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Designing COTS Computers for Harsh Environments

The need for commercial off the shelf (COTS) single board computer (SBC) products continues to grow as higher processing, smaller footprints and lower power requirements become more critical. For design engineers in medical, military, industrial, aeronautics and other fields, the desire for reduced size and heat also parallels an additional requirement for fanless operation. In this environment, engineers are constantly faced with the challenge of trading off various aspects of functionality to stay within a particular form factor. Finding COTS products that have all the desired characteristics and are also rated to perform in extreme harsh environments creates an additional challenge. However, there are a number of industrial grade SBC manufacturers who have been successful in designing and manufacturing COTS products specifically for use in harsh environments.

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Combining Multimode Emissions from Broad Area Laser Diodes into Single-Mode Spots without Feedback

Broad-area laser diodes are the most efficient coherent light sources and are widely used today. The extraordinary efficiency, modulation easiness, availability to virtually any wavelength and compactness are the principle drives stimulating the development of light sources based on laser diodes. However, due to fundamental limitations of laser diode gain medium, the emission from laser diodes has a major drawback — the emission is not spatially coherent. In other words laser diode light is often seen as a light bulb emission that cannot be focused in a diffraction limited spot of λ/2 or easily transmitted as a narrow beam. Despite the fact that kilowatts of multimode power can be easily extracted from a laser diode array, the resulting single-lobe single-element power from a laser diode is always limited by a value of several watts. Many applications are waiting for a spatially coherent laser diode source offering power from 1 to 100W. The potential substitution of YAG and fiber lasers by a compact, direct single- mode laser diode source would bring significant advancements in a number of applications such as LIDAR/LADAR (Light Intensity Detection and Ranging/Light Amplification Detection and Ranging) systems; high-bit-rate, long-haul free space communication systems; industrial processing applications; and many more.

Posted in: Features, ptb catchall, Photonics, Articles

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CAD Tools: Usability versus Capabilities

CAD software has come a long way in terms of ease of use, interoperability, speed, and capabilities. But there is still a long way to go. We spoke to executives at leading CAD software companies to find out what’s most important to their users, and what the next revolution in CAD software will be.

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Designing Configurable Air Transport Racks

High-powered embedded computing equipment utilizing the Air Transport Rack (ATR) form factor is playing an ever-larger role in extreme, mission-critical applications in air, land, and sea environments. This compact, rugged, and light form factor has been around for nearly 70 years. Its small size meets the tight space constraints of the current generation of military grade equipment, and its flexibility, coupled with the proliferation of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components, allows ATR-based systems to meet cost and upgradeability goals for both legacy and emerging systems.

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Z-RAM

The New SOI-Based Memory Technology In the electronics industry today there are two commonly used high-speed memory types: static RAM (SRAM) and dynamic RAM (DRAM). Traditionally, SRAM embedded memory has been the designer’s choice for fast memory, but since a typical SRAM bitcell is comprised of six transistors, that benefit comes at the expense of cost and silicon area. Embedded DRAM (eDRAM), whose smaller bitcell is comprised of a single transistor and single capacitor, offers a much lower cost option, but has higher latency and is typically used further from the processor. While DRAM is fundamental to electronic systems, it does have its limit — namely, its inability to scale to accommodate the migration to smaller, and therefore more advanced, process geometries. This limitation is further complicated by the fact that new application areas for memory are fast appearing, fueled by the popularity of digital home appliances and next-generation mobile devices, the digital convergence of electronic goods and telecommunications, and ever evolving media content.

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Taking PC/104 CPU Boards to the Next Performance Level

Since their introduction in 1991, PC/104 standard based systems have been widely adopted in various applications. Unmanned aircraft control, onboard vehicle control and navigation systems, personal communicators, add-on cards for customer specific boards, all utilize PC/104 technology. Many system developers choose this form-factor due to its advantages in terms of low weight, compact size (boards are just 90×96 mm), ease of application development and modification, and mechanical reliability.

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Motion Control Market Marches Toward Higher Integration and Performance

Evolutionary rather than revolutionary changes characterize the motion control market. Motors and motor controllers continue to gravitate toward higher performance and functionality as market demands become more stringent. At the same time, higher levels of intelligence — driven largely by software advancements, are giving engineers greater control and flexibility in designing motor-based systems.

Posted in: Features, Motion Control, Articles

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