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Black box and black art | Cypress Semiconductor

Black box and black art

OK, I love cars and all their mechanical complexity.  So it is with great interest I followed the recent headline grabbing news of unintended acceleration of Toyota vehicles.

Even though some of the unintended acceleration incidents were later determined to be likely caused by human error, the exact root cause is still being investigated/debated and is still very much a mystery (the debate of human error vs. malicious hardware could probably have been easily resolved by black box event recorders in those vehicles, but that’s another blog subject).  One of the suspected causes is a subject that many engineers regard as a black art: electromagnetic interference (EMI), as seen in this USA Today article.

As it turns out, Cypress, with its wide portfolio of timing solutions, has long been a leader in offering easier and more cost-effective solutions to EMI problems.

As any engineer who has dealt with EMI problems (I have, extensively) will tell you, EMI problems are not easy nor inexpensive to solve.  Electronic products intended for worldwide sales must meet a battery of radiation compliance standards (including the FCC part 15 in US), typically tested in specialized, fully enclosed, anechoic chambers over several hours and at the cost of thousands of dollars.  Once the test results are analyzed and design changes are made, the same tests are repeated until the product passes with comfortable margins.  Furthermore, “intuitive” solutions to EMI  problems sometimes yield unexpected results, requiring many (costly) cycles at the EMI test chambers.

The traditional solutions to combat EMI radiation involve physical shielding: attached metallic shields (seen in the picture below), carefully-designed printed circuit board (PCB) layout (such as with a contiguous ground layer acting as shield), metallic enclosures, etc.  These are relatively expensive solutions with long re-design cycles.  Cypress’s patented spread spectrum technology, on the other hand, offers EMI solutions that can be implemented and tested in real time, thus reducing product development lead times and cost.

In a nutshell, spread spectrum technology reduces peak EMI radiation at specific frequencies (ones found in the system under test) by intentionally modulating those clock frequencies (with programmable amplitude and modulating frequency), thus “spreading out” the energy over a wider frequency range as viewed in the frequency domain.  Since this solution can be programmed in real time in Cypress timing devices and no mechanical shields need to be fabricated, it can be implemented and tested much more easily.

As you can see in this press release, customers really do value Cypress’s spread spectrum EMI solutions!

 

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