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Articles from 2003 In September

Exploring GPS

Exploring GPS

Many parents use pagers and cell phones to keep track of their kids. But who would make a kid carry a GPS receiver just to know where they are at all times? Many parents do just that, using a watch-like Personal Locator from Wherify Wireless. Today's small GPS receivers make such devices possible. To track youngsters, an adult logs into the Wherify website and "pings" the watch, which replies with its location. But instead of getting longitude and latitude information, the site superimposes the watch's location on a street map or on a high-resolution satellite image that shows buildings and neighborhoods. A kid-proof lock keeps the watch where it belongs so it can't get left behind at a friend's house while the kids scoot to the local arcade.

The point is today's GPS receivers bear little resemblance to the older bulky devices used in vehicles. In fact, manufacturers make GPS receivers available in everything from chips, to modules, to pocket-size, all-in-one devices. And those don't include the standard devices sold to consumers.

For most applications, the modules offer a nice tradeoff between ease of use, size and cost, and they easily drop into new designs. GPS modules provide an easy way to add position, speed, or timing capabilities to a product. Many manufacturers offer these modules, so users can choose from a spectrum of features.

Vendors also sell development kits that let designers quickly set up a GPS receiver. To get started in GPS, development kits include a GPS module, an antenna, software, cables, and any needed power connections. A typical module communicates position and time information as ASCII characters sent to a computer's serial port. Unless you work with a group of talented engineers who have experience with GHz-frequency circuits, always start with a kit rather than a basic module. To make sure a kit operates properly, vendors include the shielding and power conditioning needed to guarantee success.

"A development kit becomes a golden standard," says Joel Avey, director of marketing, Trimble Navigation." It runs right out of the box, so later you can disassemble it and use the components in a prototype. Then if something in the prototype doesn't work properly, you can rebuild the original kit and check out the GPS components. This lets you see what differs between the kit and the prototype. You also can use the kit as a test bed for new software, different antennas, and so on." Prices for kits start at several hundred dollars and go up to several thousand, depending on the features and capabilities of the module they include. Module prices can go as low as $30 each in OEM quantities.

Standardized Sentences

Data comes out of a GPS module in a format standardized by the National Marine Electronics Association in its NMEA-0183 document. A typical module produces 8-bit ASCII characters at 4,800 bps, so even a dumb terminal can display a GPS module's serial-port data. But don't expect to see a module's messages directly print longitude and latitude. Instead, a module produces information in standardized "sentences," such as this one below, which carries timing data: $GPZDA,161530.5,09,7,2003,,*93&CR>&LF>

By following the standard, programmers can write code to extract the time and date from the string above: 1615 hours, 30.5 seconds, July 9, 2003.

Each manufacturer documents the sentences and data formats its receivers produce. If you plan to use a GPS module to its fullest, get the complete NMEA-0183 document.

In addition to the NMEA-formatted information, manufacturers often provide a second serial port that puts out "raw" GPS information engineers can process as they wish. But this information-pseudo range, phase data, receiver time, and so on-varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Trimble Navigation, for example, lets users choose either a binary data stream or a proprietary ASCII stream on modules that include a second serial port.

Precise Timing

Although many GPS applications require only position information, GPS satellites also provide time data, accurate to within a few nanoseconds. Many cell-phone services, for example, use GPS timing information to synchronize and interleave transmit and receive operations and to generate call-duration bills. But some timing applications involve unusual measurements.

Pop-Up: When it pops to th esurface, this plankton mimic will get a position fix from GPS satellites and then descend back to its operating depth. The unit saves position daa so researches can track plankton paths in the ocean.

The Met Office in the UK's Ministry of Defence uses precise GPS timing to help it track lightning strikes. Seven monitoring stations, located from Iceland and Finland to Gibraltar and Cypress, detect the unique radio signals produced by lightning. By calculating the arrival-time differences between the signals recorded at the seven stations, and at a central UK station, the Met Office can locate lightning activity. Accuracy ranges from 5 km in the UK to about 100 km at a distance of 8,000 to 10,000 km from the network of stations. Although each receiver relies on a local atomic clock for accurate time data, all clocks synchronize to GPS time every 10 minutes.

Accurate timing occurs only at a fixed position. A fixed timing receiver will gather information over, say, 24 hours, during which it hones its position information and determines satellite timing with great accuracy. But you can't get such precise timing from a mobile GPS receiver. Most GPS modules do end up moving from place to place, often in unusual environments.

Some people want to know where a device has been more than where it is. Tom Wolcott, a professor at North Carolina State University, monitors plankton flow in oceans using a "plankton mimic;" essentially a drifting bottle that moves with the plankton. In its latest version, the mimic-an evacuated fire-extinguisher bottle filled with electronics-will monitor sea conditions at the plankton's drifting depth. (The fire-extinguisher bottle can descend to about 100m.) Every few hours the bottle will swim to the surface, get a "fix" from GPS satellites, and quickly descend back to its drift depth. Early models used an ultrasonic "pinger," but Wolcott and his team had to constantly follow and monitor these devices. The GPS modules will let the mimics operate on their own for long periods. Submerging a GPS antenna shouldn't pose a problem: Wolcott plans to coat the mimic's antenna with wax to resist the effects of salt water.

