Micron moves towards TLC and 3D NAND

Micron had revenue of $3.98 billion and net income of $806 million for the three months to the end of May. It expects $4 billion to $4.2 billion revenues in the current quarter.

Gross margin was 34% and free cash flow was $880 million based on operating cash flow of $1.46 billion less capex of $576 million

Although Micron says that demand is growing for all its products, it is not planning to build new fabs.

“Driven by a slowing rate of technology migration, supply bit growth trends have stabilised at a level below historical average,” says CEO Mark Durcan, “there appear to be only limited additions of new wafer capacity on the horizon

In the case of NAND, there is not much point building fabs for planar NAND when 3D NAND, which requires a different tool-set to planar NAND, is on the way.

Micron is cagey about its introduction of 3D NAND. “We have said that we believe that this is going to be a material impact on the industry in the second half of 2015,” says Durcan.

The likely last generation of planar NAND will be the 16nm generation where Micron has been struggling to get a triple level cell (TLC) memory to market.

“We are aggressively working on our development of our 16-nanometer TLC roadmap in an effort to drive our overall NAND cost competitiveness,” says Micron president Mark Adams, “we expect to see component samples of our 16-nanometer TLC by the end of calendar year with client-based TLC SSD by spring of 2015.”

Micron anticipates its ‘termination benefits’ cost – mainly for the Italian researchers’ job losses – to be in the region of $15 million to $25 million.

Xilinx and Pico Computing provide Hybrid Memory Cube interface for 20nm FPGAs.

Xilinx, and Pico Computing have made available now a 15Gb/s Hybrid Memory Cube (HMC) interface for All Programmable UltraScale devices.

The Xilinx UltraScale devices support the HMC bandwidth of 4 lanes, comprised of 64 transceivers running up to 15Gb/s.

Pico Computing’s HMC controller IP offers high memory bandwidth.

“Customers can now leverage the industry’s only shipping 20nm FPGAs along with a validated IP core to bring their 15Gb/s HMC designs to market today,” says Xilinx’s Tamara Schmitz, “UltraScale FPGAs are the only devices currently available that can support all four HMC lanes to enable full memory bandwidth with additional transceivers for datapath and control signals.”

Altera’s Interlaced Look-Aside core compatible with Cavium’s NEURON.

Altera’s Interlaced Look-Aside intellectual property (IP) core has been is compatible with Cavium’s NEURON Search Processor and is available now.

The core provides networking OEMs with a packet interface for use in routers, switches, firewalls, and security storage.

The core is integrated in Altera’s Arria 10 and Stratix V FPGAs and enables interoperability between a datapath device and a look-aside coprocessor with transfer rates up to 300 Gbps delivering 500 million packets per second performance.

The core has both soft and hardened logic blocks offering lane and data rate configuration flexibility for optimal integration.

Altera and Cavium tested and verified the Core using a Stratix V FPGA and a NEURON Search Processor.

An interoperability report is available from Altera that describes the testing methods and performance metrics achieved using Altera’s Interlaken Look-Aside IP core interfacing with Cavium’s NEURON Search Processor.

Intel and Microsoft in London for signage forum

intelArrow Electronics is running a Digital Signage Forum for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and system integrators which is taking place on Wednesday, July 2nd in London.

Arrow said the event will include Intel, Kontron, Microsoft, 3M and Dell. 

Independent digital agency Smart Cookie will deliver a keynote address, while Dell will feature Tobii Glasses 2 – the New Generation Wearable Eye Tracker.

Participants who register online will also receive Arrow’s free white paper “Digital Signage: a communications solution for the new buying experience”.

According to Amir Mobayen, general manager, Arrow OEM computing solutions EMEA,  one reason for holding this event now is that customers’ expectations today are vastly different with online, in-store and mail interactions now ubiquitous.

To register for the Digital Signage Forum.

Government to address flaky mobile telecoms service

The Prime Minister has joined the rest of us in getting fed up with ‘not-spots’ – areas where you can’t get a mobile phone signal.

Astonishingly, it appears, that even Downing Street suffers from flaky mobile service while, it is said that the PM has had to cut short West Country holidays because of lack of a mobile signal.

But relief may be at hand, not only for the PM, but for the rest of use.

The plan is to tell network operators to make their masts accessible to all users.

So your mobile phone gets connected to the nearest mobile mast whoever it belongs to.

The operators, of course, are against the plan. They say switching between different operators’ masts will itself caused dropped calls.

