got the power!

Power electronics can suffer from mechanical damage and different components can have different coefficients of thermal expansion (CTE). If components like these are stacked and expand at different rates, the solder joints can get damaged.

After enough temperature changes, caused by thermal cycling, degradation will start to be visible.

If there are only short bursts of power applied, there will be more thermal damage in the wiring. The wire will expand and contract with the temperature, and since both ends of the wire are fixed in place this will eventually cause them to detach.

The heat is on

So we’ve established that temperature changes can cause some pretty severe damage, but how do we stop them? Well, you can’t really, but you can use components like heat sinks to dissipate the heat more efficiently.

Heat sinks work by effectively taking the heat away from critical components and spreading it across a larger surface area. They usually contain lots of strips of metal, called fins, which help to distribute heat. Some even utilise a fan or cooling fluid to cool the components at a quicker speed.

The disadvantage to using heat sinks is the amount of space they need. If you are trying to keep a circuit small, adding a heat sink will compromise this. To reduce the risk of this as much as possible,  identify the temperature limits of devices and choose the size of heat sink accordingly.

Most designers should provide the temperature limits of devices, so hopefully matching them to a heat sink will be easy.

Hot ‘n’ cold

When putting together a circuit or device, the temperature limits should be identified, and measures put in place to avoid unnecessary damage.

Heat sinks may not be the best choice for everyone, so make sure to examine your options carefully. There are also options like fan or liquid-based cooling systems.

Cyclops Electronics can supply both electronic components and the heat sinks to protect them. If you’re looking for everyday or obsolete components, contact Lantek today and see what we can do for you.

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Electronic Components

Superconductivity

Superconductivity is the absence of any electrical resistance of some materials at specific low temperatures. As a starting point this is pretty vague, so let’s define it a bit more clearly.

The benefits of a superconductor is that it can sustain a current indefinitely, without the drawback of resistance. This means it won’t lose any energy over time, as long as the material stays in a superconducting state.

Uses

Superconductors are used in some magnetic devices, like medical imaging devices and energy-storage systems. They can also be used in motors, generators and transformers, or devices for measuring magnetic fields, voltages, or currents.

The low power dissipation, high-speed operation and high sensitivity make superconductors an attractive prospect. However, due to the cool temperatures required to keep the material in a superconducting state, it’s not widely utilised.

Effect of temperature

The most common temperature that triggers the superconductor effect is -253⁰C (20 Kelvin). High-temperature superconductors also exist and have a transition temperature of around -193⁰C (80K).

This so-called transition temperature is not easily achieved under normal circumstances, hence why you don’t hear about superconductors that often. Currently superconductors are mostly used in industrial applications so they can be kept at low temperatures more efficiently.

Type I and Type II

You can sort superconductors into two types depending on their magnetic behaviour. Type I materials are only in their superconducting state until a threshold is reached, at which point they will no longer be superconducting.

Type II superconducting materials have two critical magnetic fields. After the first critical magnetic field the superconductor moves into a ‘mixed state’. In this state some of the superconductor reverts to normal conducting behaviour, which takes pressure off another part of the material and allows it to continue as a superconductor. At some point the material will hit its second critical magnetic field, and the entire material will revert to regular conducting behaviour.

This mixed state of type II superconductors has made it possible to develop magnets for use in high magnetic fields, like in particle accelerators.

The materials

There are 27 metal-based elements that are superconductors in their usual crystallographic forms at low temperatures and low atmospheric pressure. These include well-known materials such as aluminium, tin and lead.

Another 11 elements that are metals, semimetals or semiconductors can also be superconductors at low temperatures but high atmospheric pressure. There are also elements that are not usually superconducting, but can be made to be if prepared in a highly disordered form.

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Electronic Components

What is Raspberry Pi

If you work in the electronics industry you might have heard of the Raspberry Pi circuit board. This device is a single-board computer, originally made by the UK-based Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Raspberry Pi boards use Linux and have a set of general purpose input/output (GPIO) pins. This means the user can attach electronic components and create different circuit boards.

History

The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a charity focused on teaching computing, and aims to make the subject simple and fun. To this end, The Raspberry Pi single-board computer was released to aid students and teachers in learning electronics affordably.

The original Pi was released in 2012 and quickly became popular, not only for education but in multiple industries. Since it uses a Linux-based OS it was also used by programmers and developers.

Raspberry Pi 1 Model B had a single-core 700MHz CPU, an ARM1176JZF-S processor, a VideoCore IV GPU, and had 512MB of RAM, and sold at lower than $35 on its release in April 2012.

