Eurocircuits get to see the 1st year of design for WUSAT 3

Eurocircuits have always had a proud tradition of supporting the next generation of engineers ‘pioneer and push the boundaries of development and innovation’.

You may remember our last years” BLOG where eight engineering students led by Dr Bill Crofts saw the conclusion of their 3 year project culminate in their CubeSat being launched on a European space agency rocket. As the CubeSat fell to earth its mission was to measure light frequencies from the outer atmosphere and transmit them back to the team before dropping back to earth.

This week I had the pleasure of being invited to the WUSAT 3 sponsors day where I was introduced to the project plans and ambitions for the next stage of Dr Crofts amazing team.

WUSAT 3 is a 4 year project which will involve designing a 3 tier CubeSat to be taken to the International space station and from there it will be Launched to orbit the earth transmitting its data back to the team.

This is not a simple project and competition to secure the chance to add a payload to the International Space station is fierce. Specification of materials, weight and objectives are critical and if all do not fall within these strict specifications, the project will never get off the ground.

This is the first year of the project and we were introduced to 2 of the project members (Stephen Betts – Electronics and software and Tom Harris – mechanical design) who provided an excellent presentation on the progress of the project so far and intended use of the WUSAT 3 CubeSat.

One of the hardest parts of any project is “WHY”.

Trying to identify a worthy cause which would justify the University of Warwicks request for space aboard the ISS. Eurocircuits prides itself on its environmental conscientiousness so the chosen ‘why’ was particularly significant as the team are designing a Satellite which will monitor the migration patterns of birds around the globe (I have obviously simplified this substantially).

The Team have made huge progress, discovering many obstacles in their path but with such a diverse set of skills and knowledge, they are constantly innovating and problem solving to ensure they meet their objectives and the rigid requirements demanded from space exploration.

The team must now handover to next year’s team to continue the next stages of implementation, testing trials and justification.

I was very impressed by the team’s progress to date and Eurocircuits looks forward to continuing to support them in their amazing work.

If you would like to know more about the project or participate in sponsoring the team then contact Dr Bill Crofts.

Eurocircuits – loyal sponsors of the Herkules Racing Team of the University of Kassel

Eurocircuits are long-term partners of the University of Kassel’s Herkules Racing Team and 2015 was no exception. We provided the PCBs for the team’s Formula Student challenge.

The Formula Student competition for construction and design was founded in 1981 and has transformed many a student into a good engineer. We are glad to be a part of that process.

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The team’s current engine is based on a Suzuki GSXR 600 delivering 84PS and 59Nm torque. The car has a team designed gear box and a Titan based exhaust filtering system.

An FPGA based custom designed data logging system connects via a CAN-bus with the motor control unit and transmits live data by radio to a laptop for monitoring during the race.

The Herkules Racing Team 2015 took part in the Hockenheim race last summer and came in 14th the best result ever for Kassel University.

We congratulate them and wish next year’s team the same success as their predecessors.

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The toughest race in the world – and Eurocircuits were there to help support Durham University Electric Motorsport through it.

Toby McBride, team member Durham University Electric Motorsport, writes:

3000km. Across the outback. Powered only by the sun. Arguably one of the greatest challenges in the world that any team can undertake. Durham University Electric Motorsport, otherwise known as DUEM, are one team ready to take on the challenge. We are a group of students from Durham University who design, build and race electric vehicles, entirely outside our degree courses.

We have just returned from Australia where we raced our solar powered car, DUSC 2015, across the country, all the way from Darwin to Adelaide. This would be tough even using conventional petrol or diesel engines, but what made it particularly challenging is that it was entirely undertaken using just solar power; nothing else.

DUEM was up against 40 or so other teams in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. The team had a thoroughly rewarding trip and despite encountering technical problems in the first week which resulted in the in-wheel motor rendered unusable, we pulled through and reached Adelaide. This was an incredible test of both the car & the team.

Eurocircuits are an important sponsor for DUEM and supported us with the latest technology and expertise, delivering high quality PCBs fast and on time. We are very excited by their future focused strategy and the new developments they have in the pipeline.

Steve Jones, UK Sales Manager for Eurocircuits, adds:

We are very proud to have supported DUEM in their Australian challenge. Check out their website, Facebook & Twitter and don’t forget to follow them! Here are just a selection of photos from their time in Australia.

