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Future

The Manufacturing Sector’s Path to Clean Energy: Challenges and Opportunities

The global manufacturing landscape is experiencing a period of unprecedented transformation. Geopolitical unrest, supply chain disruptions, and mounting pressure to address climate change are forcing a paradigm shift within the industry. While digital transformation has been a critical focus in recent years, sustainable transformation has become an equally critical imperative for manufacturers seeking to secure their long-term viability.

One of the most pressing sustainability goals for manufacturers is to significantly reduce their carbon footprint and reliance on fossil fuels. Transitioning to renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal power is essential. However, achieving this goal comes with a unique set of challenges that the industry must address.

Key Challenges

High Upfront Costs: One of the most significant barriers to renewable energy adoption in manufacturing is the high initial capital investment. Installing renewable energy infrastructure can be expensive, and the return on investment may take several years to realise. This can deter smaller manufacturers or slow down large-scale investments.

Intermittency and Grid Reliability: Renewable energy sources like solar and wind are inherently intermittent, meaning their power output can fluctuate based on weather conditions. This variability presents challenges for manufacturing operations that require consistent and predictable energy supplies. Integrating renewable energy into the existing grid infrastructure requires careful planning and investments into energy storage technologies to ensure reliability.

Policy and Regulatory Uncertainty: The regulatory landscape for renewable energy can be complex and varies across different jurisdictions. A lack of clear policies or incentives for renewable energy investment can discourage manufacturers from making the transition. In some cases, outdated regulations might even make it difficult to connect renewable energy projects to the grid.

Technical Skills Gap: The switch to renewable energy necessitates a workforce equipped with the technical skills and knowledge to design, install, operate, and maintain these systems. However, there is often a shortage of skilled workers specialising in renewable energy technologies within the manufacturing sector.

Sustainability Initiatives Fuelling Change

Despite these challenges, a growing movement within the manufacturing industry champions the switch to renewable energy. Sustainability initiatives play a crucial role in enabling this transition. Here are some notable efforts:

  • RE100: This global initiative brings together influential companies committed to sourcing 100% of their electricity from renewable sources. Many major manufacturing companies have joined RE100, setting ambitious targets and driving investment in renewable energy projects.
  • Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi): The SBTi provides a framework for companies to set greenhouse gas emission reduction targets aligned with the latest climate science. Manufacturers can use SBTi guidelines to develop decarbonisation roadmaps that include transitioning to renewable energy sources.
  • Industrial Energy Efficiency Programs: Various government and industry-led programs offer financial incentives, technical assistance, and best practices to help manufacturers reduce energy consumption and improve efficiency. These programs often support the integration of renewable energy sources alongside energy efficiency measures.

Partnering for a Sustainable Future: Supplier Collaboration

In addition to these initiatives, partnering with suppliers who prioritise sustainability is crucial for manufacturers seeking to reduce their environmental footprint throughout their value chain. By collaborating with suppliers who share their commitment to sustainable practices, manufacturers can:

  • Reduce their Scope 3 emissions: Scope 3 emissions encompass indirect emissions occurring throughout the supply chain. Partnering with sustainable suppliers can significantly impact these emissions by reducing the environmental impact of sourcing, transportation, and end-of-life product management.
  • Gain access to innovative and sustainable solutions: Forward-thinking suppliers are continuously developing and implementing more sustainable practices, processes, and waste management strategies. By partnering with such suppliers, manufacturers can gain access to these innovations and accelerate their own sustainability journey.
  • Enhance brand reputation and customer loyalty: Consumers are increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of the products they purchase. Partnering with sustainable suppliers demonstrates a commitment to environmental responsibility and can contribute to a positive brand image and customer loyalty.

By embracing clean energy, addressing broader sustainability challenges, fostering collaboration across the industry, and partnering with sustainability-focused suppliers, the manufacturing sector can secure its future and become a leader in the transition to a cleaner, more sustainable global economy.

At Cyclops Electronics, we are committed to contributing to this sustainable future. Our green commitment is at the core of our operations, as we continuously strive to improve our environmental impact through sustainable practices and solutions. We understand the importance of reducing our carbon footprint and are dedicated to sourcing and operational practises that support this vision.

