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Articles from 2005 In December

RSS – Why You Need to Pay Attention – Part One.

Real Simple Syndication (RSS) is a communications tool that media, analysts, search engines and companies use to distribute information, with very different benefits for both sender and receiver. Part one focuses on receiving feeds.

The Basics
Any content can be distributed via RSS feeds – news, features, company newsletters, online auction updates, etc. Feeds are flexible. Do you want a feed from an individual reporter/analyst, headlines from CNN, collective updates on a specific topic from several sources, company newsletters but no sales material, blogs, podcasts, etc.?

Cleaner Than Email
RSS allows you to select the content you want to receive, from whom and never worry about your contact information being distributed, sold or otherwise mistreated. In fact, you never give up ANY contact information by choosing to receive an RSS feed. Feed readers integrate with Web browsers so message formatting is never an issue (you don’t have to specify HTML or TEXT). Readers allow you to view all updates from any feed within a day, week or month. RSS feeds are virus and spyware free.

More Efficient Than Google
Monitoring for news and information via RSS aggregators allows you to choose the content provider(s) and avoid the ‘false positives’ of a general Google search. In fact, Google offers its news content via RSS. You determine the relevance of content delivered to your feed reader and avoid relying on how well a Website has optimized in order to receive valuable information. Feed readers can tame blog monitoring by categorizing and simplifying blog feeds (rather than the mess Google returns).  

Signing Up and Viewing a Feed
As a Website pushes content out to you as an RSS feed, you need a feed reader to translate the HTML code into English. Readers are available as free (Pluck, NewsGator, Feedreader, Google Reader) or paid software downloads. All readers will integrate with any web browser and some will integrate directly into your email application. Once you’ve chosen a reader, collecting feeds is as easy as a click of the mouse. Websites that offer feeds are designated by RSS, XML, or ATOM buttons (examples from Business Week and CMO magazine). Click the feed you want and it will automatically be connected to your feed reader.

Better Prototype Printing for Less

Better Prototype Printing for Less

If feature-size limitations have kept you from considering entry-level 3D printing, it may be time to think again. Z Corporation has revamped its lowest cost printer, giving it a materials, hardware, and firmware upgrade that drastically improves its ability to produce small features and complex geometries.

Called the Z Printer 310 Plus, the new machine includes technologies previously found on the company's high-end Spectrum printer, which costs thousands of dollars more. Features ported from the Spectrum include a heated build chamber and firmware that helps improves the machine's build resolution and smoothes the finish of the printed parts. The 310 Plus also runs a new build material that offers better part strength off the machine. Like the company's earlier materials, this new build material consists primarily of a plaster in an aqueous binder. According to Marc Tremblay, Z Corporation's vice president of customer development, these features add up to a machine that's can handle smaller features and thinner walls--and do so at faster build speeds than its 310 machine it replaces. He puts the 310 Plus's resolution--one of the chief determinants of feature size capabilities--at 300 x 450 dpi. The 310 model could handle only 300 x 300 dpi, he notes. The material used by the 310 Plus also contributes to the machine's ability to handle small features. Called zp130, the new material has about eight times the impact strength of the material used in the 310's unheated build chamber. Even though the printed prototypes are typically infiltrated with stronger materials to make them more durable, parts still have to be strong enough to make it off the machine. "Lots of features that wouldn't survive off the machine in the past now survive," he says, giving delicate extruded features and very thin wall sections as examples. So how much smaller are the features off the 310 Plus? Tremblay illustrates the improvements through slightly raised text blocks. The 310 Plus can produce readable six point text, while the old 310 could barely do nine point. The Spectrum, meanwhile, can handle four point text. As for speed, the heated build chamber and zp130 allow models to dry faster than they could on the 310 machine. Tremblay says the new machine is about 25 percent faster than the 310. The 310 Plus debuted at the Z Corporation's annual user group meeting in October. It sells $25,900.

Some OEMs late to the RoHS party

Some OEMs late to the RoHS party

Most of the focus of RoHS-readiness has been on component suppliers. If the suppliers are RoHS compliant, the whole industry is compliant, right? Apparently not. Distribution executives have lately complained that some of the RoHS laggards are OEMs. A number of major and minor manufacturers will be scrambling this spring to get their products RoHS compliant.

