An Insider's View of Analog Artistry at electronica 2018

December 13, 2018

Tom Bui By: Tom Bui
Principal Member of the Technical Staff, Core Products Group, Maxim Integrated 


While Maxim has been participating in the bi-annual electronica trade show in Munich, Germany, for the past 10 years, this year was the first that the company's Core Products Group attended. The Core Products Group is responsible for many of the company's high-performance analog ICs.

I arrived on Sunday, November 11, and was taken aback by the sheer size and scale of this electronics industry show. There were 18 halls filled with manufacturers of all types. Construction workers were everywhere building up what looked to be an entire city. I couldn't believe that everything would be completed within a few days, it just didn't seem possible. But by the third day, everything was ready for the show.

The construction of the Maxim booth was impressive. It was a two-story structure complete with a private meeting room, press area, and a full kitchen. The Maxim booth was unique in that it was the only booth with a black and beige theme, in a sea of white and neon-colored booths.

On the first day attendee traffic was light, something we expected. This gave the demo presenters more time to spend with each attendee who stopped by. It was a good opportunity to understand what the attendees wanted to learn from our demos. It also allowed us to adjust our presentations to the attendees. Altogether, the Core Products Group showcased five demos at the show.

Here I am guiding electronica attendees through our nanoPower watch demo.

Here I am guiding electronica attendees through our nanoPower watch demo.

I demonstrated our nanoPower watch, which is comprised of four ultra-low-power nanoPower ICs: the MAX16140 supervisor IC, which monitors the battery voltage and resets the system when the voltage drops below a set voltage threshold; the MAX17223 boost converter, which features a true shutdown capability that consumes less than one nanoampere; the MAX31875 temperature sensor; and a real-time clock (RTC) with a square wave output. Each of these devices either operates at or has a quiescent current or shutdown current in the nanoPower range (less than one microampere). The point of the nanoPower watch demo was to show how these underlying components enable designers to create and add features to their applications without increasing their application footprint and while reducing power consumption.

nanoPower watch demo

nanoPower watch demo

The second demo from our group focused on the future of force-touch technology, featuring our MAX11261 24-bit delta-sigma analog-to-digital converter (ADC) with I2C interface. With this highly integrated MAX11261 device, designers can integrate button-like features into applications that are completely sealed. For example, imagine a smooth metal panel with just markings for buttons. Using this ADC, designers can create applications that are able to measure and react to the pressure applied to an area of a metal sheet, while consuming minimal power.

MAX11261 force-touch demo

MAX11261 force-touch demo

The third demo from our group was all about continuous power, featuring our MAX38888 Continua reversible buck/boost regulator for backup power applications. This device manages all aspects of charging and discharging secondary battery power sources to maintain power in a system when the main power source has been removed. This device will also preserve critical system functions should the secondary battery run low. All these functions are integrated into a single IC, with minimal external discreet components required.

MAX38888 Continua reversible buck/boost regulator for backup power applications

MAX38888 Continua reversible buck/boost regulator for backup power applications

The fourth electronica demo focused on reliability and robustness. At the center of this was our MAX13054A CAN transceiver IC. In this demo we demonstrated our IC's robustness by running a small network and zapping the CAN IC with a high-voltage electrostatic discharge (ESD) event. To show this, we had two boards—one featuring the MAX13054A to communicate with the second board, which ran a carousel. When we zapped our device with the ESD event, the carousel paused momentarily and then continued to run, demonstrating that the ESD protection on our device worked. In the second part of the demo, we swapped out our device with a competitive IC featuring less ESD protection. When this alternate device was zapped, the chip died, ending communication with the board running the carousel and causing the carousel to stop running. This really showed why industrial applications need a high level of protection.

A carousel (left) demonstrates the reliability of our MAX13054A CAN transceiver IC with ESD protection (right).

A carousel (left) demonstrates the reliability of our MAX13054A CAN transceiver IC with ESD protection (right).

The fifth, and one of the most impressive, demos was the sub-1GHz transmitter demo. This demo showed how the MAX41463/4 transmitter can maximize the range of low-current wireless designs. From this demo, designers learned how they can create a home security system and integrate a number of different sensors into their system. Two of the main features of this device include frequency hopping and 16dBm boost power.

Dave Dwelley, VP and CTO; Marty Stoehr, applications manager; and Ajay Kuckreja, senior principal member of the technical staff, product definition are ready to welcome attendees to the various Maxim demos showcasing high-performance analog ICs.

Dave Dwelley, VP and CTO; Marty Stoehr, applications manager; and Ajay Kuckreja, senior principal member of the technical staff, product definition are ready to welcome attendees to the various Maxim demos showcasing high-performance analog ICs.

Now, as proud as I am of my group's different demos, there was one that Maxim presented that really draws in the crowds. This was our famous robotic soccer ball factory demo, in its second electronica and updated with our latest Industry 4.0 technologies, including the Go-IO industrial internet of things (IIoT) reference design. This automated factory inflates, tests, and customizes each ball, showcasing in the process how adaptive manufacturing works. It's really great to give the attendees something they can take home to their kids. And something that their families can use for a lifetime. As the show closed, I found out that the soccer ball demo was going to be donated to the University College Dublin (UCD) to help students gain a hands-on understanding of the principles of Industry 4.0 and the IIoT. It's great to hear that even after we're done with the demo, it will continue to help kids for years to come.

As the show ended, everything was taken down as quickly as it was set up. I'm looking forward to the next electronica in 2020. I'm sure it will be just as exciting—if not more.