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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.

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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.

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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)

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Electronic Components Future Supply Chain

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 Future Semiconductor Technology

The effect of AI on the electronics supply chain

AI and machine learning technology is improving all the time and, consequently, the electronics industry is taking more notice. Experts predict that the application of AI in the semiconductor industry is likely to accelerate in the coming years.

The industry will not only produce AI chips, but the chips themselves could be harnessed to improve the efficiency of the electronic component supply chain.

What’s included

In an AI chip there is a GPU, field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) specialized for AI.

CPUs were a common component used for basic AI tasks, but as AI advances they are used less frequently. The power of an AI depends on the number and size of transistors it employs. The more, and smaller, the transistors, the more advanced the AI chip is.

AI chips need to do lots of calculations in parallel rather than sequentially, and the data they process is immense.

Think about it

It’s been proposed by some that designing AI chips and networks to perform like the human brain would be effective. If the chips acted similarly to synapses, only sending information when needed, instead of constantly working.

For this use, non-volatile memory on a chip would be a good option for AI. This type of memory can save data without power, so wouldn’t need it constantly supplied. If this was combined with processing logic it could make system on a chip processors achievable.

What is the cost?

Despite the designs being created for AI chips, production is a different challenge. The node size and costs required to produce these chips is often too high to be profitable. As structures get smaller, for example moving from the 65nm node to the latest 5nm, the costs skyrocket. Where 65nm R&D cost $28 million, 5nm costs $540 million. Similarly with fab construction for the same two nodes, price increased from $400 million to $5.4 billion.

Major companies have been making investments into the R&D of AI chip infrastructure. However, at every stage of the development and manufacturing process, huge amounts of capital are required.

As AI infrastructure is so unique depending on its intended use, often the manufacturers also need to be highly specialized. It means that the entire supply chain for a manufacturer not yet specialized will cost potentially millions to remodel.

Beauty is in the AI of the beholder

The use of AI in the electronics industry could revolutionize how we work, and maximize a company’s profits. It could aid companies in supply forecasts and optimizing inventory, scheduling deliveries and so much more.

In every step of the electronics supply chain there are time-consuming tasks that AI and machine learning could undertake. In the sales stage, AI could assist with customer segmentation and dynamic pricing, something invaluable in the current market. It could additionally prevent errors in the manufacturing process and advance the intelligence of ICs and semiconductors manufactured.

Artificial intelligence

We’re not quite at the stage where AI has permeated throughout the industry but it’s highly likely that it will in the coming years. That said, this blog post is all speculation and is in no way to inform decisions.

Cyclops can provide all types of electronic components, no matter what you’re building. See how we can help you by getting in touch today. Contact us at sales@cyclops-electronics.com, or use the rapid enquiry form on our website to get results fast.

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Component Shortage Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

Procurement executives concerned about digital innovation

Manufacturers are using digital advancements to battle current supply chain disruptions.

Almost all (97%) of those surveyed said they had significant disruptions in their direct materials supply chain.

67% said they were not confident that the technology can cope with the current or near-future challenges.

The most significant technology disadvantages seem to come with lack of visibility into supplier, ‘disjointed’ source-to-pay process with multiple systems, and a lack of spend reporting.

Even more (87%) said modernising the manufacturing procurement and supply chain takes precedence, and it is their biggest challenge yet. A further 92% said avoiding disruptions to their supply chain is their main goal for this year.

Among the main concerns for modernising the supply chain are potential disruptions during implementation, skills shortages, and scale and challenge of change management.

Around half of those surveyed (44%) predicted that the supply chain crisis would begin to calm by 2023. Significantly less (18%) thought it would reduce by the end of this year.

The study surveyed 233 senior procurement executives from US and UK manufacturing companies. It was commissioned by Ivalua, a spend management cloud provider.

See the original press release from Ivalua here.

While Covid-19 was seen as a factor in the supply chain instability, it was not the only culprit. Global supply chains had already been in a vulnerable position, partly due to factors like too much outsourcing and an overreliance on ‘just-in-time’ supply management.

What some are calling ‘outdated technologies’ are slowly being replaced in Industry 4.0. However, the implementation of tech like IoT, AI, machine learning and cloud computing is not a quick process.

The issue may be that this transition period would only further add to the current shortages rather than solving them in the short-term. Most companies are being deterred by this potential loss, and have been avoiding the change for as long as possible.

Whenever digital innovation comes, it will be a gradual and time-consuming process, but businesses will be better off for it.

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Active Components Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Technology

The importance of batteries to the future of electronics

A brief history

Batteries were first invented long before electricity was even discovered in the 1700s. Around the 1900s the first iterations of what would become modern batteries began to appear. Since then, the tech going into these batteries has improved dramatically, and other battery types are also in development.

Commonly used battery types

Lithium batteries are currently the most widely used types of battery. These are the most common for consumers to purchase, and come in AA, AAA, or 9V sizes. The cheaper alternative in commercial sizes is alkaline batteries. Both types are disposable, but lithium batteries last much longer.

Silver oxide batteries usually come in button form, the kind of batteries that are used for watches and smaller devices. Silver is an expensive material to use, hence why it’s only used for these smaller-size batteries. For hearing aids, the battery of choice is zinc air. These batteries react with the air, so require a small tab to be removed for them to function.