The July 1, 2006 RoHS deadline includes all product in stock in Europe on that day. That means most companies will have to start delivering compliant products by March at the latest. That’s less than three months away.

Some skeptics believe it may take recalcitrant OEM executives a warning to get them to move. “When they see a cover story in ‘Business Week’ claiming that non-RoHS ready CEOs will face Sarbanes-Oxley charges, then maybe they’ll move,” said one distribution executive. In the meantime, distributors are bracing for a likely supply-chain crunch this spring when last-minute OEMs suddenly start their mad dash to get RoHS compliant.

Contract manufacturers may shun non-compliant products

Contract manufacturers may shun non-compliant products

Manufacturers in aerospace, defense and other industries exempt from RoHS rules may find themselves shifting to compliant products like it or not. Even if their suppliers continue to produce non-compliant parts – and that’s not a given – they may find their contract manufacturers refusing to run both compliant and non-compliant processes.

Contract manufacturers operate under thin margins, typically 1 percent. These companies have quietly started to admit they can’t afford to switch from compliant manufacturing to non-compliant manufacturing with the same ease they switch from one product to another. The set up time between compliant and non-compliant manufacturing will simply be too costly.

Word on the electronics industry street says production of non-compliant products for aerospace, defense and other exempt industries will soon become pricy niche manufacturing. Most of aerospace and defense suppliers will either bite the bullet and shift to compliant products, or they will pay premium prices for products containing high-reliability, non-compliant parts.

We Can All Live for 100 Years

What are some of the factors that could substantially lengthen life spans?

With gene technologies, we're now on the verge of being able to control how genes express themselves. We have a powerful new tool called RNA interference (RNAi), which can turn specific genes off. It blocks the messenger RNA of specific genes preventing them from creating proteins. Since cancer, viruses and many other diseases use gene expression at some crucial point in their life cycle, this tool promises to be a breakthrough technology. An exciting technique by United Therapeutics, A company that I advise, does genetic engineering in vitro and inspects the results to make sure the information is in the right place. Researchers then multiply the modified cells by many millions and then inject the cells into the blood stream where they find their way into the right tissues. This method has successfully cured pulmonary hypertension, a fatal disease, in animals, and has been approved for human trials in Canada.

Another important line of attack is to regrow our own cells, tissues, and even whole organs and introduce them into our bodies without surgery. One major benefit of this "therapeutic cloning" technique is that we will be able to create these new tissues and organs from versions of our cells that have also been made younger—the emerging field of rejuvenation medicine. For example, we will be able to create new heart cells from skin cells and introduce them into your system through the blood stream. Over time, your heart cells get replaced with these new cells, and the result is a rejuvenated "young" heart with your own DNA.

How about the development of new drugs?

Drug discovery was once a matter of finding substances that produced some beneficial effect without excessive side effects. This process was similar to early humans' tool discovery, which was limited to simply finding rocks and natural implements that could be used for helpful purposes. Now we are learning the precise biochemical pathways that underlie both disease and the aging processes, and are able to design drugs to carry out precise missions at the molecular level.

What role do you see for nanotechnology?

As we peer a couple of decades into the future, nanotechnology will enable us to rebuild and extend our bodies and brains. We will develop the means to vastly expand our physical and mental capabilities by directly interfacing our biological systems with human-created technology. As one example, the interneuronal connections in our brains compute at only 200 transactions per second, millions of times slower than even today's electronic circuits. Circa late 2020s, billions of nanobots traveling in the capillaries of the brain will interact directly with our biological neurons, providing a vast expansion of human intellect.

Another example is our red blood cells. Despite the elegant way our red blood cells carry oxygen in our bloodstream and deliver it to our tissues, it is a very slow and cumbersome system. There's a design for such robotic red blood cells called "respirocytes" by Rob Freitas, a nanotechnology expert, which are thousands of times more efficient than biological red blood cells. With these respirocytes, you could sit at the bottom of a swimming pool for four hours without taking a breath. Another Freitas design will augment your immune system with robotic white cells. Result: the capability to destroy any virus, cancer cell, or other invader hundreds of times faster than our biological immune system. There are already four major conferences on bioMEMS (biological micro-electro-mechanical systems) dealing with blood cell-sized devices in the body. One animal experiment has already cured type 1 diabetes with a nanoengineered device.