If you are interested in learning more about our sustainability initiatives and how we can support your clean energy goals, please get in touch. Together, we can make a difference in the manufacturing sector and beyond, paving the way for a more sustainable and resilient future.

Categories
Future

AMD invests in Ireland R&D

AMD plans to invest up to $135 million in Irish R&D over
the next four years.

Irish Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Simon
Coveney, announced the investment on June 21st, alongside Senior VP of Marketing, Communications and Human Resources, Ruth Cotter. The announcement was accompanied by a press release by American Advanced Micro Devices.

The investment is meant to fund strategic R&D projects,
add up to 290 highly-skilled engineering and research positions, and additional support roles. It will expand the R&D and engineering in its Dublin and Cork sites. It will be supported by the Irish government through IDA Ireland.

Coveney said he warmly welcomed the plans of
AMD, and said the investment would bolster the technology sector and create career opportunities.

R&D teams in Ireland will use the funding to design high
performance and adaptive computing engines. These will then be used to accelerate data centre, networking, 6G communications and embedded solutions.

Previously Xilinx, which was acquired by AMD in 2022,
partnered with IDA Ireland several times. In 2017 Xilinx announced an investment of $40 million for R&D, and to recruit more than 100 new skilled employees.

IDA (Industrial Development Agency) Ireland is the country’s
Foreign Direct Investment Agency. It has supported AMD and Xilinx for almost three decades.

The first semiconductor fabs were built in Ireland in 1976.
Analog Devices and Intel were some of the first companies to invest in the island. The first Irish AMD Xilinx facility was launched in 1994 and was the company’s first base of operations outside the US.

We not only keep you up-to-date with the latest industry news, we also stock and source any electronic components you need. You can check out our other news stories on our blog, or submit at enquiry on the Cyclops Electronics website now. Get in touch today!

Categories
Future

The potential of diamond wide band gap semiconductors

Are diamond semiconductors forever?

Diamond could be the newest power semiconductor material, surpassing both Silicon Carbide (SiC) and Gallium Nitride (GaN).

Diamond has excellent properties for high-voltage operations, high-temperature applications and high-frequency switching.

Compared to Silicon (Si), the material semiconductors are currently made from, diamond has a critical electric field 30 times higher. It also has a critical electric field 3 times higher than SiC, a more recent competitor.

The carrier mobility is also very high for both carrier types, and it has superior thermal conductivity.

However, these synthetic diamond wide band gap semiconductors are still a way off mass production.

What is a wide band gap semiconductor?

The band gap of semiconductors is the energy difference between two bands in the semiconductor: the valence band and the conduction band. Because of the extra distance between the bands, these semiconductors can operate in more extreme conditions. The devices are better equipped for higher voltages, higher temperatures, and higher frequency conditions. They can also be referred to as power semiconductors.

GaN and SiC are some of the more recent materials considered for mass-produced power semiconductor devices. Each material, including diamond, has its own merits.

The advantages of wide band gap semiconductors

Diamfab, a “spin-off” of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), is researching into the potential of diamond semiconductors. The project was founded in 2016, with the start-up being incorporated in 2019. Despite the recent incorporation, they have 30 years of research from the CRNS wide band gap semiconductor team behind them.

The company believes it can design a diamond die 30% less expensive than a SiC die with a smaller surface area, the same electrical performance and efficiency, and better thermal management. Diamond could also decrease energy loss, and can be used as both an insulator and a conductor.

Like SiC and GaN, Diamfab hopes to use diamond wide band gap semiconductors in the electric vehicles (EV) industry. The power density, small size and cost are all advantages of wide band gap semiconductors over their alternatives in cars. And since diamond already shows heaps of potential, there are high hopes for its usage in the future.

Priceless

 

Diamonds may be a girl’s – or an EV manufacturer’s – best friend. But when you’re looking for electronic components, Cyclops is your best friend. We have more than 280,000 lines of stock ready to deliver, and many more that we can source rapidly and at competitive prices. You can check out our line card and stocklist on our website, or check our stock for yourself using our component search tool

Categories
Future

Origami looking robots

A research team has created folding origami-looking robots that do not rely on semiconductors.

