Electrostatic discharge (ESD) has been causing problems for a long time. It has been the culprit in many late or failed product releases and is even suspected as the cause of the Hindenburg crash in 1937. Fortunately, ESD in today’s electronic designs won’t cause large explosions like it can with volatile substances like Hydrogen. However, the likelihood of an ESD related malfunction in your electronic designs will likely increase in the coming years. We have a similar situation for slower transients like surge pulses.
As semiconductors get smaller, maintaining signal integrity becomes more difficult as subsystems are squished together. As devices transfer more data to and from multiple sources through multiple systems, there is also more potential for electromagnetic interference (EMI) issues. For example, a smartphone can transfer data through 4G, WiFi, Bluetooth, and USB. To make matters more difficult, many devices are also incorporating Zigbee, Thread, and other wireless protocols in addition to BLE/Bluetooth 5. Electronic designs are incorporating more and more systems into smaller and smaller packages, and that pattern will likely continue for the foreseeable future.
Protection and filtering solutions are helpful for all electronic designs, but we’ve highlighted three budding industries where it could be especially important below.
The Industrial IoT (IIoT)
According to ABI research, the Industrial Internet of Things will be adding an additional 13 million wired and wireless connections to the 53 million that are there already. IIoT systems are complex and have a lot of data and power being transferred. Just like a failing subsystem in a device can cause an entire device to fail, the failure of an individual device in the assembly line can stall production until it is fixed or replaced.
With IIoT systems being distributed over whole manufacturing lines rather than being concentrated in well-protected cabinets, these systems must be able to withstand transients like ESD and surge pulses while still reliably sending their data.
With so many devices working together, ESD can be devastating to production. While the cost of replacing and repairing individual devices is relatively inexpensive, the opportunity cost of falling behind on production can derail a manufacturing company’s plans for the near future.
IIoT factories require clean data transmission for the robots to communicate and work efficiently.
Automotive IoT and Autonomous Vehicles
Newer vehicles already feature a lot of IoT connections. The need for reliable connectivity will become exponentially more important when autonomous cars hit the road. Right now, a malfunction in a car or fleet truck’s IoT systems has relatively minimal consequences like not taking the optimal route, being late for a delivery, or miscalculating a fuel budget. With self-driving vehicles, a significant malfunction could be deadly.
The dangers of malfunction in self-driving vehicles are two-fold: autonomous vehicles must transfer the data collected by their sensors to navigate safely and vehicles must communicate their intent with each other to avoid traffic-based collisions. A lot of data transmission is required for these calculations and dependable hardware is crucial for facilitating this.
Autonomous vehicles process and transfer a lot of data. Dependable hardware is needed to keep these systems running.
Smartphones, Tablets, and Laptops with USB-C
While most IoT designs are going for lower power, smartphones are a peculiar case because they need to balance low power applications with faster charging and data transfer rates. Many smartphone manufacturers are making the leap to USB Type-C, which can transfer up to 100 watts and up to 10 Gigabits per second. This is a lot of power squeezed into a small device, making the risk of surge damage high.
Efficient protection and filtering solutions make the life of smartphone designers easier: Surge protection devices, which can handle high-energy pulses on a small footprint by allowing a small and efficient protection strategy. ESD protection devices, which provide efficient protection for the latest, sensitive transceivers while being designed to let their signal pass. This efficient ESD protection technology can also be combined with EMI filters to minimize interference with wireless data transmissions.
Frequencies in mobile devices can get very crowded.
Emphasizing Protection and Filtering at the Component Level
The need for protection and filtering solutions is moving from the device and circuit levels to the levels of individual components. There are many ways for engineers to reduce ESD, surge, and EMI in designs, and having components made to reduce such disturbances will hopefully make their jobs easier.
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