The minister charged with the task of bringing the operators round to the PM’s way of thinking is culture secretary Sajid Javid.

The EU moves to provide free roaming in 2016 have, apparently, precipitated the UK plan because the EU plan would mean that visitors to the UK would get a better service than the locals who would remain tied to one operator’s network.

Raspberry Pi can be image recognition system

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi

A US-based start-up has come up with a way to port its image recognition software development kit (SDK) to the Raspberry Pi.

“This because it shows that even tiny, cheap devices are capable of performing sophisticated computer vision tasks,” said Pete Warden, chief technology officer at Jetpac.

“This is a tangible example of how object detection is going to be commoditized and ubiquitous,” said Warden.

Possible  applications include detecting endangered wildlife, traffic analysis, satellites, even intelligent toys.

Raspberry Pi has the capability, due to its embedded GPU for heavy lifting on the math side, to process a frame in around three seconds.

Warden took advantage of having access to the assembler level code of the Raspberry Pi processor from Broadcom and has written custom assembler programs for the Pi’s 12 parallel ‘QPU’ processors.

“Broadcom only released the technical specs for their graphics chip in the last few months, and it’s taken a community effort to turn that into a usable set of examples and compilers,” said Warden.

“I ended up heavily patching one of the available assemblers to support more instructions, and created a set of helper macros for programming the DMA controller, so I’ve released those all as open source,” said Warden.

He believes more manufacturers could follow Broadcom’s lead and give access to their GPUs at the assembler level.

“There’s a lot of power in those chips but it’s so hard to tune algorithms to make use of them without being able to see how they work,” said Warden.

Download the library.

 

Use of open-source hardware is growing

element 14 RioTboard

RioTboard

The impact open source hardware has had in the past year has been momentous. Educators, students and hobbyists have all traditionally been big proponents of open-source hardware, but in the last 12 months we finally saw large companies and professional engineers begin to openly embrace the open source movement as well.

Open source hardware is the affordable building option of the future and has assumed a position at the forefront of a growing electronic components market.

For the unfamiliar, open source hardware is hardware whose design has been made widely available to study, modify, distribute and build upon.

Any designs or hardware that use or modify this hardware may be sold by the developer. Some of the most popular open source hardware products include the hugely popular SBCs Raspberry Pi and Beaglebone Black.

Importantly, open source hardware provides people with the opportunity to take full control of the technology and freely share their knowledge with others – who in turn are encouraged to do the same.

These principles may sound familiar – they are the same ones adhered to by open source software, such as Mozilla’s Firefox internet browser, or the GNU/Linux operating system.

Designers have already discovered a seemingly endless number of applications for open source products; from capturing images in space and powering robots, to controlling home devices and processing word documents.

Their functions and uses are only limited by the imagination of the developer and, by encouraging users to learn how they work and share this knowledge with others, open source hardware is making programming and design engineering more accessible to everyone

To underline the significance of this, we surveyed 4,000 professional electrical design engineers and 4,000 students and hobbyist designers.

The survey found that 56% of professionals made more use of open-source hardware in 2013 than in any previous year. Amongst students and hobbyists that number rose even further, with more than 80% planning to make more use of open source hardware than they had in the past.

Clearly the impact of this is an increased emphasis on ease of access and use of electronic components, as well as the need for a strong community that can help bring these ideas and designs to life.

But more significantly, if we are seeing open-source hardware gain traction then there is a growing need for electronics distributors to adapt if they wish to remain relevant to these users – it’s no longer enough to just sell open-source components.

Due to the sheer availability of open-source tools and resources, many of the traditional risks associated with designing in open source for commercial use have been mitigated.

This mitigation has also led to the rise of a complete line of new development kits and accessories dedicated solely to open source hardware. As a result, the landscape has shifted and both distributors and manufacturers need to encourage further open-source lines if they wish to keep up with changing demand.

As an example, we partnered with major silicon providers in order to develop new open source platforms, with the aim of giving people access to technologies they wouldn’t traditionally have access to. This ensures low-cost development tools are available in an environment where developers can work on those tools and share their knowledge.

But the real shift will need to be seen long-term, after sales support.

With the rise in the use of open-source hardware, this is no longer optional if a distributor wishes to support engineers at all stages in the design process.

A good distributor will provide customers with free tools and the opportunity to work with other engineers, to both speed up their prototyping and make their lives easier.