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Eurocircuits supports IET activity at Peakcamp 2015

By Juergen Pintaske – ExMark

At Peakcamp 2015, over 7000 Scouts and Guides had a wonderful week meeting and enjoying over 85 different activities. The IET wanted to add a soldering activity and asked a group of people to help with the design of the project and at the event. We decided to turn it into a practical soldering activity which would be presented as a whole at the end of the week.

Due to the very limited budget available, we had to find donors to support us – and succeeded. In the end there were 25 sponsors, who contributed either components – or money to buy parts. We have to thank all of them for their support, and also extend this to supporters at the event, who helped to make it all possible.

We were very happy when Eurocircuits agreed to Sponsor our worthwhile cause by donating all the PCB’s used to create this project, this was the first cornerstone of the project.

The second breakthrough was Texas Instruments who agreed to donate 1,000 microcontrollers.

MicroProcessor Engineering (MPE) specially adapted their Forth Lite system for this project.

The last issue was the box to hold it all together, rather than designing a box for the system which would be too expensive, we brainstormed for a more inventive solution, we found out that a TicTac Box would just be the right size for the project with board assembly and batteries fitting perfectly into a TicTac box –so a box full with TicTacs were supplied with the components to all scouts and guides that would make the project.

The Beating Heart – represented by the flashing LED in the MicroBox – source ExMark

The “Beating Heart” MicroBox – source ExMark

Over 300 scouts and guides built about 450 MicroBox systems a very impressive project to look at.

For the last day the scouts and guides “Beating Heart” boxes were set up on a large display consisting of approximately 250 MicroBoxes.

source ExMark Sorting the MicroBoxes for the large display

The “beating hearts” display – source ExMark

See the final display in the video – https://tv.theiet.org/?videoid=7386

  

IET TV Video and Interview – source Stephen Powley and

    

Source Eurocircuits

A successful event for all parties involved – and thanks to the IET, the sponsors, and here especially to Eurocircuits, to the people who helped at the event and the 300+ Scouts and Guides who came and built MicroBoxes and took them home to show to their friends or use them afterwards for Learning Programming.

Links:

Eurocircuits as sponsor of the Delft Aerospace Rocket Engineering

Eurocircuits as loyal long term sponsor of the Delft Aerospace Rocket Engineering.

For the last several academic years, Eurocircuits have been supporting the students of the Delft University with various projects. The Aerospace Rocket Engineering team is one of them and they have an exciting project to conquer space with their rocket.

Link to home page: http://dare.tudelft.nl/

We support the DARE electronics team: http://dare.tudelft.nl/projects-and-teams/electronics/

Our latest contribution to the team can be found here: http://dare.tudelft.nl/2015/09/engine-control-electronics/

You really should visit their website and admire what these enthusiastic group of students can do.

Overview of the DARE campaign so far

Test of the rocket engine

W Technology – an eC-test-mate user reports.

Alex Wilkinson of W Technology, 1 Chamberlain Place, Kidlington, Oxford, UK, became very interested in the eC-test-mate after seeing it demonstrated on the Eurocircuits stand at a recent trade show. W Technology develops and designs circuits, PCBs and firmware for a wide variety of products and product areas. Following on from the design phase, the prototyping and production stages which W Technology can also take care of usually require some degree of testing. As a result they are always looking for smart ways to speed up and automate testing while reducing the amount of manual intervention. The eC-test-mate looked particularly ideal for a product W Technology builds for John Wainwright Systems – an access control specialist. The board in question has an RS485 interface which could easily be used as a test interface into the board, and lots of relay controlled outputs, all of which need to be tested. It also has numerous inputs and outputs for inter-system connections, entry card readers, door sensors etc. For this board to be delivered to the client and meet W Technology”s high standards, all of these interfaces need to be tested.

That”s where the eC-test-mate looks ideal. On the surface, it looks like it can provide multiple automated test functions and measurements and take out the majority of the manual testing currently required. The fact that it runs a scripted test process means it should be easily adaptable to any future changes made to the board design or functionality, which is inevitable.

So W Technology took delivery of an eC-test-mate system complete with the Eurocircuits eC-test-mate Demo Board.

The PC software is freely available from www.eurocircuits.com/test. Version 1.2.1.1 was available at the time of writing. Installing the software is easy and only takes a matter of seconds. The demo board test scripts are available from the same location and come in a .zip format. The first thing you naturally do with a .zip file is to open it up and extract all the files, but in fact this is not necessary as the eC-test-mate software works with the zip file itself, saving you having to open it and create a folder for all the files it contains.