Will such futuristic technologies be available only to the very affluent?

In my new book, The Singularity is Near, When Humans Transcend Biology, I discuss "the law of accelerating returns." Technologies start out affordable only for the wealthy, but at this stage, they actually don't work very well. At the next stage, they're merely expensive, and work a bit better. Then they work quite well and are inexpensive. Ultimately, they're almost free—like today's cell phones. This model applies not just to electronic gadgets, but to anything having to do with information, including biology. It took us 15 years to sequence HIV. We sequenced SARS in 31 days. And we've gone from a cost of ten dollars to sequence a base pair of DNA in 1990 to about a penny today. AIDS drugs started out costing tens of thousands of dollars per patient per year and didn't work very well. Today, effective drugs are about a hundred dollars per patient per year in poor countries. So the have and have-not divide is diminishing, not exacerbating.

What other technologies will impact human longevity?

Besides genetics and biotechnology, we will see a power revolution in robotics or artificial intelligence. Nonbiological intelligence will be able to improve itself in an increasingly rapid redesign cycle. We'll get to a point where technical progress will be so fast that unenhanced human intelligence will be unable to follow it. With greatly amplified intelligence, we will be able to solve whatever problems we don't get to with biotechnology and nanotechnology. We will also have the means to back up our biological brains—our knowledge, skills, memories and personalities—the way we now do with our software files. People late in the 21st century will find it remarkable that people actually used to go around with no backup to their most precious information—that contained in their bodies and brains.

Does the U.S. lead in developing the life-extending technology that you describe?

Yes, but just barely, and the long-term viability of that lead is in question. Much of the problem lies with education. For example, the number of bachelor degrees in engineering conferred in 1985 was about the same for the U.S. and China—around 70,000. But by the year 2000, the number of such degrees awarded in the U.S. had dwindled to 53,000, while Chinas number soared to 220,000. Science and technology are at the cutting edge of the revolutions I talk about, and we must attract more young people to these fields.

Delivering High Bandwidth to VMEbus

VMEbus, a decades-old technology that was supposed to be on its last leg five years ago, is re-positioning itself for a new era as vendors roll out a generation of circuit boards with high-speed fabric interconnects.

VME, long a staple of the defense and industrial segments, is being revitalized by the so-called "switch fabrics," such as Ethernet, InfiniBand, RapidIO, and PCI Express. Switch fabrics—essentially an interconnected mesh of nodes that serve as a path for data—are gaining popularity, particularly among makers of radar systems and image processors, because they can dramatically boost VME system bandwidth. Thus, speeds can potentially be pushed beyond VME's current 320 Mbits/sec to more than 10 Gbits/sec through adoption of the switch fabrics.

"There is a class of customers that can never get enough processing power, never get enough fabric, and never have enough I/O," notes Eran Strod, director of product marketing for Mercury Computer Systems, Inc. "The more we can give them, the better."

Suppliers such as Mercury, SBS Technologies, and VMETRO are feeding that need by rolling out a generation of VME boards that incorporate VXS, an architecture made for high-speed switch fabric operation. Three of this year's new VXS-based boards appear here.

VMETRO 's Phoenix VPF1 quad signal processing card

VMETRO's VPF1 provides dual-independent PowerPC processors and dual-independent Virtex-II Pro FPGAs for processing, as well as two 4x high-speed serial links for VXS fabric connectivity. By combining scalable high-density processing and communications in a single card, the VPF1 is said to be a potential solution for applications that require complex signal processing and high-bandwidth data I/O. Learn more about VPF1 at

Mercury's VPA-200 host board

Mercury Computer Systems Inc.'s VPA-200 supports dual PowerPC 7448 processors, RapidIO fabric or PCI express Interconnects on a VXS multi-gigabit backplane. It combines host, signal processing, and I/O carrier functionality into a single slot. Aimed at entry-level embedded military applications, the VPA-200 (the left-most board in the chassis at left) is said to offer up to 5 Gbits/sec with the RapidIO option, as well as 20 GFLOPS of processing power. For more information on Mercury's VPA-200, go to

