The Analox R&D Team visited the Jaguar Exhibition Hall, Coventry in October for the increasingly popular Engineering/Electronics/Embedded Design Shows. This annual event was held on 21–22 October with attendance figures of approximately 4000 across the two days. There were more than 200 exhibition stalls with many familiar names and some new ones—plus a wide range of industry seminars and presentations.
During the two days there were a number of workshops dealing with various aspects of design—ranging from how to manage PCB parts, to the challenges faced by Williams F1 in the production of the battery used in the new Formula E championship. Analox’s Team found their visit to the Electronics Design Show very useful, with Design Engineer Chris Garbutt summarising the event as ‘probably the most relevant electronics show I have ever been to’.
Chris and the other four Analox attendees (Lewis Gorford, Nathan Stevenson, Alex Williams and Jack Price) received a good introduction to the options available for developing and enhancing our products. The team also got to meet some of Analox’s existing product suppliers whom they usually contact only via phone or email. They found it useful to meet the suppliers in person and see other ways they may be able to help us.
Chris noted that there is a lot of interest at the moment in the IoT (Internet of Things), with many exhibitors embracing this upcoming technology. Also known as the ‘Internet of Everything’, or ‘IoE’, this concept refers to the commercial potential of the rapidly growing number of objects and devices connected to the Internet. It’s a promising idea but it remains to be seen whether IoT/IoE will become the ‘next big thing’.
One of Analox’s areas of interest is functional safety, for which there were many software tools on display. A familiar name was LDRA, something we have used before. Other providers offered full safety critical RTOS (real-time operating system), useful in projects where a complex interface and array of sensors is required. However, many options claim conformance to particular standards and choosing the right one is not easy.
Micro-controller solutions were available in abundance—but again, trying to pick one for a project can be tricky. Most Analox products require high-quality, multi-channel, configurable, integrated analogue circuits, with long product life and good reliability in harsh environments. Support documentation and configuration tools for developing quick start prototypes are also important in helping us to get projects up and running.
Investigating the latest data-logging and automated testing systems was another part of our remit; these are used in production testing and R&D (for sensor evaluation). One exhibitor offered software-controlled scalable automated test suites. Another offered a datalogger—although their product range was focused more on single-channel, bench-top test equipment than on multi-channel, automated testing equipment.
Quite a large part of the Electronics Design Show was dedicated to mechanical design (pumps, valves, actuators, enclosures etc.). The rise of 3D printing was also evident and the improvements in techniques such as laser technology were commonplace. Contemporary materials such as graphene and 3D printed graphite were interesting to learn about and came with offers of rapid prototyping through to mass production from several exhibitors.
One company stated that if a manufacturing pack submitted to them included an .stl file, the customer would receive a 3D print of a PCB—enabling designs to be tested in equipment enclosures without waiting for PCBs to arrive. Others offered a quick turnaround for PCB manufacturing and prototype testing. Also on show were PCB design and layout software programs—one with support for simultaneous multiple PCBs.
Naturally our attendees couldn’t resist that most traditional feature of industry exhibitions, the freebies. They filled their boots with evaluation boards, screwdrivers, mugs, pens, PCBs, models, datasheets, caps and brochures. It’s good to know that despite the endless march of technology, some things never change.