Antenna Basics

Because antennas "gather" weak satellite signals, they deserve special attention. Trimble Navigation's Joel Avey suggests engineers use an active antenna-one that incorporates a low-noise amplifier (LNA) right in the antenna. Such an antenna improves the signal-to-noise ratio of a GPS system, and it boosts the weak signals a receiver must process. Doug Baker, an applications engineer at Navman says designers need to properly feed power to LNAs. The power travels to the antenna through the same conductor that carries GPS signals to a receiver. "Engineers need to ensure they have a low-noise power source, not just the output from a noisy switching power supply," says Baker. He also notes power connected to an LNA through a GPS module should include some form of current limiting. Without it, a short circuit across the antenna's co-axial cable may destroy the GPS module.

Module vendors and third parties also offer passive antennas-those without a built-in LNA-and they offer antennas packaged and ready to use, or unpackaged for designers to incorporate within a product. The packaged antennas offer an advantage-the manufacturer knows they'll work. Unpackaged antennas rely on the designers' expertise to position and shield them properly.

Avey of Trimble Navigation says that no matter what antenna engineers choose, they should make sure it gets oriented toward satellites. He has seen at least one application in which designers installed an antenna upside down. "Antennas should include a good ground plane. And a shield between the antenna and the receiver will help prevent a receiver from jamming itself."

Tim McCarthy, director of GPS products at Motorola cautions against buying inexpensive antennas. After all, a receiver isn't any good if you can't get a good signal into it. In his opinion, the hollow-tube helix antennas work better than flat patch antennas. He also cautions engineers to test antennas in various orientations because there's no guarantee end users will follow instructions.

Navman's Baker says, "A GPS antenna should match the characteristics of the GPS receiver it connects to. You don't overpower a receiver with too much signal, nor 'starve' it with a low-gain antenna. Good RF engineering techniques are a must."

Up, Up, and Away

Although GPS receivers provide precise position data, not all applications require that sort of information. To gather weather data, for example, a hydrogen- or helium-filled balloon lifts a Vaisala radiosonde to an altitude of about 20 miles. During its ascent, the sonde logs barometric pressure, relative humidity, and air temperature, and it transmits these measurements to a ground station about once a second. Sondes equipped with a GPS module measure only the Doppler shift of GPS satellites' signals to get a velocity measurement. A full-blown GPS module would cost too much for an expendable sonde, which costs a few hundred dollars. Coupled with time measurements, the velocity data produces a position track for the sonde. Because the sonde starts its flight at a known location, it's easy to trace its travel. (Velocity data includes speed and bearing.)

Doppler-shift information has Earth-bound applications, too. Many auto manufacturers rely on a Racelogic VBOX to log vehicle-performance data. Like a GPS-equipped radiosonde, the unit uses the Doppler shift in the signals from four satellites to triangulate and measure velocity. Integrating the velocity data yields the distances driven. But, unlike a radiosonde, the VBOX does rely on standard GPS information for latitude and longitude, and it can supply heading, height, lateral acceleration, longitudinal acceleration, vertical velocity, and radius of a turn, updated 20 times/sec. Unlike earlier optical-, microwave-, and radar-based tracking and timing systems, the VBOX requires no calibration, and a novice can set it up in about three minutes.

Block Interference

Engineers who want to use a GPS module can get lulled into thinking all they need is power, an antenna, and a nearby computer to get useful data. That setup may work on a lab bench, but not in a real-world setting. Motorola's Tim McCarthy compares the power in a GPS signal to standing in Chicago and observing a 100-W light bulb in Japan. So to operate properly, GPS receivers require as quiet an electrical environment as possible. Even a slight bit of interference or attenuation can prevent a GPS receiver from finding satellite signals. Thus, engineers who want to include GPS capabilities in a product must pay careful attention to the design of low-noise circuits that surround a GPS module. And they must keep any nearby radio-frequency (RF) signals to a minimum.

Brad Wiseman, the OEM sales manager at Gramin, recently observed a CD player shut down a nearby GPS receiver. The faulty player swamped the receiver with high-order harmonic RF energy. Wiseman cautions that GPS systems won't work in every location. Some locations suffer from extraneous RF radiation that inadvertently-but effectively-blocks GPS signals.

"To get good results, you have to invest in good RF engineering," says Wiseman.

Motorola's Tim McCarthy says engineers who plan to place other RF equipment, such as a cell phone or pager, in a system with a GPS receiver must ensure transmitters don't interfere with the GPS receiver. He suggests system designers try to avoid receiving GPS signals when another circuit transmits. Baker of Navman agrees. He recently saw a design in which an RF-modem's transmitter signal passed right next to a GPS receiver-with ill effect. "Poor RF-signal routing and noisy power sources are the two problems we see most often," says Baker.

