Daniel N. de Araujo, Director of Applications, Nimbic

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<p> Operating modes The LTC3226 has two modes of operation: normal and backup. If <span style=VIN is above an externally programmable PFI threshold voltage, the part is in normal mode in which power flows from VIN to VOUT through the external FET and the internal charge pump stays on to top off the super capacitor stack. If VIN is below this PFI threshold, the part is in backup mode. In this mode, the internal charge pump is turned off, the external FET is turned off and the LDO is turned on to supply the load current from the stored charge. See Figure 3 for details.

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Daniel N. de Araujo, Director of Applications, Nimbic

Implementing new technologies Consumers are by now familiar with touch screens in their smart phones, vehicle infotainment systems, navigation/GPS systems, and even computer monitors. Similarly, touch sensing controls, including tactile screens, can now be implemented into almost any electronic device, including center console interfaces. The clicker” function (see below) can be enabled with any touch-sensitive surface, and provides uniform haptics over any surface. The simple mechanical system integrates low-profile tactile switches with the actuating superstructure to provide a clickable touch sensing system.

Based on a structure with supporting points, the actuator collects and transmits the force from the touching surface to the switch with a minimum of distortion or power consumption. Pressure on any surface will apply a force on the supporting points at the edge, which will then in turn send back the force to middle arms and then to the appropriate tact switch. The technology is more efficient than hinged” solutions by providing a smooth and uniform click. Multiple configurations, structures and profiles can be developed depending on the application and room available for integration, from 2.5 to 10 mm.


In addition, the clicker technology can combined with multiple key areas based on the same actuating surface. The keys/buttons are managed via touch sensing in that each area is used for pre-selection of the function. Selecting the function is managed by actuation on the whole surface. The main benefit is that instead of managing separated keys/buttons, the unit can be managed by a single flush surface with haptics, reducing integration issues and simplifying some features like key alignment, backlighting, and tactile difference between keys.

Assembly In terms of assembly and maintenance, electromechanical components for automotive applications often feature quick connections that support modular installation so that they can be plugged into the panel and locked firmly into place, simplifying both assembly and maintenance. This arrangement also lets the OEM store individual switch elements separately and configure them during final assembly to meet application-specific needs, while saving storage space and costs.

One such example of this is seen with illumination, as automotive vehicles contain a large number of visual indicators for informational and safety purposes, signifying the current state or function of vehicle’s features. LED indicators can be mounted independently of the switch and interfaced with an IC that controls it for slow or fast blinking, or to produce various colors that indicate the status.


Adding illumination at the switch level significantly reduces materials costs, as some switch designs with optional illumination allow users to order the base switch with or without the cap, providing the ability to order one base switch together with multiple color caps, or snap-on caps, during the installation process to suit each specific application. This modular solution not only allows OEMs to have fewer part numbers to inventory, thus simplifying materials and assembly processes, but it also gives engineers greater flexibility with circuit and panel designs.

Manufacturers have also developed pushbutton switches that offer panel-mounting options to help simplify assembly. Rear panel-mounting switches, such as C&K’s rugged pushbutton switches, are ideal for applications where multiple switches are going to be mounted to a PCB. Customers can mount them to the PCB first, then the entire assembly can be installed into the armrest or panel. This allows for a much easier installation compared to traditional front mounted switches that require the mounting hardware to be tightened from behind the panel, which is sometimes hard to access; as well as having to run all the leads to the mating connectors on the PCB. Rear mounted switches allow customers to install the hardware from the top and still achieve the same look while simplifying the installation process.


OEMs are approaching electromechanical component manufacturers for more than just switches. By utilizing a switch manufacturer for designs beyond the switch itself, increased flexibility in overall design can be realized. Switch dimensions are becoming more critical, making it imperative to work closely with customers to discern all details. Today, it is less about the switch being mounted to a PC board or adding wire leads or a connector to the switch, and more about defining the issues that need to be solved. Because switch manufacturers are now dealing with the entire module, they are spending an increasing amount of time with customers to determine how the module is being impacted in the application to assess potential challenges that were not previously considered.

By working closely with customers in all phases of the design process, switch manufacturers can identify materials that interface with the operator, and those in the actual contact mechanism can be re-evaluated and altered to conform to performance, reliability, lifespan, and robustness standards. For example, some manufacturers are now offering switch packages with multi-switching capability and high over-travel performance, with various core-switching technologies such as opposing tactile switches or a dome array on a PC board. Such packages often include additional PC board-mounted integrated electronics, custom circuitry, and industry standard connectors for the complete package.

New developments on the horizon All HDD manufacturers currently use PMR technology for existing HDD products, but the industry consensus is that existing PMR technology has two to three generations left before reaching its areal density limit at about 1-terabit (Tb) per square inch. In fact, despite the solid five-year CAGR for higher-density HDDs, growth rates could have been much higher were it not for PMR technology nearing its limit.

Nonetheless, new developments are on the way. For instance, Seagate in March announced it had achieved in its research lab 1 Tb per square inch of areal density—30 percent higher than what could be achieved through PMR technology—by using heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) technology, a promising approach to enable large increases in the storage density of hard disk drives.

HAMR technology is likely to lead the way in creating next-generation HDDs, even though satisfactory costs via HAMR comparable to those of PMR have yet to be seen. In theory, however, advanced technologies like HAMR could extend HDD areal density to a range spanning 5 to 10 Tb per square inch. The highest capacity for 3.5-inch HDDs could then reach 30 to 60 TB, while the smaller and thinner 2.5- inch HDDs used in increasingly popular thinner notebooks could reach 10 to 20 TB.

Such lofty heights represent approximately 10 to 20 times the capacity of current drives, with the new theoretical levels having a capacity equivalent to those of conventional small and medium business (SMB) storage systems currently on the market, marking a major leap in electronic storage for more common, non-enterprise uses.

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The results of adding design specific rules and load/slew ranges to our test case are shown in the table below. The improvements are substantial.

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