Electronic Products announces winners of the 2021 Product of the Year Awards

The annual Product of the Year awards, now in its 46th year, recognizes outstanding products that represent any of the following qualities: a significant advancement in a technology or its application, an exceptionally innovative design, a substantial achievement in price/performance, improvements in design performance, and a potential for new product designs/opportunities. Electronic Products editors evaluated 150+ products across 10 categories. Here are this year’s winners:

  • Analog Devices Inc. (Analog/Mixed-Signal ICs)
  • Analog Devices Inc. (Digital ICs)
  • Bourns (Passives)
  • C&K (Electromechanical)
  • Eggtronic (Power)
  • Harwin (Interconnects)
  • KDPOF (Optoelectronics)
  • Liquid Instruments (Test & Measurement)
  • Omnivision (Sensors)
  • u-blox (RF/Microwave)

Analog Devices, Inc.

Analog/Mixed-Signal ICs: MAX98396 Audio Power Amplifier

The 20-V digital-input MAX98396 audio power amplifier from Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI) provides speakers with an inaudible noise floor (15.5 µVrms), which is said to be 50% lower than similar amplifiers, allowing speaker placement in near-silent locations. The Class D/G speaker amplifier also claims the industry’s lowest noise and lowest quiescent power consumption, which is said to be nearly 5× lower power than similar amplifiers.

Electronic Products announces winners of the 2021 Product of the Year Awards

ADI’s MAX98396 audio power amplifier (Click for a larger image.)

The device offers 12.7-mW quiescent power consumption at 12-V power Vdd to meet and exceed the industry’s standby power-compliance regulations, which supports always-on portable Bluetooth and smart speakers, said ADI. In addition, the power efficiency allows the speaker to be driven higher and longer before reaching the thermal limit.

The MAX98396 is also ultrasound-ready. It offers an upgraded sampling frequency of up to 192 kHz and an ultrasound signal-bypass path to prevent ultrasound signal attenuation by the audio processing.

Analog Devices, Inc.

Digital ICs: MAXQ1065 Cryptographic Controller

Providing industrial-grade protection for battery-powered devices in the harshest, most security-critical environments, one of the most significant features of ADI’s ultra-low–power MAXQ1065 cryptographic Controller is that it operates at 100 nA during power-down mode, which is said to be 30× lower than comparable products. In addition, it features proprietary ChipDNA physically unclonable functionality (PUF) technology, which offers the strongest protection for edge-to-cloud IoT nodes, including medical and wearable devices, against invasive security attacks, said ADI.

Electronic Products announces winners of the 2021 Product of the Year Awards

ADI’s MAXQ1065 cryptographic controller (Click for a larger image.)

In addition, the low power consumption combined with a wide operating range makes it suitable for battery-powered applications, and the very small footprint and low pin count enable easy integration into medical and wearable devices.

The proprietary ChipDNA PUF technology protects against invasive attacks, as any attempt to probe the PUF cryptographic destroys its value, said ADI. It also includes a TLS/DTLS 1.2 command set built upon hardware-based ECDSA, ECDHE, and AES for authentication, key exchange, and secure communication. The MAXQ1065 is also supported by the company’s secure key preprogramming service for customers who want keys, data, and life-cycle state initialized prior to shipment to a contract manufacturer.

Bourns, Inc.

Passives: IsoMOV Protectors

Bourns, Inc. has claimed one of the most significant breakthroughs in metal oxide varistor (MOV) device design in decades. The new IsoMOV protectors, or hybrid protection components, integrate the gas discharge tube (GDT) function directly into the MOV itself, providing a higher level of surge protection in terms of performance, operational life, and enhanced device reliability. By integrating the GDT, it also solves MOV degradation issues caused by leakage currents and extends the operational life of the MOV.

Electronic Products announces winners of the 2021 Product of the Year Awards

Bourns’s IsoMOV protectors

The fully integrated hybrid design features performance specifications usually found in larger traditional MOV devices, enabling designers to better tailor the surge-protection performance to their space requirements and allowing them to upgrade their MOV overvoltage protection without a PCB redesign. With industry-standard pin layouts, the IsoMOV protectors are said to offer a substantial performance and reliability upgrade to same-sized standard MOVs in a pin-to-pin drop-in–replacement form factor.

Combining both devices into a single package allows the GDT to block leakage currents through the MOV that may lead to premature failure, which makes the MOV inherently more robust without adding additional components into the circuit design, said Bourns.