Cameron Henderson, an application engineer with NovAtel says people need to consider where they plan to use a GPS receiver. In one case, racetrack banking tilted cars' antennas away from satellite signals at several places. The cars couldn't "see" satellites. At other times, metal fences and barriers reflected satellite signals and caused cars' receivers to see satellites in the wrong places, which produced incorrect locations. Eventually engineers overcame these problems, but they're typical of what people run into. Henderson adds, "GPS receivers rely on line-of-sight communications, so anything that blocks a signal degrades or blocks satellite signals." He also notes that due to the inclination of the GPS satellite orbits, coverage beyond about 80 degrees north and south latitude is spotty. The Russian GLONASS (GLObal NAvigation Satellite System) satellites orbit the Earth at higher inclinations and offer better coverage over far northern and southern latitudes. But you'll need a GLONASS receiver to acquire their signals.

Joel Avey at Trimble Navigation stresses that engineers often think a GPS receiver will work in every location and under every condition. But it doesn't. Avey says, "With a clear view of the sky, a GPS receiver should work more than 90% of the time. Will it track you in a shopping mall or as you drive through a tunnel? Maybe, but you can't count on it. So if you need a GPS module that will operate deep in a multi-story parking garage or in a mine, talk with vendors to learn how they can help with an application."

Vendors have experience using GPS modules in many situations and can offer suggestions and application information for specific problems. Because vendors adjust GPS modules to cover "average" operating conditions, they have the capability to adjust designs or parameters for unusual operating conditions. Module buyers should always ask the actual operating conditions under which data-sheet specifications such as resolutions, operating speeds, and times to acquire satellites, actually apply. Don't expect "data-sheet" performance-if any-sitting in a subway tunnel.

Power Trip

Power Trip

Professor Thomas Ortmeyer is working to improve power quality of the Navy's electric propulsion system, which may potentially be scaled down for other uses.

Present Position: Professor, Department Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Clarkson University

Degrees: B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, Iowa State University

Area of Research: Power quality, power distribution, and power electronics in ac transmissions, shipboard systems, and industrial-size systems

Most recent research? I am working with the Navy on a variable voltage, variable frequency bus that couples the generator to the motor with no power electronics. The motor drives the propellers, then couples to the ship bus to run everything from the ovens to the radar system. It has a lot of potential to increase fuel efficiency and decrease weight and volume. I am also looking at common mode paths for the converters in order to meet both the military standard that limits current and the electromagnetic standard that limits frequency. One student is researching if the propulsion system can be scaled down for use in hybrid cars.

Why power management? It wasn't a straight career path. Between grad school, IEEE, and Clarkson, I have been involved with the control and protection of power systems, harmonics, and power electronics-the three areas of power management.

Impact of power management on design engineers: The power quality assessment tools I work on are made to improve design engineers' ability to do good design. For example, in a harmonics system, the goal of design engineers is to reduce the number of iterations from several thousand to several hundred. With power management, we are able to tell grid designers which system configurations need to be looked at.

Greatest challenge in working in power management? To keep projects somewhere in the middle ground between pure theory and pure application. Some projects are too theoretical and the application potential is just not there.

Contact Ortmeyer at [email protected]

The land of chance

The land of chance

An improving economy and growing end-user confidence will boost demand in Europe's electric drives market, valued at $1.5 billion, says a study by Frost & Sullivan ( With robust growth in the ac drives market-the key sector of European electric drives industry-and a rebound in the German market, the study also projects the overall market to grow to $2 billion by 2009.

Zap 'em

Zap 'em

Researchers in the U.K. and Germany have succesfully demonstrated the use of lasers to tackle radioactive waste. The researchers used a 360J laser pulse-with a duration of 0.7 picoseconds and an intensity of 5 x 1020 W/cm2-that helped form gamma rays as it ionized a gold target behind which was a sample of nuclear waste. Transmutation occurred when the gamma rays ejected a neutron from an iodine-129 nucleus to leave behind iodine 128, whose half-life is only 25 minutes, compared with 15.7 million years of iodine 129.

LabVIEW Users Blog NI Week

LabVIEW Users Blog NI Week

Blogfest: Power LabVIEW user Michael Alvalotis busy at NI Week.

"The presentation by Brian Powell (creating LV add-ons) was interesting. He actually revealed a lot about the future features of LabVIEW without actually saying anything . . ." And so blogged power LabVIEW user Michael Aivaliotis in the first-ever web log about NI Week-the annual event in August hosted by National Instruments for users of its software and instrumentation products. In a way, it was a no-brainer for Aivaliotis, who already hosts a web log ( for the LabVIEW user's group LAVA (which stands for LabVIEW Advanced Virtual Architects Group). He got the idea to set up a blog exclusively for NI Week ( after realizing that year after year he looked forward to coming to NI Week and connecting up with other power users and sharing information. So he launched the blog in early August, inviting other users to post their messages and also loading it with all kinds of information, like instructions on how to download the conference schedule to a PDA, and plenty of details on "after hours" events. He also used the blog to promote and drive traffic to a user group meeting taking place during NI Week. He was the guest speaker. The meeting drew about fifty power users interested in what he had to say about new features in LV7, like dynamic events. As for the success of his blog, he estimates that "thousands" of engineers visited it before and during NI Week. As web logs gain in popularity, presumably because they offer a different take on events, expect more to pop up around engineering-oriented events. And stay tuned for next year's "Unofficial NI Blog."