SBS Technologies' single-board computer and InfiniBand switch

SBS Technologies' VXSI 6U PowerPC single-board computer works together with its IB4X-V41 InfiniBand switch to create a 10 Gbit/sec switch fabric interconnect over a VMEbus. The single-board computer includes two independent InfiniBand 4x links and is powered by a PowerPC processor from Freescale. The switch, offered in convection- and conduction-cooled versions, incorporates 18 payload ports and two front-panel copper connectors. Learn more about the single-board computer and switch at



Low profile

The LTM4600 is a mModule that provides complete 10A switching power supply in a 15×15 mm footprint, low profile (2.8 mm) land grid array. It is a synchronous switchmode dc/dc step-down regulator with built-in indicator. It accommodates an input voltage range of 4.5 to 28V. The product is a complete standalone surface-mount power supply. Linear Technology Corp.


Three types

The company has released three different types of differential amplifiers designed to meet the needs of designing broadband test and measurement equipment, automatic test equipment, and various aerospace and military applications: the 1010DA: DC to 9 GHz and 1011DA: DC to 10 GHz differential amplifiers, and the 1012VA: DC to 10 GHz differential variable gain amplifier. They are all designed with superior linearity, gain flatness, and return loss. Inphi Corp.



The RPH series pushbutton switch offers DPDT, 4PDT, and 6PDT. The switch function is offered in both latching and non-latching, and options include PC terminals or snap-in PC terminals, and single-stage mounting chassis, PC mounting bracket, or no chassis. A variety of cap options are also available. The electrical rating is 100 mA at 30V dc, with electrical life of typically 30,000 cycles. They are ideal for use in computers and peripherals, instrumentation, and measurement equipment. CIT Relay & Switch


High performance

The company's PowerMod connectors are designed for compatiblity with lead-free re-flow soldering. They are manufactured from high temperature plastic Polyphenylene Sulfide, making them ideal for use in the lead-free, re-flow solder process, which may have a peak re-flow temperature of 260C. They are available in straight PCB, right angle PCB, panel, or cable mountings. Anderson Power Products


Direct connection for EtherCAT I/O terminals

The CX1020 embedded PC features a direct connection for EtherCAT I/O terminals. It has a 600 MHz Intel Celeron M CPU; it uses Compact Flash as its boot and memory medium so it needs no rotating media. It is engineered to provide the same functionality as large industrial PCs, enabling up to four virtual IEC 61131 CPUs that can be programmed with up to four tasks each. TwinCAT functionalities are available for motion control applications. Beckhoff Automation


Eliminate alias frequencies

The company's signal-conditioning expansion boards for its DAP boards are designed to make it easy to implement signal conditioning in data acquisition systems. MSXB 064 and MSXB 065 provide differential instrumentation amplifiers with optional sample-and-hold circuits and jumper-selectable gains of 1, 5, and 25. MSXB 065 also includes fourth-order anti-alias filters. They can eliminate alias frequencies from acquired data, and they slot into a backplane in a standard industrial enclosure. Microstar Labs Inc.



Designed as a unique, non-invasive ultrasonic sensing solution, the levelprox sensor provides accurate point level detection of liquids through metal container walls. The product mounts to the outside of a container and is ideal for high pressure, hazardous, or sterile applications. It uses a simple teach button to program empty and full conditions for detection of liquid. The product is available in two housings: T50 and M30. TURCK


Oversized status indicator

The WORLD-BEAM QS30 Series sensors are available in standard 10 to 30V dc or 12 to 250V ac universal voltage formats. They feature a 30- mm threaded barrel or side hole mounting option, IP67 sealed housing with EMI/RFI protected circuitry, and an oversized status indicator for clearer visibility. They are ideal for a variety of applications, including packaging, materials handling, wood processing, automotive, and pharmaceutical industries. Banner Engineering


Pentium 4

The ATX-807 single-board computer features a Pentium 4 Prescott (90 nm) CPU with 400/533/800M FSB selectable speed and is Intel VRD 10.1 compliant to support future advanced processors. Two DIMM sockets support up to 2 Gbytes DDR memory and dual Intel Ethernet controller are located on the board providing Gbit and 10/100M speeds. It is designed to be compact and fast on computing capabilities. Arista Corp.