In addition, MOVs continue to be highly utilized for overvoltage protection and are often used together with the GDTs to extend the life of the MOVs, said Bourns. Traditional cylindrical GDTs measure 5 × 5 mm and 8 × 6 mm, and when combined with the MOV, they take up a significant amount of board space.

The IsoMOV protector offers AC voltage ratings from 175 V to 555 V, an extended temperature range, up to 125˚C, and in combination with the low leakage is well-suited for industrial, power-line communications, high-speed information-and-communication-technology equipment, and a range of harsh environment or remote, exposed applications in which repairs can be both physically challenging and expensive to perform. The IsoMOV protector series is UL 1449 Type 5–recognized. Available in three models – IsoM3, IsoM5, and IsoM8, the nominal surge ratings are 3 kA, 5 kA, and 8 kA, respectively.


Electromechanical: KSC TE Miniature Tactile Switch

Electronic Products announces winners of the 2021 Product of the Year Awards

C&K’s KSC-TE miniature tactile switch

C&K’s KSC Tireless Endurance (KSC TE) miniature tactile switch series has added a 5 million–cycle version with higher actuation forces at 2.8 N and 4 N in a miniature 6 × 6-mm package. This is in addition to a previous version introduced in 2020 with 10 million cycles at 1.6 N.

The KSC TE series of tactile switches are now available in three choices of actuation forces: 1.6 N, 2.8 N, and 4 N. The series offers a 5 million to 10 million electrical-cycle life with a dielectric strength of >250 Vrms. The operating temperature range is –40˚C to 90˚C.

The long life-cycle switches are suited for a wide range of demanding applications in industrial, elevator, gaming, and computer peripherals markets. C&K attributes the high life cycles and reliability to a combination of the soft actuator and revised internal structure.

The switches feature a soft actuator, which allows for easier tolerance management with possible pre-load, said C&K. They also come with an IP67 rating for protection against dust and water ingress. In addition, the small form factor (6.3 × 6.2 × 3.5 mm) gives designers more room to add new functionality to their end products or to reduce their printed-circuit–board size.


Power: E2WATT Hybrid AC Power Solution

Eggtronic describes the E2WATT hybrid AC power solution as a new AC power technology that will boost the power, efficiency, charging distance, and data-transmission capabilities of wireless-charging applications. It is both a power supply and wireless charger that offers improved efficiency and charging distance compared with conventional wireless designs.

E2WATT reduces the total number of stages to just two (a transmitter AC/AC stage and a single-stage AC/DC receiver half-bridge) that are required to implement a complete, end-to-end wireless-charging system. This is achieved thanks to a topology that merges multiple stages into a multi-functional, single-stage zero-voltage–switching/zero-current–switching (ZVS/ZCS) wireless power supply, said the company.

Electronic Products announces winners of the 2021 Product of the Year Awards

Eggtronic’s E2WATT hybrid AC power solution (Click for a larger image.)

The company said the E2WATT offers a completely new approach to wireless-charging design based on just six active devices (including two primary-side diodes), no extra magnetics, two coils, and a single AC cable. This is in comparison with traditional wireless-charging systems that have between 12 and 16 active devices, with at least two magnetic components, two coils, an AC cable, and a DC cable, which impacts bill-of-materials (BOM) cost and overall system efficiency.

This new approach delivers two benefits: reducing the BOM by as much as 50% compared with conventional designs and increasing efficiency levels from about 70% to 96%. “The latter is particularly significant because it means that E2WATT has the potential to replace both wireless- and wired-charging schemes,” said Eggtronic.

In addition, the E2WATT technology also reaches up to 8× further distance to 40 mm and delivers up to 300 W, which is a real breakthrough for inductive standards, said the company, compared with a typical 5-mm distance and maximum power up to 30 W for traditional Qi wireless power.

The company also noted that the technology lays the foundation for taking wireless charging from a few watts to tens of kilowatts and, therefore, offers a route to wireless charging in higher-power applications including home appliances and electric vehicles.


Interconnects: Kona Series of 8.5-mm–Pitch Connectors

Targeting demanding space-constrained applications, Harwin’s Kona series of 8.5-mm–pitch connectors are designed for use in systems in which higher current is required in challenging application environments with limited available space.