The challenge

In the past this has been a difficult balance to find, as
rigid semiconductors cannot be placed on foldable devices. Similarly, regular computer chips are too heavy to be placed on lightweight devices. Advanced robot capabilities like analysing, sensing and responding to the environment can traditionally only be performed by these computer chips.

The team at the University of California (UCLA) got around some of these issues with innovative technology. Electrically conductive and flexible semiconductor materials embedded into a pre-cut thin polyester film sheet act as a network of transistors. Then, sensors and actuators can be integrated in.

Once the materials were cut, folded and assembled, the sheet became a robot able to sense, analyse and respond to its environment.

Origami MechanoBots

The UCLA Samueli School of Engineering group made three versions of the ‘OrigaMechs’ (Origami MechanoBots):

·        A walking robot that can reverse if its antennae
sense an obstacle.

·        A ‘Venus flytrap-like’ robot that can enclose its
‘prey’ when its jaws detect an object.

·        A two-wheeled robot that can move along pre-designed
paths of geometric patterns, and can be reprogrammed.

The team hopes to make the robots autonomous with an
embedded thin-film lithium battery power source in the future. For the demonstration they were connected to a power source.

Going forward

There are high hopes for the OrigaMechs and their successors in the future, since small lightweight robotics could have a wide range of uses. Its potential uses include situations involving strong magnetic or radiative fields, high electrostatic discharges, or intense radio frequencies.
These environments are usually unsuitable for regular semiconductors. The OrigaMechs can also be specially designed for functions and manufactured quickly.

The team are especially hopeful that the robots could be
used for future space missions. Weight and size are two vital factors in space cargo, so these essentially flat-pack robots could be endlessly useful.

Enter the fold

For those sourcing regular semiconductors, contact Cyclops. We can source day-to-day or hard to find components with ease, and can guarantee our customers the best price. Get in touch via sales@cyclops-electronics.com or call us on +44 (0) 1904 415 415.

Disclaimer: This blog is purely for informational
purposes and is not instructional. 

Categories
Future

The future of haptic technology

One of the most interesting areas of electronics research right now is into the potential applications of haptic technology.

What is haptic technology?

Anything ‘haptic’ refers to touch. As such, haptic technology encompasses technical devices or innovations that create tactile simulations.

Haptics can be used across a huge variety of products, from the vibrations when you press a button on your smartphone, to life-like human-robot interactions.

There are three main types of technology in haptics: graspable, wearable, and touchable.

Touchable:

One of the most ubiquitous uses of haptics is in the touchable screens of smartphones and tablets. A tactile response is when something responds to touch, so when you touch your smartphone and it vibrates in response.

Graspable:

A good example of the graspable category of haptics would be joysticks used in video gaming. Depending on the pressure and angle exerted on the joysticks, the game responds accordingly. The kinaesthetic feedback from devices like joysticks or game controllers can be felt in more than just our fingertips.

For slightly more serious use-cases, look no further than military bomb disposal units. By using graspable haptics systems, operators can use robots to defuse bombs without putting any people at risk.

Wearable:

These devices usually use pressure, friction or temperature to create a tactile experience. Haptics are used in some smart watches, which can have a tactile response when scrolling or clicking.

Companies working in haptics

There are several labs and research facilities that are making a name for themselves in haptics. A Swiss lab working for the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) has some interesting projects underway. The University of South Carolina also has a Haptics Robotic and Virtual Interaction (HaRVI) lab. Many universities also have research centres dedicated to haptic technology, including Stanford and King’s College London.

There are some big names also researching the utilisation of haptics too. Companies like Disney are researching different ways to use haptic technology, including interactions between humans and robots and haptic jackets.

The future of haptics

There’s so much research being done into the applications of haptic technology, including some things that could be revolutionary. Among other things the University of South Carolina are working on a device called ‘Grabity’, which is trying to add the feeling of weight and gravity to graspable haptics. As you can imagine, it’s difficult to add the perception of a different weight to a graspable device. The way they do this is through the use of voice coil actuators. These electronic components convert electric signals into magnetic force, giving a feeling similar to gravity.