Components

Since 2012 there have been several generations of Raspberry Pi. The latest model can have up to 8GB of RAM and a 64-Bit quad-core processor. Additionally, the Raspberry Pi 4 has two micro-HDMI ports that support 4K at 60GHz displays, a MIPI DSI (display serial interface) display port, MIPI CSI (camera serial interface) camera port, 4 pole stereo output and composite video port.

Potential Uses

One of the attractions of the Raspberry Pi device is the 40-pin GPIO header and four USB ports. This gives the opportunity for users to connect and build various types of circuits using external components.

Pi comes with an official operating system named Raspbian OS. The OS has a GUI that can be used for browsing, programming, games, and other applications.

Batteries or solar panels can be connected to power the circuit, which at peak would only require 7.6W of power. A power supply can also be connected via the USB port. One such power supply is provided by the Raspberry Pi Foundation itself at 5.1V.

Microphones and buzzers can be connected via the GPIO pins to create simple circuits. Motion sensors, servos and more, can also be attached in any combination.

There are numerous entertaining projects to undertake for those interested, and for the people who need it there is plenty of inspiration available online.

Pi’nally…

Cyclops Electronics can supply Raspberry Pi products, customers need only get in touch! For this, and all your other electronic component needs, contact Cyclops today.

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Electronic Components

Chip shortage impact on electric car sales

Many renowned car companies have, by this point, tested the waters of the electric vehicle (EV) market. However, thanks to the roaring success of electric car sales last year, and governmental and environmental incentives, the EV market is about to shift up a gear.

Global shortage

The vehicle market was not able to avoid the semiconductor shortage that has been prolific for the past few years. Safety features, connectivity and a car’s onboard touchscreen all require chips to function.

This, combined with the work-from-home evolution kick-started by the pandemic, meant that car sales decreased, and manufacturers slowed down production. New car sales were down 15% year-on-year in 2020, and the chips freed up by this ended up being redirected to other profiting sectors.

Even without the demand from the automotive industry, it has not been plain sailing for chipmakers, who not only had to contend with factory closures due to COVID-19, but also several natural disasters and factory fires, and a heightened demand from other sectors. Needless to say, the industry is still catching up two years later.

The automaker market

Despite new car sales having an overall decline in 2020, EV sales had about 40% growth, and in 2021 there were 6.6 million electric cars sold. This was more than triple of their market share from two years previously, going from 2.5% of all car sales in 2019 to 9% last year.

Part of the reason why EV sales were able to continue was due to the use of power electronics in the vehicles. While there is a dramatic shortage of semiconductors and microelectronics (MCUs), the shortage has not affected the power electronics market to the same extent. That is not to say that an EV doesn’t need chips. On the contrary, a single car needs around 2,000 of them.

It begs the question, how many EVs could have been sold if there weren’t any manufacturing constraints. Larger companies with more buying power would have been able to continue business, albeit at an elevated cost, while smaller companies may have been unable to sustain production.

Bestsellers

The growth of the EV business in China is far ahead of any other region, with more EVs being sold there in 2021 than in the entire world in 2020. The US also had a huge increase in sales in 2021, doubling their market share to 4.5% and selling more than 500,000 EVs.

In Europe last year 17% of car sales in 2021 were electric with Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany being the top customers. Between them, China, the US and Europe account for 90% of EV sales

Predictions and incentives

Several governments have set targets to incentivise the purchase of electric cars, and to cut down on CO² emissions caused by traditional combustion engines. Many of these authorities have given themselves ambitiously little time to achieve this, too.

Biden announced last year that the US would be aiming for half of all car sales to be electric by 2030, and half a million new EV charging points would be installed alongside this. The EU commission was similarly bold, proposing that the CO² emission standard for new cars should be zero by 2035, a 55% drop from the levels in 2021.

Companies are also setting EV targets and investing in new electronic models. Some manufacturers are setting targets as high as 50% of their production being electric within the next decade, while others have allotted $35 billion in investment in their pursuit of EV sales.

Possible pitfalls

Aside from the obvious issues there have been with semiconductor production and sourcing, there are also other factors that may make the future of EVs uncertain. One of the essential components of an electric car is its battery, and the materials that are used are increasing in price.

Lithium, used in the production of lithium-ion EV batteries, appears to be in short supply, while nickel, graphite and cobalt prices are also creeping up. However, research is underway for potential replacements for these, which may help for both supply times and the associated costs.

The shortages are affecting everyone, but thankfully Lantek is here to take some pressure off. No matter what electronic components you are looking for, the team at Lantek are ready to help. Contact us today at sales@lantekcorp.com Alternatively, you can use the rapid enquiry form on our website.