With contacts positioned in a single row, Kona connectors come in two-, three- and four-contact versions. These contacts are each capable of handling 60 A of current, translating into a total current of 240 A for the four-contact version, enabling the connector series to address a broad range of demanding use cases.

The beryllium copper alloy used in the contact construction provides current-carrying capabilities (with a contact resistance of just 2 mΩ, causing negligible losses). Other features include a maximum voltage rating up to 3 kV, a 1,000-mating life cycle, and an operational temperature range from –65˚C to 150˚C. The connectors have been tested to handle 20G vibrational forces over a period of six hours.

Electronic Products announces winners of the 2021 Product of the Year Awards

Harwin’s Kona series of 8.5-mm–pitch connectors

Pivotal to the operational reliability of these connectors is the unique six-finger contact arrangement, said Harwin. “This means that there is always at least one of the surfaces of the male contact touching the surface of the corresponding female plug, so there is never any unwanted interruption in power transmission.”

In addition, the Kona models take up very little PCB space, with less contacts needed to deliver the current. The mating pair consists of a male vertical through-board connector with board-mount fixings, plus a female cable connector, which will accommodate 8-AWG cables. They also leverage Harwin’s mate-before-lock mechanism, which prevents any damage during the locking process. The backpotting of cavities provides additional strain relief from torsion forces, said the company, and shrouding on each contact and a fully polarized construction prevents mis-mating.


Optoelectronics: KD9351 Fiber-Optic Transceiver

Paving the way for optical multi-gigabit Ethernet in the vehicle, a key benefit of KDPOF’s integrated KD9351 fiber-optic transceiver (FOT) is that it reduces the costs for optical in-vehicle networks at 1 Gbit/s. The optical transceiver for 100 Mbits/s up to 1 Gbits/s lowers the cost by incorporating the transmit and receive optoelectronics (including the transimpedance amplifier, photodiode, LED driver, and LED) in one device. Additional integration benefits are a shorter supply chain and no test duplication with the final test at Tier 1.

Electronic Products announces winners of the 2021 Product of the Year Awards

KDPOF’s integrated KD9351 fiber-optic transceiver

The KD9351 reuses low-cost MEMS encapsulation and allows SMD reflow assembly with 8 × 7-mm LGA components. It is fully shielded against electromagnetic radiation. Fiber connection is done with a simple plastic connector placed on top. EMC performance is said to be excellent even with the ECU shield case removed because the shielding is integrated into the PCB component.

The operating temperature ranges from –40˚C to 105˚C to meet harsh automotive environmental requirements. The FOT withstands motor conditions with a vibration class of V2. The device also withstands water without sealing. Applications for the KD9351 include safe Ethernet backbones and sensor links for advanced driver-assistance systems.

Liquid Instruments

Test & Measurement: Moku:Pro Test Platform

Liquid Instruments’ Moku:Pro test platform for engineers and researchers hosts nine instruments, including an oscilloscope, lock-in amplifier, PID controller, phasemeter, arbitrary waveform generator, data logger, spectrum analyzer, frequency-response analyzer, and waveform generator. The platform was designed to meet the needs of researchers in various fields from aerospace to semiconductors to ensure they have the instrumentation they need to characterize their setup, get to their first measurements faster, and scale their experiments quickly, said the company.

Electronic Products announces winners of the 2021 Product of the Year Awards

Liquid Instruments’ Moku:Pro test platform

It is a software-defined hardware platform with a Xilinx Ultrascale+ FPGA coupled with a high-bandwidth analog front end and “robust” networking and storage to maximize flexibility and performance, said the company. The suite of software-defined instruments supports high-speed data acquisition, processing and visualization, waveform generation, and real-time control applications. It is particularly suited to photonics applications, including spectroscopy, microscopy, metrology, gravitational wave detection, active laser stabilization, and quantum computing.

The significance of the Moku:Pro is that it accelerates the transition from traditional fixed-function T&M hardware to an instrument-on-chip approach by making high-quality instruments accessible in an integrated, software-upgradeable platform built on an FPGA, said Liquid Instruments. “This supports a vision in which test equipment aligns more closely with the high-integration advancements seen in other areas of technology such as computers and cellphones, where users have the tools they need when they need them.”

Two new features were recently added to the platform. The first is a multi-instrument mode, which allows users to configure and run multiple instruments simultaneously to create full test sequences without needing additional hardware. The second feature is the Moku Cloud Compile, which allows users to deploy their own custom code directly on Moku:Pro’s FPGA.