Several labs and companies are also working on haptic soft pneumatic actuator (SPA) skin. This invention could be used in soft robotics, which in turn could be used for an array of life-changing applications. The skin could go onto invasive surgical instruments and rehabilitation devices since it can safely interact with the human body.

Disney’s research division has several haptic projects running, including one for haptic telepresence robots. The robot uses hydraulic and pneumatic lines, combined with a remote person controlling the robot.

So close you can almost touch it

Haptics is a constantly evolving field of research with some really exciting potential developments down the line.

However, something you don’t have to wait for is finding those electronic components you’ve been searching for. Cyclops is on hand to fulfil all your semiconductor requirements, be it new, obsolete or anything in between. Contact us today to find those components you’ve been looking for on +44 (0) 1904 415 415. Alternatively, email us at sales@cyclops-electronics.com

Categories
Electronic Components Future

Using AI to design microchips

Artificial intelligence (AI) is on everyone’s mind right now. With the rise of ChatGPT  and other AI software expanding our potential, every industry is wondering how AI can help them. The electronics industry will not miss out.

The market

One company providing industry insights, Deloitte Global, predicted this year semiconductor companies will spend around $300 million on AI tools.

Granted, in the grand scheme of things $300 million is not a huge amount compared to the entire market, worth $660 billion. However, the return on investment is huge and can’t be ignored.

But staff should not fear, these tools are used to help, not replace, engineers. Chip design tools have been created by companies specialising in Electronic Design Automation (EDA). The tools are usually to help engineers design and simulate chips, without the need to physically manufacture them.

The price of the future?

These AI tools aren’t for everyone – a single license could be very pricey, and well above what smaller companies could afford. This would be a small price to pay for those who can afford it though, since the resulting designs could be worth billions.

It is also possible for companies to create their own AI tools in-house instead of buying from an EDA company. This, however, would need the company to have AI expertise already.

The great thing about working alongside AI is it greatly improves efficiency and size of semiconductors. AI tools can design chips under the 10nm process node to make them even smaller and more efficient.

Staff shortages

Another advantage of using AI currently is to bridge the employment and skill gap. Because of legislation like the US and EU Chips Act, there’s a need for many more highly-qualified and skilled people within the semiconductor industry. But filling those new jobs does not happen instantly, in fact it could take years to fully train people to fill those roles. In this case, using AI in the meantime makes perfect sense, giving current engineers room to breathe.

AI already has some sway in the industry. Approximately 30% of semiconductor device makers surveyed by McKinsey said they were already generating value through AI or ML. The other 70% are still only in the starting stages of implementing the technology.

A learning curve

Within the umbrella term of AI, there are technologies that are used including graph neural networks (GNNs) and reinforcement learning (RL). RL is the repetitive running of simulations and finding a positive result through trial and error. AI can run these simulations at such a high speed, and without the use of a physical version of the electronic components.

GNNs, on the other hand, are advanced in other ways. This machine learning algorithm analyses graphs made up of nodes and edges, extracting information and making predictions. Because the structure of a chip share a similar structure to these graphs, GNNs can be used to analyse and optimise chip structure.

I Robot

One thing you don’t need artificial intelligence for is knowing that Cyclops is your best choice. When you’re looking for electronic components, whether obsolete or everyday, call Cyclops for the best prices and delivery time for your components. Get in touch today at sales@cyclops-electronics.com, or call us on +44 (0) 1904 415 415.

Categories
Future

What is Borophene?

Borophene is one of the newest innovations in the two-dimensional material market and could have many uses in the future.

There has been an increasing interest in 2D materials in recent history. It started with graphene in the early 2000s and borophene is one of the latest.

The material itself wasn’t synthesised until 2015, but it was first simulated in the 90s to see how boron atoms would form a monolayer. To synthesise the material, boron atoms were condensed onto a pure silver surface.

The arrangement of silver atoms makes boron form a similar structure, but there can be gaps in it, giving the material a unique structure.

Advantages

Borophene has been found to have a lot of benefits, including its strength, flexibility and is a superconductor. Not only that, but it conducts both electricity and heat, and its purpose can be altered depending on the structure.