The ATS616LSG speed sensor is designed for non-TPOS camshaft applications, providing improved EMC and ESD, and eliminating the need for an external switching capacitor. It uses a dual-element Hall IC that switches in response to differential magnetic signals created by ferrous targets. The product is ideal for use in gathering speed, position, and timing information using gear-tooth-based configurations. It is particularly useful for applications requiring extremely accurate edge detection, such as camshaft applications. Allegro MicroSystems Inc.


PC-based tester

The USBee AX Test pod is designed as a PC-based pod that functions as a programmable oscilloscope, logic analyzer, and digital signal generator in one compact unit. It is used for testing and controlling electronic circuit designs, and it can verify analog voltage levels and digital logic, generating a visual representation of the signals. The product is able to stream data to and from a personal computer. CWAV


Easy wire terminations

The FRK spring connection system is designed to reduce wiring time up to 80 percent when compared to screw clamp terminations. It provides fast wire termination for solid wire or stranded wire with a ferrule. The system requires no tools and enables fingertip wire installation that is easy and needs minimal insertion force. It is vibration and corrosion resistant. Conta-Clip



The PC-MIP and PMC graphic controllers are meant to give designers of embedded systems the flexibility of configuring application-specific capabilities in a FPGA for systems based on either the Intel or PowerPC architectures. The mezzanine cards will operate over the entire industrial temperature range, and they can be used in systems based on a range of buses, including VMEbus, CompactPCI, or PXI, or in standalone compute platforms. MEN Micro


Digital display

The MR Flow Transmitter is a variable area flow meter that provides a digital display of both flow rate and total accumulated flow. Both can be displayed in any one of a number of user-selectable measurement units. It combines state-of-the-art microprocessor-based technology with the rugged technology of a piston-type variable area and flow meter. Ideal applications include gun drill and machine cooling, bearing lubrication and pump flow, and case drain verification. Hedland


Pulsation-free air flow

Engineered to use a rolling diaphragm design that combines the best features of rotary and diaphragm pumps, the Model 1101 pumps diaphragm does not move up and down; rather, it rolls in the cylinder. This increases airflow relative to size and provides an extremely precise flow with limited pulsation. It is gas-tight and delivers high-end pressure. The product is ideal for a range of applications, including medical, laboratory, and industrial applications. Thomas Products Div.


Provides full support

The company has released R2.0 of its IPM Sentry Shelf Management firmware, which provides full support for the companys IPM Sentry ShMM-500 and ShMM-300. This enables users to take advantage of the 7 processor speed improvement. It includes support for reliable remote upgrades to all ShMM-500 resident firmware. When new firmware is downloaded, it is provisionally loaded into Flash memory and started. If problems occur during validation, the hardware automatically falls back to the previous stable copy of the firmware. Pigeon Point Systems


ReliableThe Series 20 Cam Switches feature double-break, silver-plated contacts housed in rigid thermostat plastic for long, reliable life. The products versatility enables various configurations with up to 12 decks and up to 12 positions. They are mounted on 3-inch centers, thus requiring less space on control panels. The products are offered in three basic configurations: standard, lighted, and modular. Electroswitch

In the Marketplace

Miniature Solenoid Valve

For moderately aggressive fluids, gases

The semi-inert LHIX Series solenoid valve is designed for applications such as anesthesia and reagent delivery, inkjet printing, gas detection systems and other flow switching uses. Noted for corrosion resistance, it features a FFKM/PFE elastomer, a 316 CRES spring, and a Lee Alloy armature and plunger stop. Weighing under 4.5 gm and consuming 550 mW, the valve comes in plug-in, face mount, and ported soft tube configurations. The Lee Co.

Touch Screen Terminal

Provides flexibility

QSI's QTERM-G70 is a rugged, Ethernet-enabled graphic human-machine terminal that uses an object-based graphic terminal programming language called Qlarity (pronounced Clarity), and a touch screen to interface with the user. The terminal features industrial-grade hardware features and options including a 320×240 lighted graphic LCD display, 100Base-T Ethernet with TCP/IP support, touch screen with optional PS/2 keyboard connection, and an EIA-232, -422 or -485 serial interface. The QTERM-G70 graphic terminal is ruggedized for use in harsh industrial environments and is NEMA-4 rated and CE certified. QSI Corp.

