Monday, March 30, 2015

Mil-Std-1553 -- Three Cheers!

How do you load up a military vehicle with instruments and complex electronic subsystems, ask them to talk to each other, to an onboard computer, and to operators, be “hard” in the face of EMI/RFI interference, be “fast” in response to data delivery requirements, be redundant and reliable even when damaged in combat situations...

...and save miles of wiring to boot?

The answer -- connect all these devices on a serial multiplex communications bus built to the requirements of Mil-Std-1553. That’s been the answer since about 1973, that is, two years before the last Apollo mission -- the Apollo-Suyuz docking event -- and almost 10 years before the advent of MS-DOS!

Raycom Electronics, an ETI subsidiary, manufactures QPL low power pulse transformers for Mil-Std-1553 applications. Hytronics, another ETI subsidiary, also builds versions of these transformers.

While Mil-Std-1553 hasn’t been the only answer for 40+ years, it may be the most ubiquitous and far reaching. It’s been designed into vehicles for space, air, and land -- both military and commercial. There’s a NATO version, a NASA version, and perhaps even a Russian version (a Wikipedia contributor explains it may be used on the Mig 35). We’re not sure if that’s true. But we know it’s used here (our thanks to

Military aircraft:
Airbus A-400M Turboprop Military Transport
Alenia C-27J Spartan Military Transport Aircraft
Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey Vertical and Short Takeoff and Landing (V/STOL) Helicopter
Boeing AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter
Boeing B-1 Lancer Strategic Bomber
Boeing B-52 Stratofortress Strategic Bomber
Boeing EA-18G Growler Electronic Warfare Aircraft
Boeing F/A-18 Hornet Multirole Fighter
Boeing F-15 Eagle Tactical Fighter
Boeing C-17 Globemaster III Military Transport Aircraft
Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker
Boeing RC-135 Reconnaissance Aircraft
Boeing X-45A Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS)
Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche Reconnaissance and Attack Helicopter
Dassault Mirage Jet Fighter
Dassault Rafale Multirole Fighter
Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon Multirole Fighter
Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II Jet
General Atomics MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)
General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon Jet Fighter
Hawker Hunter Fighter
Lockheed AC-130 Ground Attack Fixed-Wing Gunship
Lockheed C-5 Galaxy Military Transport Aircraft
Lockheed C-130 Hercules Military Transport Aircraft
Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk Stealth Attack Aircraft
Lockheed P-3 Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft
Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor Stealth Air Superiority Fighter
Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter
Lockheed Martin KC-103 Tanker
McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender Air-to-Air Tanker
Mitsubishi F-2 Multirole Fighter
Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber
Northrop Grumman E-2C/D Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning (AEW) Aircraft
Northrop Grumman EA-6B Prowler Electronic Warfare Aircraft
Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk Surveillance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)
Panavia Tornado Multirole Fighter
Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk Multimission Maritime Helicopter
Sikorsky SJ-60K Seahawk Multimission Maritime Helicopter
Sikorsky UH/MH-60 Black Hawk Utility Helicopter

Commercial Aerospace:
Airbus A350-XWB Wide Body Jet Airliner

Weapon Systems:
AGM-65 Maverick Air-to-Ground Tactical Missile
AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM)
AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) Glide Bomb
AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM)
AIM-132 Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM)
AIM-9X Sidewinder Short Range Air-to-Air Missile
BGM-71 Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire Command Data Link (TOW) Anti-Tank Missile
EKV Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle
Extended Range Guided Munition
FIM-92 Stinger Personal Portable Infared Homing Surface-to-Air Missile
FMG-148 Javelin Anti-Tank Missile
M982 Excalibur Extended Range Guided Artillery Shell
Paveway Lase Guided Bombs
RIM-7 Sea Sparrow Short Range Anti-Aircraft and Anti-Missile Weapon System
RIM-67 Standard Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missile
RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 Ship-Based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense
RIM-174 Standard Surface-to-Air Extended Range Active Missile (ERAM)
Tomahawk Long-Range, All Weather, Subsonic Cruise Missile
WCMD Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser
XAAM Medium Range Air-to-Air, Short Range Ship-to-Air Missile

Ground Vehicles:
BAE Bradley Fighting Vehicle
General Dynamics Abrams M1A2 Battle Tank
XM2001 Crusader Self-Propelled Howitzer

Space Applications:
The International Spaces Station
Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) Satellite

As fiber optics and wireless come into play, one might expect a rapid decline in new Mil-Std-1553 applications. Firewire (IEEE 1394) and Thunderbolt, and other architectures offer faster data rates, more terminals, more everything -- except proven reliability in mission-critical applications.