One of borophene’s more interesting abilities is how it can act as a catalyst. It can break down molecular hydrogen ions, and hydrogen and oxygen ions from water. Hydrogen atoms also stick to borophene, meaning it could be a potential material for hydrogen storage. In theory the material could store more than 15% of its weight in hydrogen, much more than its competitors.

Borophene is also being touted as the next anode material in future, more powerful lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. Borophene is said to have the largest storage capacity of any 2D material.

Disadvantages

There are several drawbacks to borophene as well. It can’t currently be used widely, and it is difficult to make in large quantities. The benefit of having a reactive material can also be a disadvantage, when it’s vulnerable to oxidation. The production process is costly, too.

Despite these negatives, there are hopes borophene will have a multitude of uses in the near future. Aside from Li-ion batteries, catalysis and hydrogen storage, it can also be used for flexible electronics.

Another potential future usage is the use of borophene for gas sensing applications thanks to its ability to absorb gas. Its large surface-area-to-volume ratios make it suitable for gas sensors too.

An optimistic outlook

If borophene can be manufactured in large quantities, it could be used in many applications in the future. It will be an interesting few years watching the development and progression of this material.

That will be helpful down the line, but in the here and now look to Cyclops. We have all the electronic components you need and will go out of our way to source reliably. Contact us today at sales@cyclops-electronics.com or call us on +44 (0) 1904 415 415.

Categories
Electronic Components Future

The future of semiconductor manufacturing, is it digital twins?

What is a digital twin?

The concept of digital twins has been around since the early 90s. Since then, it has been further developed and become a time and money saver for many manufacturers.

The purpose of a digital twin is to mimic a physical system exactly. It gives those using it the ability to simulate what they want to do, and the twin predicts the outcome.

These twins are not to be confused with a simple simulation or a digital thread. A simulation can only replicate the outcome of one process, while digital twins can run multiple simulations for different processes. A digital thread, although similar, is more a record of everything occurring in a product or system over time.

There are several varieties of digital twins, all with different use cases. The purposes range from basic, with component twins, to more complex process twins which can represent an entire production facility.

The timeline

Semiconductors can take around 3 months to manufacture from a silicon wafer to multilayer semiconductors. Not only that, but semiconductor fabs themselves take years, and millions in funding, to build. Because of this, it is hugely time-consuming to open any new facilities and start production there.

The issue that arises, then, is there would be time between demand increasing and when it can be met. Alongside this, any new facility will need trained staff and assurances any new equipment is working.

Digital twins give manufacturers the ability to test the workings of a facility before production begins. This may not seem like a big deal but it means that any mistakes or issues can be detected much earlier, and won’t affect the real production.

Even in a working fab, a digital twin can conceptualise new processes, without interrupting production. Finding working systems before changing the physical process can save time and money too.

And if you need skilled employees? No problem. By combining digital twins with training software or VR, you can train new staff before they touch the real equipment. Employees can then be qualified to work in a facility with no prior experience and no disruptions to production.

Sustainability

An alternative concept is using digital twins to become more environmentally friendly. Users can test ways to cut emissions and energy use to reach sustainable goals. Any problems or errors can be discovered before implementing them in real time. One study found that 57% of organisations agree digital twins are pivotal to improving sustainability.

Something to be mindful of is that it needs to be up-to-date to mirror the conditions of the physical version. This is especially important with system twins and process twins, where several interlocking systems work together.

Advantages

With the huge amounts of data that can be collected through a digital twin, products can be developed much further. Since digital twins offer so much insight into potential outcomes, it can boost a company’s research and development much faster.

Once a product has been developed, a digital twin can monitor the manufacturing process, overall increasing efficiency. Once a product reaches the end of its life a twin can help decide the best outcome for it too.

A safe prediction

Digital twins can simulate processes and products to help manufacturers make assured choices. For those looking for electronic components, Cyclops Electronics is the best choice. We have an extensive stocklist of day-to-day, obsolete and hard-to-find components, and a dedicated sales team to source every component you need. Contact Cyclops at sales@cyclops-electronics.com or call us on +44 (0) 1904 415 415.

 

Image Source: SumitAwinash

Categories
Electronic Components Future

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 Cyclops Electronics 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 Cyclops your electronic component supplier.

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

Categories
Electronic Components Future Technology

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)