Motor & Driver

Pole Damping Technology included

The SilverPak 23D is an integrated NEMA 23, 1.8-degree step motor and microstepping driver. Capable of up to 210 oz-inch of holding torque, the SilverPak 23D features jumper configurable step resolutions from 2× up to 256× microstepping and four selectable damping modes. The integrated motor/driver combination offers 15 to 48V dc operation, current ranges of 0.3 to 3A peak, and body lengths of 2.52, 2.96 and 3.89 inches. Lin Engineering

Low-Profile Rotary Stage

Automated material handling capability

The ACS LP series ultra-low profile rotary stage features Integral pneumatic ER collet chuck, clear aperture for product feed-through, and Integral rotary union. The low profile is designed to cut down on "stack-up" related errors. The rotary stage uses direct-drive technology for high throughput stemming from quicker acceleration and higher top speeds than gear or belt-driven mechanisms. Aerotech

Integrated Driver/Controller

Provides 100 percent more torque and power than typical 80V dc stepper drivers

The DPMLP601 will shorten any system's cycle time while increasing overall productivity because the driver can generate 100 percent more power and torque than the typical 80DV dc stepper drivers. This product's programming capabilities give the flexibility to develop motion routines, turn on discrete outputs, and monitor outputs, just to name a few. The single axis controller contains 2 Kbytes of nonvolatile stored programming space and encoder feedback. The DPMLP601 provides independent control of a stepper motor from a PC's serial port or any RS232/RS485 machine controller serial port. The SMC60WIN software is easy to operate and can be used to directly control motion and create programs with a graphical interface. Anaheim Automation

Solenoid Valve

Ultra-miniature size

The Series 120 solenoid valve weighs 300 mg and needs a 1-msec pulse to switch the state—+5V dc to open, -5V dc to close. Magnetically latched, the solenoid valve offers bi-stable performance and quiet operation in a 0.12-inch O.D. x 0.40-inch package. Applications for the valve include air piloting, lab automation, and power-sensitive OEM flow switching devices. The Lee Co.

Linear Actuators

New 25-mm metric stroke offering

The Z26000 captive linear actuators now also feature a metric stroke offering of 25 mm. The new available stroke provides up to 4.5 kg of force and features resolutions from 0.0127 to 0.1016 mm. The Z-series linear actuators may be used in medical devices, small machinery, instrumentation, and high-volume applications. Haydon Switch & Instrument Inc.

Orifice and Filter Connectors

Liquid and gas flow control

The company's miniature orifice and filter connectors are designed for precise flow control of liquid and gas. The 1/16 inline barbed orifice connectors and 3-56 thread for 1/16 barb connectors come in sizes ranging from 0.0004 to 0.035 and feature standard filtration levels of 5, 25, and 43 microns. Bird Precision

Fiber Optic Swabs

For cleaning tight areas

Qosina's precision polyurethane foam swabs are adhesive-free, leave no strands or residue, and provide abrasion resistance, making them excellent for wiping fiber optic connectors or cleaning tight areas. Approximately 6.3 inches in length and offered with either a 1.5 or a 2.4 mm diameter head, the foam head wicks moisture and can be utilized to apply solvents or other liquids. Quosina

Motion control system

Two to five times more throughput

The VascuLathe motion system, intended for stent manufacturing uses, reportedly offers more throughput than traditional screw-based systems and submicron tolerances on tight part geometries. It features direct-drive linear and rotary motion capability. Since it needs fewer machines to produce stents, it can offer lower total labor costs and less floor space requirements and therefore lower costs. Aerotech

Porous Metal Solution

Medical device applications

The company's porous metal solutions are intended for applications, especially medical devices, which feature corrosive environments, high temperatures, exacting flow specifications, efficiencies, and customized products and filters. Products include titanium vent filters, filters to prevent plugging in catheters, porous metal cups for test stands, and precision flow restrictors for gas circuitry of anesthesia delivery systems. Mott Corp.


New 18-mm metric stroke available

The Z26000 captive linear actuators' new 18-mm metric stroke features up to 4.5 kg of force and resolutions from 0.0127 to 0.1016 mm per step. Designed to replace belts and pulleys or racks and pinions, the Z-series linear actuators use rare earth magnets in either low or high volume uses. Applications include small machinery, instrumentation, medical devices, and applications needing high volumes of linear motion. Haydon Switch & Instrument Inc.

