From passives to power devices, component manufacturers continue to develop smaller devices as mobile device designers look to shrink the size and thickness of their products, and/or pack higher functionality into their devices. But it's not only consumer electronics OEMs looking for miniature components, designers of communications, military, industrial and medical products also need to address the portability, weight and size of their designs.
Component manufacturers are up to the task and are helping their customers meet their goals by continuing to develop new materials, new manufacturing processes, and new packaging. In many cases, component makers also are able to improve the performance of the components as they continue to shrink their size. Here's my selection of 10 hot products that truly fall into the category of tiny components. Applications range from mobile phones and hearing aids to military systems and networking equipment.
In the category of first to market, TI claims the first single-chip battery gauge with integrated protection designed to protect single-cell Li-Ion batteries in space-constrained designs. Housed in a 1.9- x 2.7- x 0.6-mm, 15-bump, chip scale package, these devices can be used in consumer devices as well as portable industrial and medical devices.
Another first-to-market device comes from Murata. Driven by industry demand for ultra-small components, Murata offers the smallest chip ferrite bead, packaged in a 008004 size (0.25 x 0.125 mm). The chip offers 75 percent lower volume than the 01005 size that is currently used in some smartphones, particularly in high-frequency modules, said Murata. Typical apps for these EMI suppression filters include mobile phones and mobile phone modules, where they are used to eliminate noise generated by electronic devices.
When it comes to miniaturization, Raltron is on a roll, packaging its frequency control devices in ever smaller packages. One example is the company's clock oscillator, which is housed in a 2.0- x 1.6- x 0.65-mm package size. It's about 40 percent less surface area than the most popular clock oscillators. This makes the Model CO2016 suitable for a host of applications, ranging from personal digital devices and wireless applications to portable medical devices and embedded computing devices. It's also available in three supply voltages: 1.8V, 2.5V and 3.3V.
Raltron also claims the industry’s smallest microprocessor crystal with the introduction of its Model R1612, housed in a 1.6 x 1.2 x 0.4-mm ceramic package. The R1612 surface-mount crystal is said to use approximately 50 percent less surface area than most typical crystals on the market. Target applications include embedded computing devices, cameras, wearable devices, storage, personal digital devices, wireless applications, microprocessor and DSP clocks, portable medical devices, alarms, utility metering, and other high-density applications.
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Another small frequency control device was developed by MtronPTI. It now houses its high stability, ultra-miniature TCXOs in package sizes as small as 2.5 x 2.0 mm, which is an area reduction of 7X compared to standard 5- x 7-mm packages. The RoHS compliant TCXO VCTCXO products are used in avionic flight control, point-to-point radio, broadband access base stations, and professional wireless sound systems.
Molex's balanced armature audio receivers, measuring 80-mm3, was selected as an example because it delivers up to a 20 percent space savings versus similar competitive products, and up to 75 percent savings compared to dynamic receivers. In addition to the small size, the balanced armature technology is said to offer significantly more sound output per unit size compared to dynamic types, targeting hearing aid and other small audio applications. Plus, they are customizable, allowing OEMs to adjust the impedance or other specifications to meet specific requirements.
We have two selections for OEM designers in the rugged environment space. Delivering size and weight reduction, Omnetics' Nano miniature connectors provide up to 2 Gbits/s speed in extremely rugged environments. They are well-suited for military applications including rugged and miniaturized surveillance and communications equipment such as helicopter systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, and future soldiers.
The other product is Coilcraft's LPR6235 series of coupled inductors, available in a 6- x 6-mm package with a 3.5-mm height. These devices can be used as either step-up or flyback transformers in DC-DC convertors or as autotransformers. They are well-suited for energy harvesting apps. In addition, the combination of high Isat and low direct current resistance (DCR) is said to provide high efficiency and excellent current handling for rugged, low-cost designs.
Another tiny product comes from TI. Not only does TI's ultra-small FemtoFET MOSFETs tout the lowest on-resistance of below 100 milliohms, saving power and extending battery life of mobile devices, it also comes housed in a small 0.6- x 1.0- x 0.35-mm package.
Last but not least, targeting applications with very tight board space and height requirements is C&K's PCM series of ultra-miniature, low-profile slide switches, which can be used in a variety of applications including computer & computer peripheral products, networking equipment, telecommunication products and test & measurement equipment.