Sensors: OH0TA OVMed Medical Image Sensor

Omnivision’s OH0TA OVMed medical image sensor — with a package size of 0.55 × 0.55 mm and featuring a 1.0-µ pixel and a 1/31-inch optical format — is smaller than its 0.575 × 0.575-mm predecessor, which holds the Guinness World Record for the “smallest commercially available image sensor.” The OH0TA also quadruples the RGB image resolution to 400 × 400, or 160 kilopixels, at 30 frames per second while reducing the power consumption by 20% to 20 mW. This allows designers to add ultra-compact visualization to single-use and reusable endoscopes, as well as catheters and guidewires, with a small outer diameter of 1–2 mm, said the company. The small size also allows medical-device OEMs the flexibility to create a larger-diameter scope with a larger working channel.

Electronic Products announces winners of the 2021 Product of the Year Awards

Omnivision’s OH0TA OVMed medical image sensor

The OH0TA’s increased resolution allows higher-quality color images to be captured from within the body’s smallest organs, enabling medical devices to reach deeper into the body for procedures such as neuro, ophthalmic, ENT, cardiac, spinal, urology, gynecology, and arthroscopy, as well as dental and veterinary diagnosis and surgery, said Omnivision.

The increase in resolution, along with a smaller pixel size and optical format, is thanks to Omnivision’s PureCel Plus-S pixel technology. This next-generation pixel technology also provides higher color fidelity and excellent low-light sensitivity of 3,600 mV/lux-sec, along with a high signal-to-noise ratio of 37.5 dB for crisper images. Other benefits of the pixel technology include OH0TA’s higher full-well capacity, zero blooming, and lower power consumption.

The sensor’s lower power consumption reduces “chip on tip” camera heat for greater patient comfort and longer procedure durations while also reducing noise for crisper images, said Omnivision.

Other key features include a 15.5˚ chief ray angle, enabling the use of lenses with high fields of view and short focus distances. It also supports a four-wire interface, as well as raw analog data output, both of which can transmit via cables as long as 4 meters with minimal signal noise. For backward compatibility and easy adoption, this sensor interfaces with Omnivision’s existing OV426 analog-to-digital–conversion bridge chip. It is autoclavable for reusable endoscope sterilization.


RF/Microwave: ALEX-R5 Miniature Cellular Module

The u-blox ALEX-R5 is a miniature cellular module that integrates low-power wide-area connectivity and global navigation satellite system (GNSS) technology in an ultra-small system-in-package (SiP) form factor. The SiP module is based on the secure UBX-R5 LTE-M/NB-IoT chipset platform with out-of-the-box Secure Cloud functionality and the u-blox M8 GNSS chip.

The ALEX-R5 is housed in a miniature 14 × 14-mm footprint, achieved thanks to its SiP design, reducing its size compared with the predecessor and functionally equivalent SARA-R5 module by half and making it well-suited for size-constrained applications.

Electronic Products announces winners of the 2021 Product of the Year Awards

u-blox’s ALEX-R5 miniature cellular module (Click for a larger image.)

The module’s 23-dBm cellular transmission power guarantees that end devices operate effectively in all signal conditions, even at cell edges, underground, or in other challenging scenarios, said u-blox. A dedicated GNSS antenna interface enables fully independent, simultaneous operation of the u-blox M8 GNSS chip, matching the performance of a standalone u-blox M8 module. It also includes u-blox’s IoT Location-as-a-Service with CellLocate and AssistNow (online, offline, and autonomous) for enhanced positioning.

The ALEX-R5 is optimized for power-sensitive and battery-dependent applications, which addresses common pain points in size-constrained applications such as wearables and connected medical devices. It achieves this by leveraging the lower-power modes of the u-blox UBX-R5 and UBX-M8 chipsets, giving users options to further balance power consumption and performance using GNSS Super-E mode, said the company.

The rugged SiP construction also makes it suited for harsh environments, where moisture or vibration would be a concern for conventional modules. The ALEX-R5 is rated at Moisture Sensitivity Level 3 (MSL 3).

The ALEX-R5 future-proofs IoT devices and solutions by enabling customers to software-upgrade deployed devices for compatibility with 5G networks, said u-blox, which enables a seamless transition to the next generation of cellular technology.

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