Thread Sealant

Inert to aggressive chemicals

LOX-8 is formulated into a paste (a thread sealant) or a grease (an antigalling agent for stainless steel), both of which are compatible with gaseous oxygen. LOX-8 is hydrophobic, and is intended for use in the presence of water and humid conditions, as well as nonaqueous applications. It is also non-migrating, so it stays where it is applied. Fluoramics Inc.

Silicone Bonding Process

Meets medical requirements for repeat autoclave sterilization

Surgical and dental instrument safety, design, and function can be improved when silicone grips and sleeves are custom-molded to the instruments. Minnesota Rubber's proprietary silicone bonding process creates a hermetic seal between the silicone and the over-molded instrument. This seal withstands repeated autoclave cycling and inhibits the migration of body fluids between sealed surfaces. Ergonomically designed features increase rotational control of instruments while providing a light and secure grip. Silicone molded designs are possible that satisfy requirements for accuracy, durability, comfort, and, most significantly, tactile sensitivity. They also allow for color customization of stainless steel, high-performance plastics, and aluminum instruments. In addition to surgical and dental instruments, the process has a potential fit for a wide range of medical and pharmaceutical applications. Minnesota Rubber and QMR Plastics

Check Valve

Made for plastics installation

A barbed design and miniature cartridge style mark the CCPI Series Press-In Chek® valve. The design is intended to provide retention and avoid by-pass leakage around the valve. Made of stainless steel and compatible with most fluids, the valve comes in cracking pressures from 0 to 72.5 psid and diameters of 2.5, 5.5, and 8 mm. The Lee Co.

Online Cable Configurator

Five day lead time

Users of the High Flex Flat Cable and Trackless Cable Configurator receive a 3D downloadable CAD model for configuring GORE High Flex Flat Cable or GORE Trackless Cable. The High Flex Flat Cable comes in a spooled cable version for high volumes and a discrete length cable for variable lengths. The Trackless Cable is designed to eliminate problems from vibration, particulation, weight, and size. W.L. Gore & Associates

10-mm DC Micromotor

Precious metal commutation

The Series 1024…S uses "System FAULHABER" ironless rotor and Neodymium rare earth magnets for 2.89 mNM stall torque and speeds up to 14,700 rpm. Low contact resistance enables the micromotor to operate at low starting voltages, and the 1-mm diameter motor shaft is intended to guarantee high rotational stability. For a complete miniature DC drive system, users can combine the Series 1024…S with an encoder and a gearbox, available in 10 and 12-mm diameters for planetary and spur gearboxes. MicroMo Electronics Inc.

Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock

Q. My clock is accurate to 1 ppm—what could possibly need improvement?

A. The phase noise or jitter. The performance of any ac sampling system is critically dependent on the use of a sampling clock with adequately low jitter.

A quarter of a century ago I was technical advisor to a Parliamentary Committee on CB Radio. We met at Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament in London, almost directly under Big Ben, whose chimes punctuated our deliberations. I frequently used Big Ben as an example when explaining the importance of various features of clocks and oscillators.

In a sampled data system, a changing signal is sampled at regular intervals and the signal is processed by performing calculations on the samples. If an oscillator has jitter, the clock edges occur earlier or later than they would in a jitter-free clock. The frequency accuracy is unaffected, only the exact timing of individual transitions varies.

If an edge comes early, the signal being sampled will not yet have reached its correct value, and if it comes late, the signal will have moved on—so to achieve accuracy in a sampled system it is important to have adequately low jitter on the system clock. In fact, frequency accuracy is often far less important. Obviously, the faster the sampled signal is changing, the greater the error will be for a given amount of jitter. The clock frequency is irrelevant—it is the frequency of the analog signal being sampled (in the case of the ADC) or signal being synthesized (in the case of the DAC) that matters.

Although the problem can be significant at quite modest signal frequencies (I have memories of digital audio systems with performance devastated by inappropriate clock oscillators—one a 555 timer, another an interrupt-driven microprocessor) it becomes critical in modern digital radios using IF sampling at signal frequencies of tens or hundreds of MHz. To give numbers, a perfect ADC (no imperfections of any sort) working with a 100 MHz signal and a clock with one picosecond (1E-12 seconds) rms jitter cannot achieve a resolution greater than 10 bits.

