you’ve ever wondered why people tend to avoid BGA, it isn’t only the cost associated with multi-layer PCBs, it’s also because it’s impossible to inspect them after they have been soldered to way you would a QFP chip for solder bridges, etc. The solution in any professional production line is simple … they all get scanned with a specialised XRAY machine. The image above is from a board I had reworked, and wanted to make sure everything was OK underneath since I only had one sample. I thought the results were worth sharing. The solid black boxes underneath are capacitors on the bottom side of the board directly beneath the BGA chip.
How do you Test a BGA? - [Link]
Lithium-polymer battery charger chips @ Dangerous Prototypes – [via]
Lithium-polymer batteries are an excellent choice for portable projects. They are relatively cheap, hold a significant charge, and last for a long time. The drawback with these batteries is that they require rather complicated charging protocols. You have to watch out for overcharging, undercharging, overheating, etc…
We are looking for a standard part to use in our projects, so we decided to do a roundup of open source lithium polymer chargers from SparkFun, Seeed Studio, and Adafruit. With the exception of Seeed, all the chargers are based on Microchip’s MCP738xx family of battery management ICs that come in SSOP and DFN packages. They handle all the charging algorithms and usually only require a single external capacitor.
Lithium-polymer battery charger chips - [Link]
New multifunctional car key chip provides useful tools for car owners – [via]
NXP Semiconductors has developed a new chip for use in ‘smart’ multifunctional car keys. The chip enables the GPS coordinates of the parking location to be stored in the key and to be retrieved again using a smartphone compatible with Near Field Communications (NFC) technology. Next, the parking location can be displayed on your smartphone using a suitable application such as Google Maps.
Smart Key reveals car location on parking lot - [Link]
As detailed in this report, IBM has announced their first graphene integrated circuit. Graphene’s structure of one-atom-thick planar sheets of sp2-bonded carbon atoms that are densely packed in a honeycomb crystal lattice make it one of the thinnest semiconductor materials.
Further development using graphene should open the door to greater practicality of flexible electronics. While this technology is not expected to begin displacing conventional silicon circuits for a few years, when it does it should lead to bendable, transparent circuit boards revolutionizing the integration of embedded systems into common everyday items. [via]
IBM unveils graphene chip – [Link]
Atomic clocks keep the world’s processes on track—providing a universal time base with which everything from satellite communications to demolition explosions are synchronized. Now chip-scale atomic clocks are small enough to install inside mobile devices.
Symmetricom atomic clock on a chip based on Sandia National Laboratories technology (Source: Symmetricom)
Today accurate atomic clock readings are most commonly obtained from global positioning system (GPS) signals, but a new atomic clock on a chip will work where GPS does not reach, such as indoors, in tunnels, underground, under the sea and in outer space. [via]
Smarter Atomic Clock on a Chip Debuts – [Link]
Microchips still changing the world… [via]
Consider this the golden jubilee for silicon, the world’s favourite metalloid. Today marks the 50th anniversary of a U.S. patent for the modern integrated circuit, more commonly known as the microchip, the technical cornerstone of the modern information age.
It’s unclear whether to celebrate or mourn, since no single invention has made so many aspects of life simpler and more complicated at the same time.
The name on the 1961 patent belongs to Robert Noyce, who would go on to found the microchip giant Intel. But as is common in invention circles, Noyce didn’t get there alone. In the late 1950s, Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments -the father of the pocket calculator -came up with the first patented integrated circuit on a wafer of another metalloid called germanium.
Noyce, working in parallel on the East Coast, used a far more common substance: silicon. It is a superior electrical conductor, though it needs to be refined to extreme purity, and up until that time, there was no easy manufacturing process to do so. However, that obstacle was soon cleared, and whereas both men were content to be called co-inventors of the microchip, only Noyce earned the honorific Mayor of Silicon Valley.
Happy 50th… Microchips still changing the world – [Link]
The world of electronics is moving further and further away from Through-Hole components and towards SMT (Surface Mount Technology) every day. Sometimes this doesn’t always go well for the enthusiasts building at home, so we have to adapt.
DIY SOIC to DIP Chip Adaptors – [Link]
Apple A5 floorplan: [via]
We had decapsulated the A5 a couple of days ago, but as you could see in those early pictures, you can’t tell much of a chip’s layout from the top metal – it’s all power and ground buses. So we have to de-layer the chip down to a level where we can see the block layout of the chip; not an easy thing when there’s nine layers of metal! In fact, these days it’s easier to go in from the back and remove the substrate silicon, and look at the gate level from below. Then we can identify the circuit blocks that make up the full device.
Apple A5 floorplan – [Link]
Riley Porter shows you how easy it is to replace a blown Atmel chip (the microcontroller heart of the Arduino) and to flash the Arduino software onto the new chip. For a few bucks and about 15 minutes of work, you can have your Arduino board back in business. [via]
Arduino – Replace and Re-Flash a Blown Microcontroller Chip – [Link]