Open the eC-test-mate program and click the large blue “PCB manager button”. Then click the “Import” icon at the bottom left of the screen:

Make sure the required test head is plugged in to the PC (In this case, test head 1, green), click on the newly imported board and then the green tick at the bottom, “Activate”.

Once activated, you click on the “Test” heading at the top of the screen and you are ready to go. The demo board and scripts show a good selection of tests that can be performed:

  • Power supply to the board and testing for over-current conditions.
  • Reading analogue inputs, setting analogue output voltages.
  • Setting up on-board potentiometers to be within a certain range or allowing the operator to set them to a particular value and recording that value.
  • Setting outputs and requesting operator confirmation of the changed state.
  • Reading switch inputs and automatically moving on once activated.
  • Sending and receiving RS232 commands.

At the end of the test the screen briefly flashes red or green, as does the test head, to show the overall result. Failure in any one section of course results in an overall fail result. Helpfully, if it failed in one section and you go to test again, you have the option of retesting just that section which saves time by not going through the complete test process again.

Click on the “Edit & Debug” heading at the top of the screen and you have access to the test program scripts. These are a bit like a simplified version of C. Unusually you can”t actually type the text of the program script, instead you select the required command from the box to the right and fill in the appropriate parameters. A benefit if this is that you avoid introducing syntax errors that are otherwise quite easy to make, particularly with an unfamiliar language.

The test heads themselves look to be pretty robust – the test pins are shrouded in a spring loaded plastic cover to hide them when not connected to the target PCB. Only the steel location pins poke through initially allowing for location onto the PCB before pressing down and making all the connections.

They all have a USB connection so they can plug directly into the PC if the power requirements are low. For a board where you only need one test head this can leave you with less stuff on your desk. Otherwise you connect them through the base station which provides extra power – well above what USB can normally provide. The base station acting as a USB hub and power injector to the test heads. Also included in the base station are some little passive test boards – one for each head – which allow for quick verification that each head is functioning correctly. There are built in test routines to use these within the PC application.

While these can be removed from the base station, it”s quite convenient to use them in the base station as they hold the test head in place.

The intended way to use the test heads is for the land pattern to be designed onto the target PCB itself, therefore not requiring the traditional “bed of nails”. In some cases this may not be possible though due to space requirements, or perhaps where you need additional external circuitry to be able to test a system. In this case you could design the footprint for the test head into the board containing the external circuitry, and for example, use the I2C interface on test head 2 to drive an I/O expander chip to allow an almost limitless number of inputs and outputs to be multiplexed into the eC-test-mate system, and still all be tested and controlled from scripts within the PC software.

All in all it looks like a pretty versatile system. W Technology sees it being more than capable of testing the board originally identified as being a good contender for its application, and they look forward to incorporating its use into other product lines in the future.

W Technology, www.wtechnology.co.uk and contact via test@wtechnology.co.uk

Virtec – an eC-test-mate user reports

VIRTEC S.R.L., Hurlingham – Buenos Aires, Argentina, customer of eC-test-mate

VIRTEC S.R.L., located in Hurlingham, Argentina, is a committed user of the eC-test-mate. Its CTO, Mr Juan Andres Mondolo, chose the eC-test-mate (and its accompanying software eC-my-test) to cover all testing needs within the company. Already, Virtec has realized testing solutions for two products with the eC-test-mate, and more are coming up this year.

Virtec provides products for data collection in vehicles and transport applications as well as for environmental monitoring, e.g. for agricultural purposes. With over 300,000 systems sold, Virtec offers solutions for fleet monitoring and telemetry in several South American countries. In order to withstand harsh working conditions with high reliability, the products must be robust and the electronics must fulfill high requirements regarding durability and long term functionality.

Why choose eC-test-mate?

Virtec was one of the first companies to purchase an eC-test-mate, which was introduced at the Electronica 2014 trade fair in Munich. What were the main reasons for Virtec to choose the eC-test-mate?

As Mr Mondolo puts it: “We use the eC-my-test software for the development and execution of our product testing, and we ask our contract manufacturers to implement it as well, using our test scripts. This offers the possibility of a high level of production standardization and guaranteed quality at very low costs. Also, our trust in Eurocircuits as a supplier played a significant role” Virtec is an innovative company that releases six to eight new products every year. These include completely new products as well as variations of existing solutions.