Hybrid 16-bit Controller Hits 60 MIPS

Hybrid 16-bit Controller Hits 60 MIPS

A 16-bit microcontroller from Motorola has DSP and flash memory, giving it enough performance to compete with low-end 32-bit chips. The 60 MIPS core is designed for automotive applications and motor/motion control.

The line retains the low cost of 16-bit chips with base versions priced at under $10 in quantity purchases. The 56F8300 family also claims a number of tools that should simplify programming.

The high-speed, low-cost system-on-a-chip core is designed to hit a level between the power of today's 16-bit ICs and more costly 32-bit architectures. "If a chip with 10-30 MIPS won't do the job, this will take you up to 60 MIPS," says Scott Lynch, Operations Manager at Motorola's DSP Operation ( in Tempe, AZ.

The line offers from 32 to 256 Kbytes of flash memory, providing fast access to data. "The line runs at a sustained rate of 60 MIPS from flash. It's the fastest flash on the market," Lynch says.

One of the key target markets is the booming automotive industry, where the number of microcontrollers is growing substantially. The typical car currently has around 20 microcontrollers, while high-end vehicles are closing in on 100.

"Half our business will be in automotive," Lynch says. He adds that in automotive, as in other applications, "flash is an enabler." The peripherals that can be added to the core processor include a pair of CAN bus interfaces, addressing the trend to link control units together.

An operating temperature of -40 to 125C meets the extreme environmental demands in the automotive field. Operating temperatures are a big factor for flash circuitry, so parts going into autos often have less flash memory than chips going into less severe consumer products, Lynch adds. The flash also has security features so code can't be stolen.

The core has enough processing capability to do some tasks without requiring external sensors, which can reduce cost and simplify production. In a seat motor or other positioner, the chips can count the rotation of a shaft and monitor its position, eliminating sensors often used to determine position.

The device has a number of additional peripherals developed for use in motor and motion control applications. It has a pair of six-output PWM cores, as well as a quad time module and two quadrature decoders.

Safety features include an automatic shutdown in the PWM functions, so that if sensors show problems with a motor, it will be shut down without delays that can occur with some chips if they have software interruptions. An on-chip temperature sensor also permits graceful shutdown if the die gets too hot. Write protection registers also help during unexpected shutdowns.

Functions of the Harvard architecture DSP include a multiplier accumulator with single and dual parallel move instructions, no overhead hardware looping, and nested interrupt with hardware priority.

The line is designed to let engineers move freely up and down the performance level, using similar software for all versions. Code is compatible with the first generation 56800 architecture. It uses Code Warrior, which also works with Motorola's HCS12 and HC08 processor lines. Processor Expert, an auto code generator, will help speed development time while giving engineers the freedom to upgrade products and use the same code for different performance levels throughout their product lines.

"Once designers are familiar with Code Warrior and Processor Expert, they can easily develop and move code from one member of the line to another," Lynch says. There are currently six members in the line, with nine more coming next year.

Rosy picture

Rosy picture

IC unit shipment in 2003 will grow by 15%, says market research firm IC Insights ( in its 2003 McClean forecast report. The firm cites electronic system production growth as the main reason, forecasting that the rise will reach 7%, thanks to a PC upgrade cycle after two years of decline. Cyclical model of the chip industry and strong recovery of the dollars are also favorable factors. Other projections by IC Insights include:

  • 10% increase in electronic system production in 2004, spurred by a 3.9% global GDP growth.

  • Fab capacity utilization will reach 87% by the end of 2003 and 92% in 2004 due to growing unit volumes and the closure of older facilities.

  • Semiconductor capital spending will increase 10% in 2003. Most spending will come from 300-mm wafer fabs and equipment.

Bus Switches Tackle Diverse Requirements

Bus Switches Tackle Diverse Requirements

Texas Instruments is strengthening its presence in the data communications and networking arenas, unveiling three bus switch families. These products address various industry trends, working with multiple voltage levels, different signaling standards, and faster speeds.

TI is now making a major push in this area, planning to unveil more than 100 parts over the next year or so. TI expects the market for these switches to grow by about 10% in the coming year, rising from around $100 million, or about a tenth of the total market for CMOS logic devices.

One of the new families, CB3T, takes aim at the move to lower voltage devices. The industry is rapidly moving to sub-5V devices, which are a small part of current bus switch shipments.

"Five-volt switches account for 75-80% of the market, but the 3V and lower segment is growing," says David Hoover, worldwide product marketing manager for TI's Standard Linear and Logic Group (, Sherman, TX.

