Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Electronica 2012

The Germans really know how to do shows, and electronica attracts exhibitors (about 2,700) and visitors (about 75,000) from all over the world.  In Europe, much more emphasis is placed on relationship selling, as opposed to North America, where it is often “the person with the best specs and price wins!” – so shows are important vehicles for European companies and buyers alike.  A certain amount of posturing is also apparent (“my stand is bigger than your stand.”) but many European manufacturers use an exhibition like this to meet present customers in one convenient location.  Also apparent is competitive spying to see what the competition is up to, since new products are often announced at big shows like this. With 10 exhibition halls, it takes 2 -3 days and a decent pair of shoes to complete the trek. 

As a USA-based distributor of unique industrial electronic products, my purpose for attending this show was to meet in person with a number of our suppliers, both from Europe and the Far East, all assembled in one place, while also looking for new products to introduce to American engineers. 

Adeunis (France) focuses on the European market, whose transmission frequencies are not permitted here; but they will soon be coming out with a 915MHz version of their popular Twimo M2M boards, as well as 915MHz Wireless-M boards for smart power meters which are becoming ubiquitous in Europe.  Their strategy is to offer the often-rare customization of products in fairly small runs.  Adeunis sales were flat in 2012 – an achievement since Europe is now in a second recession. (One large European-but-American-owned distributor's 2012 European sales were down 25%, causing great concern among their staff.)

Pico Technology introduced a new range of economical mixed-signal oscilloscopes (MSOs) that combine deep memory and high performance with a powerful 16‑channel logic analyzer. With a built-in function generator and arbitrary waveform generator also included, these oscilloscopes form a complete test bench in one compact, USB-powered device. The new two-channel MSOs offer bandwidths from 60 MHz to 200 MHz, and a maximum single-channel sampling rate of 500 MS/s, and 100 MHz digital inputs.  Buffer memory sizes range from 8 MSa to 128 MSa. “The deep memory on these MSOs works especially well with the serial decoding feature,” explained Managing Director Alan Tong. “You can capture serial data using any of the 2 analog and 16 digital inputs, giving you up to 18 channels. All of these can be decoded concurrently, even if you have a mixture of serial protocols.”  Videos are becoming increasingly important as showcases of technology (especially if reduced to “bite-size” 2 minute teasers) and Pico have come up with some useful introductory oscilloscope videos at www.picoscope.tv

ABI Electronics (www.abielectronics.com) is a British company which has some remarkable PCB repair instruments – USTech readers should be very interested in them!  ABI’s biggest sellers are their System 8 range of PCB board testers (http://www.abielectronics.com/Products/SYSTEM%208%20CustomSolutions.php) aimed at electronics repair facilities.  This system of mix-and-match CD-drive-sized modules with analog, digital, JTAG, etc. capabilities can be combined to build a specific combo setup for individual needs, driven by ABI’s automated “Test Flow” software.  Columbian Metro Railway has 100 systems, for their electronics service departments, for instance.  A subset of these System 8 modules with a built-in display is available in the form of an Active Oscilloscope, which has a built-in signal generator for driving PCB connections and IC pins.  Another very interesting product is Reveng:  this allows users to reverse-engineer a PCB by attaching clip connectors to board components to create a net-list, allowing you to reproduce the layout from resultant Gerber plots.
Owon/Lilliput produces value-priced high-quality oscilloscopes and were showing their 300MHz SDS9302 mode, priced at under $1,500. Also on their stand was a 7” USB-powered monitor, which they said was very useful for multi-displays surrounding a main PC.

Precision Mastech  exhibited a fairly standard range of digital multimeters, but I told their staff that we at Saelig had evaluated a number of DMM suppliers and found Mastech quality was superior, and so we have selected them to promote.  

Israel-based Tabor Electronics  was showing their high-end RF signal generators and RF amplifiers with specs that beat the well-known brands at lower cost.  

As an example of European business-making, I had lunch with CEO Arnulf Lockmann from JanzTec (Germany – http://www.janztec.com) who traveled 250 miles south from Paderborn to meet with me and some customers.  He explained their recent company name-change from Janz Automation Systems to JanzTec was based on the need to broaden their appeal to non-automation customers (e.g. special vehicle manufacturers, Fiat trams, feed mixing trucks, etc.)  

Aim-TTi (http://www.aimtti.us) received a lot of attention with their unique current-sensing scope probes iProber (http://www.tti-test.com/go/iprober/index.htm) which can sense current flowing in PCB tracks without breaking them or surrounding them with a sense coil. They also hinted at new products which will be available Q1 2013.

Swedish antenna supplier ProAnt (http://www.proant.se) was highlighting another unique product - miniature metal antennas (better than track antennas) available on tape-and-reel.  They offer a finished-product wireless evaluation in their new 6GHz anechoic chamber.
Plessey (UK – www.plesseysemi.com) created some buzz with a consumer product that features their ECG-sensing ICs that need no messy conductive gel.  Impulse is a small game-controller-style device with two places for thumb-prints which sends your ECG to a nearby cellphone for transmitting on to a physician.  

A surprising stand I stopped at was an evangelistic one: DCTB – German Christian Technical Association (www.dctb.de).  Their booth featured a 3-D maze challenge and they were handing out thought-provoking booklets to challenge engineers about why we are here.  Maybe electronics isn’t all there is in life …..

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