Reducing complexity and driving forward microelectronics
Moore’s Law tells us that the speed and capability of computers will double every two years due to the growing number of transistors that a microchip can contain.
So, as microelectronics marches on, what does this mean for manufacturers? Here Matt Nicholas, Product Design Manager at sensing and measurement specialist Mantracourt, explains how electronics assembly is evolving and how manufacturers can keep up with the latest assembly trends.
The Microelectronics Revolution brought us the silicon chip, which has transformed our lives significantly. Producing transistors using silicon meant they could be made small enough to fit on a microchip for the first time, opening the door to a new world of gadgets and devices.
Now, we are experiencing a second Microelectronics Revolution, where manufacturers are applying their expertise to reducing component size and improving efficiency.
The challenge of assembly
Traditionally, electronics assembly was seen as challenging because engineers would need to take various components and bring them together in one composite unit. For instance, at the design stage, they must choose a ground plane before selecting and positioning the different components.
Like any technical industry, dedicated skills and expertise are vital, whether this is gathering, soldering or integrating certain components. For example, assembling a printed circuit board (PCB) for a device like a pressure sensor is no mean feat: once the components have been soldered and installed on the PCB, the necessary components must be attached to a fully operational electronic device.
The rise of microprocessors
One area where we are seeing remarkable advancements is microprocessors, which are becoming more powerful and contain new features to improve accessibility. For example, the proliferation of analogue-to-digital converter (ADC) functions are enabling micro-processor-controlled circuits and other digital logic circuits to communicate. Most sensors produce analogue output voltages, so ADCs are vital for the microcontroller to be able to read them.
The development of microprocessors brings a software advantage. Older electronics hardware is notoriously hard to develop software for and, if it’s analogue, manufacturers may not even be able to code for it. But, as microprocessors continue to evolve, manufacturers are also developing better software to programme them with.
These advances are also benefiting original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). For example, Mantracourt’s T24 is a wireless telemetry system that engineers can use to communicate data across factories and other industrial facilities. Communication is achieved by attaching a sensor to a standard IP67-rated T24 transmitter enclosure, which then transmits data to either a wireless range extender or a base station, depending on the size of the facility. Finally, this data can then be communicated to a T24 Toolkit software, so users can view live data, set alarms, and log data when needed.
Dedicated, expert support
Traditionally, when an industrial sensor or another piece of equipment experienced an error, the support process was very onerous. The OEM would send an engineer out to visit the site, recalibrate the device and perform the necessary checks themselves. This is why Mantracourt recently released the T24 toolkit to allow engineers to communicate with equipment remotely.
Operators in these industrial environments can use the toolkit to test communications with different modules, and check radio link quality. As well as this, they can access factory-level support remotely so that engineers can configure and calibrate different modules, ensuring everything runs as it should in the end-user’s facility. The system can also be paired with Mantracourt’s SensorSpace platform for data capture and analysis. To this end, not only can technical support be accesses remotely, but the manufacture themselves can also manage and monitor system performance remotely.