Up until recently, if you wanted a high-speed color copier or printer capable of cranking out more than 40 pages per minute, you would have needed an office machine roughly the size of a filing cabinet.
No more, though, thanks to a new analog front end (AFE) developed by engineers at National Semiconductor. Known as the LM98714, the new AFE reportedly makes it possible for desktop color copiers to hit speeds of 40 pages per minute.
The key, say National Semiconductor engineers, is that the three-channel, 16-bit AFE is the first to be placed directly on a CCD (charge-coupled device) board. That's significant, because up to now AFEs have been placed on ASIC (application-specific integrated circuits) boards, which were connected via cable to the CCD board.
"It used to be that the analog front end had a couple of basic functions and a separate ASIC would provide all the timing generator information to the CCD," says David Barkin, product marketing manager for data conversion at National Semiconductor. "But if you can eliminate the cable between the analog element and the CCD, then the analog signal that contains the image data is much better."
Indeed, that ability to obtain better signal quality is critical. It translates to better image quality for the printer and higher speed.
"By packing all that functionality together, you really create a CCD controller, as well as an analog front end," Barkin says.
Barkin says the new device is targeted at all kinds of so-called multi-function peripheral devices, which include copiers, scanners and printers.
"This technology is for any of the smaller imaging systems that can benefit from having the analog front end next to the CCD," he says. "And there are a lot of different types of imaging systems that need that."