The voltage translator parts operate at 3.3 or 2.5V and support systems with 5V TTL, 3.3V LVTTL, and 2.5V CMOS switching standards. It's one of the first chips that translates signals between these various levels, making it simpler for engineers to intermix the different technologies. That's expected to become increasingly important as heat in large systems and power consumption in portable gear prompts engineers to move to lower voltage ICs.

"This will become more important as system designers try to support mixed signals operating at different voltages," Hoover says.

High performance systems like >>switches, routers, and hubs are the target for the CB3Q family. The parts have very low and flat on-state resistance and 0 to 5V rail-to-rail switching, as well as low input/output capacitance, so signal integrity remains high. "When you're running a fast system, rise and fall times are narrow, so any wiggle or edge roll off can be catastrophic," Hoover says. In fact, propagation delays are low enough (250 picoseconds) to not be a problem.

The general-purpose CBT-C components offer -2V undershoot protection, which is critical in environments where signal reflections and undershoot are important.

The families all come in a variety of packages, from shrink small outline packages (SSOP) down to very fine pitch ball grid arrays. They also use TI's leadless NanoStar technology. "Packaging is a differentiator. NanoStar is 70% smaller than other logic packages," Hoover says.




Sun 24.1-inch LCD Flat Display. Are you and your desk buried in paperwork and other stuff? The Sun 24.1-inch LCD display promises not to take up any more space. It sits on seven-inch stilt-like supports so you can open a magazine or shove your computer or keyboard under it. It has a tilt range from -5 degrees to +30 degrees so you won't strain your neck. The 30-lb unit is a lot to balance on stilts, but engineers used a VESA mount that holds on to the monitor with screws on the base of the frame (shown here). An open grill on the back vents heat. ( Enter 582


Touch International Digital Ink Touch Screen. The term "form fitting" usually applies to Lycra clothing. Touch International, though, applies it to its new touch screen, which reportedly fits whatever it goes with, like a tight glove. The company won't specify the flexible, transparent material for the screen, or where it gets it. But the material is not like the rigid flat surfaces of many touch panels, which require users to actually touch a special sensor within the screen to get any action. With Digital Ink, users can touch whatever surface covers the screen, like the molded plastic of a Game Boy or the window glass in a store display, to activate the sensor. Engineers can specify glass or plastic sensors in thickness ranges of 0.36 to 50.8 mm. One limitation is its size-6.4 inches diagonally. The company says it eventually will pump up the product to about 15 inches, increasing the possible applications. ( Enter 583


The Apple HD Cinema Display. Apple's new 23-inch, thin-film transistor active-matrix display gives you room for viewing two different documents at once. At 19.2-inches tall, it's about an inch shorter than its direct competitor, the Sun 24-inch display, yet it's wider by about the same margin (24.2 vs. 23.15 inches). Both support 16.7-million colors and 1920 x 1200 pixels, but the Apple is lighter by four lbs (25.3 vs. 29.7 lbs), which is interesting since the Sun display stands on stilts rather than being one big box. Which to choose depends on whether you want more space on your desk (there's room for papers and other items between the stilts supporting the Sun), what platform you like (Power Mac G4 vs. Sun), or how much sensitive electronic equipment you sit next to. Apple says its display emits zero electromagnetic output. ( Enter 584

Motion Control/Power Transmission

Motion Control/Power Transmission

Control solenoids

Control emergency exits, locks

The Mecalectro(TM) linear and rotary solenoid line includes shotbolts and holding/carrying electromagnets. Linear solenoids are available in various types and sizes for stroke lengths, force capabilities, and duty cycles. Shotbolts lock doors and other mechanisms using power-off or power-on functions. Applications for solenoids include process automation, position control, locking devices, and mechanical signaling. SKF Motion Enter 585

Mounted bearing units

Thermoplastic or metal housings

Bearing units designed with corrosion-resistant, coated, or stainless steel insert bearings serve food processing applications such as beverage, poultry, meat, and fruit and vegetable uses. Features include maintenance-free, dual-sealing systems and ZMaRC(R) coating for cast iron units. Marathon(R) bearings are available in pillow block housings, 2- or 4-bolt flanges, or tapped bases. Extreme duty and composites are available. MRC Bearing Enter 586

Fieldbus boxes

Integrate additional power sources

An IP67, very thin Fieldbus box permits distribution of power to several I/O modules. Separate power connections ensure that the sensitive electronics are separated from the sensor power. A short circuit cannot damage the intelligent electronics module. Power can be daisy-chained across several boxes. This product is available in networks including DeviceNet, Profibus, CANopen, and Ethernet. Beckhoff Automation LLC Enter 587

Conveyor drives

Stronger, longer life

Conveyor RollerDrives(R) feature belting that meets industry demands for faster, heavier, and higher-torque material handling applications, according to reports. Rubber, high-integrity grooved belts drive brush type and brushless RollerDrives, offering longer life than standard O-rings. Drives are used for conveyor speeds over 150 fpm and weights more than 300 lbs. Applications include parcel handling, food processing, and baggage handling. Interroll Corp., Enter 588