Nickel-cadmium (NiCd) and Nickel-metal hydride are just a couple of the other battery types available on the market. Another ubiquitous kind of battery is the Lithium-ion (Li-ion). These batteries are in most of your gadgets: phones, laptops, and other portable electronic devices.

Thanks to its low maintenance and high energy density it is usually chosen over other types of batteries like nickel-cadmium.

The rise of EVs and batteries

Li-ion batteries are commonly used in Electronic Vehicles (EVs) too. As the market for EVs increases at an exponential rate, the low maintenance li-ion batteries are a favourite among manufacturers. Companies predict li-ions will be the dominant technology for the foreseeable future, and the price was falling until last year.

NCM batteries, made up of Lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese, and NCA batteries (nickel, cobalt and aluminium) are two current alternatives for Li-ion batteries.

But now, Lithium prices are increasing, and so are the prices of cobalt. Since Li-ion batteries and their alternatives have both elements included, the search is on for a cost-friendly environmentally conscious replacement.

One alternative that seems to be rising to the surface is the sodium-ion battery (Na-ion). As one of the most abundant elements on earth it is significantly cheaper and is easy to extract. Na-ion batteries can also be fully discharged, so there is no risk associated with transporting them.

Return of LFP

But Na-ion is not the only tech on the rise. Some EV companies have started using cobalt-free iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries, and are planning on increasing this amount going forward. The reason behind the usage could be to avoid the use of nickel and cobalt while there are supply issues.

LFP batteries first came about in the mid-90s, however early iterations were difficult to charge and had heat issues. Disposal was also an issue, which meant in the early years these batteries weren’t frequently used.

Efficiency is a sticking point when compared to li-ion, but they have improved enough for use in shorter-range vehicles.

Battery tech for the future

There are many different types of battery tech currently in development. This may end up being essential thanks to the finite nature of some materials currently used.

Some types also require lithium, like the new generation li-ion and lithium-sulfur batteries. Others, however, do not require lithium. Other varieties like zinc-manganese oxide, organosilicon electrolyte, gold nanowire gel and TankTwo String Cell batteries are also potential future technologies.

The need for high power density and longevity will only increase in the future as EVs become more widespread. Eventually irreplaceable materials could also become scarce. It is predicted that by the end of the decade many more battery plants will open to accommodate this.

Shipping costs are also an issue, so reducing the need for exports, and avoiding reliance on other countries, is imperative.

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Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Supply Chain Technology

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 Cyclops Electronics. We specialise in obsolete, day to day and hard to find electronic components. Send us your enquiry at sales@cyclops-electronics.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 Future Technology

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 Future Technology

Could conductive ink replace conventional circuitry?

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, Cyclops are here for you. Don’t paint yourself into a corner, contact Cyclops today to find what you’re looking for, at sales@cyclops-electronics.com.

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Electronic Components Future Semiconductor Technology Transistors

The Angstrom Era of Electronics

Angstrom is a unit of measurement that is most commonly used for extremely small particles or atoms in the fields of physics and chemistry.

However, nanometres are almost too big for new electronic components, and in the not-so-distant future angstrom may be used to measure the size of semiconductors.

It could happen soon

Some large firms have already announced their future plans to move to angstrom within the next decade, which is a huge step in terms of technological advancement.

The most advanced components at the moment are already below 10nm in size, with an average chip being around 14nm. Seeing as 1nm is equal to 10Å it is the logical next step to move to the angstrom.

The size of an atom

The unit (Å) is used to measure atoms, and ionic radius. 1Å is roughly equal to the diameter of one atom. There are certain elements, namely chlorine, sulfur and phosphorus, that have a covalent radius of 1Å, and hydrogen’s size is approximately 0.5Å.

As such, angstrom is mostly used in solid-state physics, chemistry and crystallography.

The origin of the Angstrom

The name of the unit came courtesy of Anders Jonas Ångström, who used the measurement in 1868 to chart the wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation in sunlight.

Using this new unit meant that the wavelengths of light could be measured without the decimals or fractions, and the chart was used by people in the fields of solar physics and atomic spectroscopy after its creation.

Will silicon survive?

It’s been quite a while since Moore’s Law was accurate. The methodology worked on the theory that every two years the number of transistors in an integrated circuit (IC) would double, and the manufacturing and consumer cost would decrease. Despite this principle being relatively accurate in 1965, it does not take into account the shrinking size of electronic components.

Silicon, the material used for most semiconductors, has an atomic size of approximately 2nm (20Å) and current transistors are around 14nm. Even as some firms promise to increase the capabilities of silicon semiconductors, you have to wonder if the material will soon need a successor.

Graphene, silicon carbide and gallium nitride have all been thrown into the ring as potential replacements for silicon, but none are developed enough at this stage for production to be widespread. That said, all three of these and several others have received research and development funding in recent years.

How it all measures up

The conversion of nanometres to angstrom may not seem noteworthy in itself, but the change and advancement it signals is phenomenal. It’s exciting to think about what kind of technology could be developed with electronics this size. So, let’s size up the angstrom era and see what the future holds.

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