This can cover something as specific as learning how to program a microprocessor, help with using and installing operating systems, or aiding in the discovery and application of new technologies – such as sensing, lighting, displays and I/O control.

Now we are halfway in to 2014, I’d expect that an updated survey would show further traction having been made across professional engineers, hobbyists, educators and students. As the tools used by both professionals and hobbyists continue to crossover, no doubt we will start to see even more significant impacts upon the workplace.

If both groups are using a Beaglebone Black in their designs, there’s no doubt they’ll be using many of the same tools and resources to achieve their goals. The fact that one is using these tools and accessing this information whilst in the workplace, and another in his home is inconsequential.

Richard Curtin

Richard Curtin

The impact of this cannot be overstated, with few other trends or products managing to influence the purchasing and design preferences of everyone from suppliers, to engineers, makers, students and beyond. The real challenge for those of us in the industry is in making sure we adapt in such a way that we are meeting the needs of the developers using these new products and enabling them to share their knowledge.

Writer is Richard Curtin, global director of strategic alliance, Premier Farnell

 

DAC is stable for capacitive loads

Linear 2668Linear Technology’s latest 16-bit voltage output digital-to-analog converter (DAC) has 16 outputs which can be independently configured for one of five selectable unipolar and bipolar output ranges up to ±10V.

“Each rail-to-rail DAC output is capable of sourcing or sinking 10mA with guaranteed load regulation and is stable driving capacitive loads as large as 1000pF,” said the supplier.

The LTC2668 DAC is designed for driving optical modules, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), MRI and X-ray imaging, automatic test equipment, laser etch equipment, spectrum analyzers and oscilloscopes.

The chip can be operated from a single 5V supply, or from dual bipolar supplies depending on the output voltage range requirement.

There is a precision 2.5V 10ppm/°C max reference on-chip to generate the five output ranges, or it can be driven with an external reference.

The LTC2668 also supports an A/B toggle function for generating an AC bias or for applying dither to a system.

Configuration of the LTC2668 is handled via an SPI-compatible serial interface which can be powered from an independent 1.8V to 5V digital supply.

The DC2025A evaluation board for the LTC2668 family is supported by the Linduino firmware development system, using the DC2026A.

Agilent digital multi-meter has power supply functionality

Agilent-U3606B-DMMAmplicon have added to their range of combined digital multi-meters/DC power supplies the Agilent U3606B.

The recently released U3606B is a compatible replacement to the U3606A.

For when a device under test (DUT) requires a power source the digital multi-meter/power supply combines a 5½ digit digital multi-meter and 30W power supply, which operate simultaneously and independently.

As a result the digital multi-meter/power supply is capable of powering the DUT while making measurements of voltage, current, frequency or other operations.

Improvements to the accuracy of the constant voltage settings, as well as constant current settings, have also been made.

The SCPI programming command set has been expanded to include several more commands, as well as some general improvements to the ripple and noise performance and the transient voltage response time.

Manufacturer says Europe is competitive again

Slovakia SMT Line4

Slovakia SMT Line4

UK-based electronics manufacturer AWS has increased investment and expanded facilities in its operation in Slovakia.

Business in Europe has picked up since the region has become more price-competitive with other parts of the world.

The upturn in business has experienced has come from existing customers moving all or part of their work streams to Slovakia to benefit from lower costs.

The contract manufacturer is also seeing some re-shoring from S.E Asia into eastern Europe.

“We recognise that many of our customers are under pressure to regularly review pricing structures in order to remain competitive in today’s fast-moving and challenging business environment. We have been able to alleviate some of this pressure through offering low-cost manufacturing in Slovakia,” said Paul Deehan, AWS Group CEO.

“Our expanded facility in Slovakia is now fully self sufficient – all equipment mirrors that within our UK facility,” said Deehan.

AWS’s facility in Slovakia has the same equipment as its UK site, plus slightly more surface mount production capacity.

Five lines with thirteen pick- and-place machines can place down to 010005’s, and on-site process capabilities include X-Ray, Flying Probe, Mertec AOI, Robotic ultrasonic wash, selective and automated conformal coating, potting, encapsulation and cable over-moulding.

AWS predicts that the trend for re-shoring or dual sourcing with a presence in CEE will to continue over the next few years, particularly as its cost structure from the Slovakia facility is amongst the lowest in the EU and comparable with countries such as China and Malaysia.

Over the last two years, total investment has amounted to more than £2m.