Brushless motor

Low noise, high speed

With no brushes to wear out, the EC 16 brushless motor is electronically commutated and produces minimal electrical noise. Neodymium magnets are used in three versions of the motor: sensorless, with Hall sensors, or with integrated electronics. The brushless, 16-mm motor weighs 58g and is 56-mm long. Features include 40W continuous output and 60,000 rpm maximum speed. Maximum continuous torque is 2.2 oz-inches. Maxon Precision Enter 589

Industrial encoders

2,000 variations available

Express Encoder(R) products include six popular models-four incremental and two absolute-and ship in two business days. Products include selected cable assemblies, accessories, and signal conditioners. Model H25 is shafted, HS25 is hollow-shafted, HS35 is hollow-shafted in incremental and absolute versions, and Model H20 is a shafted, incremented encoder. BEI Technologies Inc., Enter 590

Networking modules

Many configurations are available

A variety of networking solutions is available for PLCs, including the H0-ECOM Ethernet communications module, a DeviceNet slave module and a Profibus slave module. These devices are designed for use in industrial programmable networks and data systems. The Ethernet module is 10 Base T and uses a standard RJ45 connector for various protocols. The DeviceNet slave installs into an option card slot to collect and report all I/O data to a master. The Profibus slave can be configured to allocate up to 4 blocks of I/O or registered memory from the PLC to the master. AutomationDirect, Enter 591

Multiple toolholder system

Includes tray, attachment holes

Triplit toolholders allow three tools to be mounted in one turret station, each in a coolant ported pocket. Parts that previously needed rechucking can reportedly be machined in one operation. Triple toolholders reduce cycle and setup time, and free other stations for more setups. External coolant balls are provided, and optional tool pre-setters are available. Jotco Inc., Enter 592


High torque ratings are available

A series of dynamometers for testing electrical motors is available in very low torque ratings and speed ranges to 70,000 rpm. Features include optical speed sensors, torque measurement to 0.3% accuracy, and an optional sensor for accuracy to 0.1%. Applications include miniature motor testing for medical/dental equipment, vacuum systems, and toys. The dynamometer can be connected to the company's high-speed programmable controller, power analyzer, and dedicated software, resulting in a complete test system. Magtrol Inc., Enter 593

Mounting technology

Vibration resistance, switching accuracy

The MZ T6 and RZ T6 magnetic cylinder sensors are designed to offer vibration resistance and switching accuracy. Able to detect the position of pistons in pneumatic cylinders by sensing a ring magnet in the piston through housing wall, the products are optimized by the incorporating a new mounting system. The mounting bracket allows the entire length of the sensor to be pressed against the cylinder, along the floor of the mounting slot. The reported result is a stationary placement that prevents the sensor from being pulled out by its cable. SICK, Enter 594

Servo motors

Low vibration, high power density

Created for use in medical and surgical applications, the full autoclavable slotless-brushless dc motors reportedly have high power density and 90% efficiency. The motors are designed to have no RFI or EMI noise. Made of stainless steel components and available in sizes as small as .50 inch, the motors can be used in such medical applications as hand-held surgical instruments and pumps. Xtreme Energy Inc., Enter 595

Rotary encoder

Single LED and sensor

RCM15, a rotary optical encoder with commutation, combines brushless motor commutation pulses and incremental position feedback. Encoders are come with resolutions up to 2,048 lines and commutation for 4-, 6-, or 8-pole brushless motors. Features include an LED/sensor arrangement, built-in servo groove, and slide/gap mechanism. Renco Encoders Inc., Enter 596

Digital torque wrench

Automotive, quality control apps

The CTB digital torque wrench reportedly eliminates room for human error when checking the tightening condition of fasteners within a product. This is done by incorporating the company's patent-pending T-Point Retightening Torque Method. A green lamp/alarm is signaled when an operation is completed, and the wrench also offers interchangeable heads. Tohnichi America Inc., Enter 597


Eight current outputs in single location

The CL-300, a solid-state compact module, is designed to fit easily within mobile equipment for powering a variety of devices, including a starter and valve solenoids. Featuring customer configurable maximum current on each output, and NEMA 4-rated enclosures for off-road environments, the product can reportedly operate in temperatures ranging from -40 to 85C. With a non-volatile memory that stores configuration data, the product is not required to reconfigure each time the system is powered up. HED, Enter 598

Motor driver

Compact size

The re-design of the IB462H results in a smaller and more affordable model with a higher performance level than before. Improvements made reportedly increase the output current range to 0.1 to 2A, and the operating voltage to +48V dc. With a hybrid design, the bipolar half/full step driver measures a compact 1.2 x 2.4 x 0.28 inches. Products also come with a 2-year manufacturer's warranty. Intelligent Motion Systems Enter 599

Slotted brushless dc motors

Variable speed control

ELCOM ST(R) motors feature internal Hall sensor feedback for linear speed-torque characteristics. Available in four standard stack lengths-1/2, 1, 11/2, and 2 inches- the slotted brushless dc motors use high-energy neodymium-iron-boron magnets, and have reported speed of up to 800 rpm. With continuous torque output of up to 49 oz-inches, the motors are ideal for a variety of applications, including data storage, medical/biotech, automation, commercial aviation, and semiconductor. Pittman, Enter 600