Links to information on the relevant formula, low noise clock circuits, and circuit techniques that ensure a low clock jitter signal is not degraded before it reaches the circuits it drives, are on the website below. A simple illustration of the difference between clock accuracy and clock jitter is to consider what would happen if Big Ben's hands always pointed to the exact time, but the chime occurred randomly up to five minutes early or late.

To learn more on accurately timing clocks, Go to:

Monitoring in Motion

Despite the incredible advances in heart monitoring over the past several years, most data has to be recorded in a doctor's office. That limitation is being overcome by Recom Managed Systems Inc., which is now testing a compact unit that can provide high resolution data while heart patients are performing normal daily activities.

The Greenville, SC, company is currently testing its Model 100 system, a portable unit that can be carried by heart patients to determine how their heart activity changes in response to the events they face in everyday situations. "We enable clinicians to get the same quality ECG when patients are walking as when they are supine in the office," says Marko N. Kostic, R&D systems engineer at Recom.

The firm's Model 100 provides up to 48 hours of real-time heart monitoring. That lets internists and cardiologists more accurately detect cardiac abnormalities or changes that occur during daily activities. It also lets doctors collect cardiac data over long time periods to create a base that they can compare with future cardiac tests.

The compact system is a 12-lead ambulatory recorder that provides ECG data equivalent in clinical quality to 12-lead modalities such as resting ECG and exercise stress testing.

"When you do an ECG in an ambulatory environment, most data is corrupted. There are problems with other technologies because of the noise levels from the patient and the environment," says Budimir Drakulic, CTO at Recom.

The device, which has received 510(k) clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, is now going through extensive testing at the Electrophysiology Laboratories at Cleveland Clinic Heart Center. It has also been tested at Duke University.

The company has tested the unit in other areas to make sure that the ambient environment does not create noise that can't be filtered out. "We even ran tests on race car drivers, putting a big box on their belt. There's a lot of difference in the environment when you're monitoring a driver sitting in the pit and running an ECG when he's going through a turn at 220 mph," Drakulic says.

The key to capturing heart rate information in an uncontrolled environment is to minimize noise. The body creates some noise, as does the movement of the device. That's compounded by interference from the environment, which can be harsh, particularly when the patient is near a device such as a vacuum cleaner or microwave oven.

That's compounded by the fairly low amplitude of ECG signals. "An ECG is only in the range of a couple hundred Hertz," Drakulic says.

Recom designers chose to eschew the normal way of eliminating noise.

"The whole industry in ECG amplifies the signal, then uses digital filtering to clean up the data. But when you do digital filtering afterward to remove noise, you also remove parts of data that have clinical significance," Kostic says.

Instead, they eliminate extraneous signals early in the process. "We have carefully designed the front end, with analog filtering at the beginning," Kostic says.

That approach makes it possible to best determine the difference between desirable signals and unwanted noise, something that's more difficult to do with digital processing later in the processing chain. "You get the best signal to noise ratio in the analog domain. Then we do processing of signals that are of interest to the physician," Drakulic says.

The difference for doctors making a critical diagnosis is significant. "Our data differs by up to 150 microvolts, which is the level physicians use to determine if things are normal or not," Drakulic says.

Another goal was to make the unit small enough so heart patients could carry units around for hours at a time. That requires using compact semiconductors that integrate many functions. "The Texas Instruments' MSP430 microcontroller lets us do things in a small package," Drakulic says. That microcontroller has analog to digital converters that have from 12 to 16 bit resolution, he adds.

The chip also helps extend battery life. "The MSP430 is designed for low power. It's got a wide operating voltage, from 1.8 to 3.6V," says Juan Alvarez, MSP430 marketing manager for TI. The chip is also designed so that any or all of the on-chip modules can go into sleep modes whenever possible. "It's got intelligent peripherals that can work by themselves so you can shut off power to the CPU," Alvarez says.

Drakulic notes that the technique can be extended into other types of measurements. That may occur quickly once final certification is received. Now that the company is gearing up for production, the board of directors has recently added marketing and manufacturing managers, many from Johnson & Johnson, to take the company to the next level.