It seems that this old-school bus, and the devices connecting to it -- keep learning new tricks. Congratulations Mil-Std-1553. Carry on. Three cheers!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Gamechangers Come in Many Forms

Merriam Webster defines a game changer as "a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way". First known use of "game changer" -- 1993.
In just the past month, at least two "gamechanger" examples have come about in the electronics world. One is a product developed by Henkel called Loctite GC 10 solder paste, which the company has touted as the first-ever temperature stable solder paste. Up to now PCB solder paste, with all of the various additives needed for optimum process soldering, required refrigeration from manufacturer to user and until use. It also had a brief shelf life, generally between 3-6 months.  Imagine the challenges involving a PCB manufacturing facility in Ecuador, India, or Indonesia, and the need for "fresh" solder paste that may or may not have remained refrigerated en route to delivery.
Yes. This new "temperature stable" solder paste may be an important game changer for the worldwide electronics manufacturing community.
A second "gamechanger" example is the recent development by Columbia University Engineering researchers of a technology that enables full-duplex radio integrated circuits (ICs) -- that can be implemented in nanoscale CMOS-- to enable simultaneous transmission and reception at the same frequency in a wireless radio, something never done before.  This, too, may be a bona fide gamechanger.     

Gamechangers in the development and manufacture of passive electronic components such as those produced by ETI companies sometimes (but, not often) come in the form of breakthroughs or discoveries. More often, our engineers are found working behind the scenes with customers who have need for our circuit design and application experience, in addition to our excellent products.
Our engineers' suggestions often improve performance, or, achieve the required performance for less cost (see example). We call it "Component Design For Manufacturing" (CDFM), a process by which our component design engineers work with customers' circuit design engineers to work through the circuit's requirements, tolerances, and alternatives (including variations in component design) to arrive at the most cost effective solution.
Is CDFM a gamechanger? Our customers might think so. To us, it's just a better way of doing business.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Mother Nature in Manufacturing

Sometimes it's difficult to understand why certain things we make work so poorly or so well. When they work poorly, we look for problems. When they work even better than expected, we hope we can repeat the good fortune over and over, unit after unit.

In other words, manufacturing repeatability can be a tricky thing, and replicating a process in a different place -- even with step-by-step cookbook instructions -- may produce disappointing end results.  
The reason may be that environment, in certain instances, has more to do than we know with the original success.  Whether the environment’s influence is upon materials, storage factors, curing -- all of these, or none of these, we simply may not know
For example, we're all familiar with Stradivarius violins and their reputation of outstanding resonance and tonal quality. Despite the best modern day efforts, Stradivarius violins produced in the late 1700's and early 1800's are still considered unique -- the best violins ever. 

Many theories have attempted to explain why these instruments are so remarkable. Here's a recent one. Between 1400 and 1800 a “Little Ice Age” took place, which peaked between 1645 and 1715 during the coldest period called the "Maunder Minimum." Trees growing during that peak period showed the slowest growth rates of the entire last 500 years. 

In other words, Stradivarius and his contemporaries had access to and used especially dense spruce and other woods produced during this very cold period, without realizing their instruments would be unique because of Mother Nature.

Back to modern times, a wound film capacitor hardly compares in stature or importance to a Stradivarius violin in most people's minds. Also, Tucson, Arizona in 2015 is nothing like La Casa Nuziale, Italy in the 1700's. Oddly, however, certain capacitors built in Tucson may share a reason for excellence with those special violins -- the environment in which they are manufactured.

Tucson's consistently hot and dry conditions enable an ETI company, Arizona Capacitors, Inc., to make the very best wound film capacitors available today. So special are models of these capacitors that they are widely used in today's highest quality audio reproduction and amplification equipment. 

Because engineers can't be sure exactly "why" these audio capacitors work so well, they refuse to tinker at all with the manufacturing circumstances (location, environment, processes) in which they are built. And they’re certainly not seeking an offshore manufacturing source. 

After all, if the capacitors are helping amplify the music of a Stradivarius violin some evening, they have to do their job just right.