Microstepping driver

Cost-effective with smooth motion

The R208 driver reportedly produces sinusoidal current waveforms for smooth motion. The microstepping resolution can be set from full, half, 1/4, or 1/8 step, and the 24V, 2A, bipolar product features optically isolated step, direction, and disable inputs. It also has built-in thermal shutdown and efficient current control features. Lin Engineering, Enter 601

Gas lifter springs

Long life, precise lifting

T2SL stock lifter gas springs replace air cylinders in parts lifting applications. Gas springs offer guidance and lift in one design, using a double tube that isolates the gas spring from side load. Lifters are adjustable, with a force range from 100-700 lbs. Features include a controlled return speed option, die-fluid resistance, and 2 million cycles between rebuilds. Gas springs reportedly run longer and require less maintenance than air cylinder assemblies. Hyson Products, Enter 602

Mezzanine card

Increases range of available devices

Designed as a solution for intelligent remote I/O in automation and instrumentation applications, the M-Module is a 16-bit processing unit with an intelligent Profibus DP Slave Interface that conforms to the Profibus DIN19245 standard. It has short circuit protection on the output with an optically isolated RS485 interface. Transmission ranges from 9.6 kbps to 12 Mbps are supported by the M79, and the processing unit has 512 kbytes of flash memory and 1 Mbyte of static random access memory. MEN Micro Inc., Enter 603


Displays data over wireless networks

The iPanel(TM) Series of web-enabled touchscreens reportedly has industry-leading resolution and brightness, and is able to automatically find and communicate with controllers on the network. It is available in five models with various dimensions, resolutions, and prices. With integrated hardware and software solutions, and allowing concurrent web/network access, the products include USB, serial, VGA, parallel, and Ethernet connectivity. Control Technology, Enter 604


Lowers installed costs

A pre-engineered, flexible system of operator interface, the DDC includes 22-mm operators, and local or remote I/O and main control that are reportedly customized for specific OEM applications. Composed of two components-a main display panel rated NEMA 4X and also local or remote plug-in Smart Interface Modules and system power supply-the product is designed for easy installation. It is ideal for a range of applications, including packaging, machine tool, waste handling, and material handling. BTR Controls Inc., Enter 605

Cast iron wheels

Various hub diameters available

V-groove precision bearing cast-iron wheels are designed to tow heavy loads on angle iron rails. Features include very low tractive resistance, rough service conditions, precision ball journal bearing, high capacity, and long durability. Wheels are available in 3-, 4-, 5-, 6-, and 8-inch diameters. Load capacities range from 450 to 2,000 lbs. Applications include construction of manufactured homes, mining, general construction, and processing plants. Revvo Caster Co., Enter 606


Connects to laptop or PC

The Microgage 2000 cylindrical alignment laser is designed for easy set up and use. With its hand-held digital display, the product is suited for aligning bores, rotating machinery, drive systems, and lathe collets. It is able to measure straight runs, flat surfaces, parallel rails, and align bores, and it is accurate to 0.0001 inch. The Microgage 2000 Alignment System will operate over a range of 80 ft and can be connected to a laptop or PC for recording readings and generating maintenance reports. Pinpoint Laser Systems, Enter 607

PC/104 card

Accepts various input parameters

The Navigator(R) -PC/104 intends to provide dedicated motion control features for brushed and brushless dc and step motors, including trajectory generation, servo loop closure, quadrature signal input, motor output signal generation, trace, and on-the-fly changes. Accepting input parameters such as position, velocity, acceleration, and jerk, the product generates the corresponding trajectory. A servo loop rate of 100 microsec/axis is provided, with 5.0 mcount/sec quadrature encoder input rate. Performance Motion Enter 608


Easy inertia matching

The LP line of economy planetary gearheads for general motion control has been expanded to include 7:1 single-stage and 70:1 two-stage gear ratios. Torques range from 46 to 2,566 inch-lbs, and units are available in NEMA sizes from 23 to 56. The new sizes also apply to the LPB series of LP gearbox and integrated belt pulley solutions, reportedly eliminating the need for a right angle gearbox and couplings. alpha gear drives Inc., Enter 609


Saves time, money, and labor

With a rotating lead screw design using a stainless steel acme lead screw that is directly in the motor's rotor, the size 34 hybrid external linear actuator replaced four different components - a motor, coupler, lead screw, and nut. It is available in resolutions ranging from 0.0127 to 0.127 mm per step, and it delivers thrust up to 500 lbs. The product is reportedly best suited for applications requiring precise positioning and rapid motion. Haydon Switch & Instrument Enter 610

Slider bed belt conveyer

May be shortened or lengthened

Model H-400 has standard lengths beginning at 7 ft and going up in 2-ft increments, with intermediate sections available in 6-, 8-, and 10-ft lengths. Sections can be added or subtracted using only hand tools. The product is available for a range of bed widths, and stands on "H" type supports. It's recommended for companies with changing requirements in conveyer systems. Bilt-Rite Conveyors Inc., Enter 611

