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Front End I electronica 2012 Growing with the wind

There was a certain green feeling about last year’s electronica, as Steve Rogerson reports

Sustainability, alternative energy and mobility were the buzz words in Munich in November as the electronics industry gathered for the electronica trade show. And companies selling products ranging from the most sophisticated chips to the basic connectors were coming up with innovations to harness new power sources and extract the most from existing energy. And that carried over into traditional high fuel users, such as aerospace, as that industry too comes to grips with greener demands from the world. One company typical of this trend was

Vishay Intertechnology, which sees these markets having high potential growth to help it through a volatile economic climate. “Sustainability is our main focus,” said Norbert Pieper, Vishay’s senior vice president of business development. “Alternative energy also means better use of existing energy. It is more important to

to get five per cent more in efficiency improvement.” David Winter, vice president of global sales for TT Electronics, said the whole wind power market was in a state of flux. “There are very different schools of thought on wind power,” he said. “A lot comes down to government spending, and that can be challenging.”

He said the market had stalled and was dominated by a few players. “It rose initially under government initiatives,” he said, “and I would expect it to start increasing again within another year. This is where it is in the realm of politics rather than electronics.” Another way to save energy is to use harvesting techniques and John Corbett, sales director for Enocean, said there were a lot of government initiatives across Europe to design intelligent energy harvesting systems. “There are research projects in companies and universities,” he said. “This is also now a standard, which is helping to drive the market.”

He said the building industry was still the main driver because wireless provided more flexibility and batteries were costly to replace.

“In the building industry, batteries are a no-no,” he said. “They cost too much to replace and you have flexibility with a wireless system.”


John Corbett: “In the building industry, batteries are a no-no.”

get more out of existing energy production than develop new ones. And everyone today is talking about mobility. We are in these markets and the next challenge will be how to implement the high power requirements.” One problem he said the company was tackling was the difficulty in getting power efficiently from offshore wind farms. “You need more specialist transmission than in the past,” he said. The main drive in sustainability, he said, would be power saving. “We are very strong in DC-DC converters,” he said. “But we can still get a lot more efficiency out of them. We want

6 December 2012/January 2013

Nearly all lighting applications – consumer, commercial and industrial – could benefit the Lytswitch family of LED driver ICs, introduced at the show by Power Integrations. This is claimed to be highly efficient for tub replacements and high bay lighting as well as suiting triac-dimmable bulb applications. The product is also unusual in being the first of its type that was not adapted from one of the company’s older products. “We designed this from scratch,” said Peter Rogerson (no relation), director of marketing communications. “It was designed as an LED driver rather than from something else that could be used as an LED driver.”

The PFC and CC are combined into one switching stage, which allows the device to achieve better than 92 per cent efficiency compared with around 85 per cent for two-stage products. “And it dims beautifully,” said Rogerson, “and it turns on very quickly.”

Components in Electronics

Aerospace connectors Two companies at the show – Harwin and ITT – were bragging about how their latest connectors were saving weight and space in aerospace applications. “Fuel costs in aerospace are extremely high and they are looking at what they can do to reduce costs and reduce the weight,” said Jonathon Beach, ITT’s director of product management. “If you reduce the weight, you extend the range and reduce the fuel.”

ITT is doing this with a composite Mil- DTL-38999 connector, which is claimed to be 60 per cent lighter than using an equivalent aluminium metal shell. As there could be thousands of these on an aeroplane, the overall weight reduction would be noticeable. But Beach stressed: “When you move

from metal to plastic, you still have to provide the high reliability and meet the safety requirements.” The company’s second release at the show was addressing similar concerns in the mass transit market. “Again, the issues here are fuel

efficiency and weight reduction,” said Beach.

The VPRC connector, part of they company’s Veam range, is rectangular and made of plastics, and is to replace metal connectors used inside trains, which traditionally been over specified as they are the same connectors used on the outside of the train.

Norbert Pieper: “Sustainability is our main focus.”

To prove its worth, the connector, said

Green, had already been designed into a satellite, which was due to be launched into space before the end of 2012. “This is the start,” he said. “There will be a lot more to come.” For the next six months, the product will be distributed exclusively by Mouser and will be aimed at design engineers, a market in which the distributor specialises. “Mouser are very good with design engineers,” said Green. “And it is much better to put the initial launch through one channel. Through the six months, we will see what will be the popular sizes and what we need to stock in our warehouses.”

Jonathon Beach: “The issues here are fuel efficiency and weight reduction.”

“They are using heavy, over-specified, costly connectors for inside applications,” said Beach. “This is plastic and meets all the safety requirements. And it is flexible,

Once, the so-called green ideas of sustainability and alternative energy were a niche part of shows such as Electronica. It is a welcome reflection of how much attitudes have changed that such thoughts are now mainstream, and were ever present to visitors wandering the aisles and halls in Munich. ■

so customers can choose from a menu for what they require.” Also aimed at aerospace applications, including UAVs, was the Gecko range introduced by Harwin, which has evolved from the company’s Datamate range. “With these, UAVs can have longer flight time,” said Ben Green, technical and marketing communications manager, “and commercial aeroplanes can cut fuel costs.”

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