Featured Product Archive
The inventions and products featured on these pages were chosen either for their
uniqueness in the RF engineering realm, or are simply awesome (or ridiculous) enough
to warrant an appearance.
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Successful RF design
includes fitting your circuit into a sometime barely big enough package. I have
worked on more than one project in the defense electronics realm where a prototype
enclosure did not allow enough room for cable routing, hardware, access for assembly,
etc., even after careful planning. Tools like modern 3-D "printers," that can build
solid prototypes of complex structures, can help reduce or eliminate such schedule
and budget busting demons. Dimension 3D Printing is one company that offers the capability
for a little as $15k - about the price of a medium grade o-scope.
This might be the world's smallest
spectrum analyzer. Wi-Spy plugs into a USB port and displays the local spectrum in
the 2.4 GHz ISM band. There is a version
for the 5.1 GHz band as well. Included software paints the picture. WiFi, cordless
phones, ZigBee, Bluetooth, even R/C airplanes and cars occupy the bands. At $200,
this is a very affordable tool for inspecting
the environment. Ubiquiti Networks
has similar AirView units at 900 MHz ($95) & 2.4 GHz ($70).
Here is an innovation
that is long overdue: 135° connectors and adapters. This configuration will make
cable routing a lot easier in certain situations, like when you have a dense connector
panel behind an equipment rack door. The VSWR is probably a little better than a
90° version to boot. Spectrum Elektrotechnik is the manufacturer.
This is really
a sign of the times in which we live. If you like engaging in self-flagellation,
add to your widget list this new Layoff Tracker from the sadistic folks at Telonu. Counting began
in October of 2008. Let's see... 2,000 at Micron; 1,000 at Nokia; 1,500 at GE; 15,000
at Panasonic... Maybe they can compliment this with a DOW Plunge widget in the same
Die stacking to conserve PCB real estate is nothing new. Stacks as
high as 3 or 4 have been successfully mass produced for memories. Typically, die-to-die
interconnections are made using gold bondwire or sometimes copper pillars that are
ultrasonically welded. Vertical Circuits has formulated a new silver epoxy that
allows a further reduction in stack height by as much as 1.6 mm per tier. It not
only saves process cost, but can make room for an additional die.
is the GM car of the future - no kidding. In a joint venture with Segway the
(Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) will be
hitting the streets of a city near you. Wow, how great will that be?! Chrysler might
be merging with Fiat, but GM is
merging with a U.S. Government
fiat. Bureaucrats and activists
will be designing cars of the future. Oh, it doesn't really come with the target
painted on the side, but it might as well. Would you ride one of these in New York
Long ago and far away, there was
a time in this country when even engineers were permitted to express their unique
nerd humor in stealthy ways. Chip art is one well-known method. Watkins Johnson
pulled off a great ruse in their 1989 catalog. If you never saw it, you have to
see it. If you remember it, you will be glad to see it again.
Pettit conceived of this On-Orbit Coffee Cup while drinking his cup o' joe from
a tinfoil packet in orbit aboard Space Shuttle mission STS-126, far from the nearest
Starbucks. Once safely back on terra firma, he solicited the help of designer Travis
Baldwin. The unique shape exploits the properties of surface tension to hold the
coffee near the sides of the vessel. This problem had been solved 30 years ago by
the chow hall where I was stationed at Robins AFB. The coffee there stuck equally
well to the sides a regular cup.
LG has a handy translator for converting
SMS-based Teen-Talk texting into understandable dialog. There has been a lot of
news lately about teen texting, including some of the dangerous practices easily
overlooked by parents who don't speak the language. DTXTR (Dee-Text-Er) will help
solve the problem.
NetLingo has a manual list. A bit of trivia about LG: Their current ads use
"Life's Good" in conjunction with the LG letters, but LG really stands for "Lucky GoldStar."
Cisco Field will become the Oakland A's new baseball stadium in 2012.
Cisco Systems, plans to outfit all 35,000 seats with wireless interactive touch
screens. Fans will be able to look up stats, keep score, and even order a beer or
hot dog. There's also a promise of a "virtual autograph session" whereby fans will
be able to talk with their with favorite players through teleconferencing. As shown,
they do not appear to be nearly rugged enough to survive more than a few games.
Analog Devices is offering a free
system simulator download titled
ADIsimSRD Design Studio. Yes, it is tailored to the products they
sell - which are very good - but it is also a very useful tool for investigating
how system parameters affect the modulated spectrum, phase noise, etc.
you thought the display used by Tom Cruise on
Report was cool, you will appreciate Sixth Sense. Graduate student Pranav Mistry
developed a version that takes cues from the thumb and forefingers of both hands
to manipulate a display projected by a wearable device. He demonstrates dialing
your cellphone on the palm of your hand, fetching and projecting user reviews onto
a book or product, and projecting a Yahoo map while in a car. Sixth Sense should
hit the store shelves within a couple years.
Doing its part to
bolster the notion that there is practically no household item which cannot benefit
from a wireless interface,
Company of America offers a line of thermostats, in-home displays, and load
shed devices specifically for energy management and home automation applications.
Plug-in radio modules support ZigBee, Z-Wave, 6LOWPAN, and a number of proprietary
solutions for applications like AMR/AMI and Home Automation.
The latest RF Cafe Poll
asks about visitor experience with electronic kits. It appears many have built at
least one kit. Maybe it has been a while since you picked up a soldering iron. There
are many sources for kits if you do a
Google search. One fun project would be the circuit shown above
ultrasonic parking radar (a misnomer, of
course). Need more of a challenge?
Try this handheld o-scope kit (I once built a 10 MHz o-scope and
a DMM from kits). Heathkit
color TV kits are long gone, but there is still a plethora of cool gadgets available.
I am not an avid cyclist,
but do have an appreciation for high tech replacements for the status quo. That
is why this Dura-Ace
Di2 Electronic Shifter system from Shimano is worthy of note. Powered by a 7.4
V Li-Ion battery, the CPU controls the servo motor for the derailleur while monitoring
tension and alignment to keep the gear train in perfect order. It can be yours for
a mere $5,555.
Speaking of serendipity... British researchers
were mixing orange marmalade in the lab for lunch, when a jokester poured in the
entire can of powder. The result was a thick gel that instantly transforms into
a rigid, impact resistant solid when struck, then returns to its gooey state. This
mucilaginous concoction can even stop a bullet or knife. Now, the
MoD wants it
for flexible body armor and helmets. Oddly, the company that makes it is Blue Divine
- maybe the owner is color blind.