Conveyor chains

Many shapes and sizes available

Industrial conveyor chains have light running transport rollers made of hardened steel, plastic or antistatic materials. Power and free conveyor chains require little or no maintenance and are permanently lubricated at the factory. Features include offset roller arrangements for support, a small minimum radius, and optimal load distribution with each pin bearing the load. Applications include warehouses, material flow systems, accumulators, and pallet/container/crate carriers. SKF Motion Technologies, Enter 612

Slim load cell

Longer life, cooler operation

The low-profile Slim Cell includes a low-friction bearing design and specially formulated lubricant for longer life and cooler running. The Slim Cell measures and monitors precise web tension in manufacturing and converting applications. For use in load cells that operate rotating shafts or dead shaft rollers, Slim Cell is reportedly effective where space is tight, web tension is low, and dust or corrosion is a problem. Cleveland Motion Enter 613

Panel PC

Various screens, chips available

The Panel PC, a line of control panel LCD monitors, ranges from 6.5- to 20-inch screen sizes, and offers four types of integrated computers. Features include full keyboard, disk drives, mouse ports, touch screen, touch pads, and data ports. Various motherboards, processors, and PC slots are available in combinations. Options include TwinCAT software, Fieldbus cards, PLC control packages, and upgradeable SDRAM. Beckhoff Automation LLC, Enter 614

Metric ball screws

Low profile, low cost

Featuring patented anti-backlash ball nut designs, the screws can be matched with low profile and anti-backlash nuts. They are German precision and available with either machined or unmachined ends; lengths extend up to 3m. The 16- and 25-mm diameter screws come with leads of 2.5, 5, 10, and 20 mm. The products are reportedly ideal for precision applications and where space is an issue. Techno Inc., Enter 615

Positioning stages

Optional servos, controllers

SV Series positioning stages offer travel lengths from 4-24 inches, loads to 1,000 lbs, accuracy to 0.0001 inch, and repeatability of same. Stages are made of anticorrosive aluminum and covers are included. Options include servo or stepper motors, controllers, ball or lead-screw drives, photo sensors, and mechanical switches. Each positioning stage is reportedly compact and stackable. Specialty Motions Inc., Enter 616

High-speed machining center

Improved rotational axis design

The HSM 600U high-speed machining center was developed for 5-axis machining of large work pieces. The company reports the highest quality surface finishes in work done on all axes. Features include liquid-cooled, direct drive motor; up to 360 rpm on the rotation axis; swivel range of +110 to -30 degrees ; and large clamping area. The integrated pallet magazine and pallet changer are optional. Mikron Bostomatic, Enter 617

Linear actuator

Eliminates gears and belts

The Duraplus(TM) linear actuator is designed for tight spaces and drop-in replacement for stepper motors. This motor reportedly offers extreme actuator control and efficiency, has a self-lubricated polymer nut, and has a stainless steel lead screw for increased life. Motors are available in NEMA 17 and 23 sizes with up to 50 lbs linear force or 200 lbs linear force, respectively. EADmotors, Enter 618

Servo drive

Obtains tight speed regulation

The Model M1224-BL servo drive accepts dc input voltages from 200-360V. This PWM servo amplifier features a continuous output current of 12A, peak output of 24A, adjustable peak, continuous current limiting, tachometer scaling, and built-in diagnostics. The units are shipped with protection against over-voltage, over-temperature, and ground faults. Options include drives, power supplies, servo motors, and encoders. Midwest Motion Enter 619

Ceramic ball bearings

Help eliminate damage, maintenance

Hybrid ceramic ball bearings are preferred over standard steel ball bearings because they prevent electrical arcing, resist wear, and run at higher speeds, and lower operating temperatures, the company claims. Silicon nitride balls running in steel rings are lighter, harder and more durable than all-steel products. These products are highly inelastic resulting in increased bearing stiffness and reduced deflection under loads. A wide range of bearing types is available. MRC Bearing Services, Enter 620

Food processing motors

Foot and footless mounting

Featuring a cast-iron frame and severe duty foundation, the W21(TM) food processing motor is available from 1-30 hp. Features include a two-part white epoxy paint, stainless steel shaft, and labyrinth taconite shaft seal. W21 motors are UL and CSA certified and offer Class F insulation. Each motor is constructed using double-sealed ball bearings, NPT threaded terminal box, and an IP55 watertight enclosure. WEG Electric Motors Enter 621

Pillow blocks

Clean lines, dimensional stability

Aluminum pillow block and housing flange assemblies feature self-aligning bearings. Other features include a 5-degree static alignment capability that eliminates machining and assembly; aluminum housings with controlled dimensional stability; and design flexibility. The line includes self-aligning needle rollers, Teflon-impregnated bronze, and oilite bronze bearings. Shafts are available in inch and metric sizes. Spyraflo Inc. Enter 622