“Flexible application is therefore a key requirement for any test equipment, and with the eC-test-mate we have found just that. We only have to incorporate a standard footprint in each PCB design, assign the 21 test points and write the test commands for every test pin. That is why we use the eC-test-mate in the development, as well as in the production phase of the PCB”.

Before eC-test-mate….

Mr Mondolo explains that the eC-test-mate means a breakthrough for Virtec’s test strategy:

“Using this functional automated test system enables the company to test its PCBs thoroughly and in a shorter time period than before. A complete test of one of our newest product with the eC-test-mate, including programming of the firmware, takes around six minutes and now our contractors are able to process proximally 1600 tested PCBs per month. Additionally, providing the contract manufacturer with a user friendly and ready-to-use test solution helps to ensure that every PCB is tested to our specific requirements.”

Standardization

As a result of this standardization of our testing process, it now becomes interesting to be able to store the test results. With eC-test-mate it is possible to store the results in a dedicated database via TCP connection. It also allows the programming of an ST microcontroller as part of the test process.

Virtec mainly uses the following eC-test-mate functions: Analog and digital in- and outputs, power supplies, UART, RS-485 and CAN. These functions are all included in either test head 1 or test head 2.

More possibilities in a very short learning period

According to Mr Mondolo, it took him only a few hours of ‘getting to know the program’ and working through a complete test development to master eC-my-test, and to be able to execute the first tests. The process was significantly easier than developing tests using standard programming languages such as C, C++ and Visual Basic.

“Overall the step from simple (manual) testing over connections and optical inspection to the implementation of the eC-test-mate was quite easy, and as we move forward we continue to see more advantages in working with the eC-test-mate system. We don’t need separate test fixtures or custom made beds of nails for our products, and we don’t have to purchase test software from yet another supplier. With one investment we now completely control the test development and test execution of all of our products and can therefore offer highly reliable and cost-effective solutions to our customers.”

Virtec SRL, www.virtec.com.ar

Eurocircuits NV, www.eurocircuits.com/test

TEST-OK BV, www.test-ok.nl

Eurocircuits supports innovation – Parcelhome smart letterbox

WORLD PREMIERE LAUNCHED IN BELGIUM:
SMART LETTERBOX THAT ENABLES HOME PACKAGE DELIVERIES WHEN YOU ARE OUT

Concerns about delivery and complex returns from home are key reasons for consumers to avoid online purchases. Now, parcelhome.com has developed an all-new way for Belgian parcel delivery services to solve both problems at once. With its smart letterbox, this start-up has developed a package delivery system at home that both couriers and consumers can open using a smartphone app.

Carriers DHL Parcel, GLS and DPD see an opportunity to improve their service to consumers. Both carriers and consumers lose when no one is home to receive a package. At present, 15% of packages cannot be delivered on the first attempt, and in some residential areas up to 50% of deliveries fail. This trial in the Mechelen area is the first project in which multiple carriers cooperate to improve home delivery rates. The smartbox is the result of 18 months of research and development and has is covered by multiple patents.

Luc van Bosstraeten, parcelhome.com’s GM for Benelux explains. “It is as simple to use as your letterbox, but it contains breakthrough technology. You can use the system to allow package carriers and even local shops – like your baker – to deliver their products at home. The only thing the baker needs is the Parcelhome app. The system is totally secure and works with dynamic codes comparable to the codes used in online banking. The built-in scale issues a receipt, and the system can receive multiple packages from different carriers. As soon as a package is placed in the ParcelHome unit, the addressee is notified.”

This means that customers know exactly when a package has arrived or been picked up and what each carrier has done. Thanks to the scale, it is easy to send and return packages and there is no need to go to the post office. The ParcelHome unit calculates the delivery fee and franks the package, a carrier then comes and picks it up.

The ParcelHome unit is large enough for 95% of packages. At the moment the trial is limited to the homes of 100 online shoppers in the Mechelen area who will be testing the units from May until July.
“It is high time for something like this,” says trial participant Gilles Van der Planken from Duffel. “My wife and I both work away from home. We order items online several times a month, from coffee capsules to nose spray to children’s toys. Having to drive somewhere to pick up a parcel is annoying. I hope that from now on ‘home delivery’ will mean that items are actually delivered to our home.”
It is not surprising that parcelhome.com kicks off in Belgium, because e-commerce has huge momentum in the country, and according to research by management consultancy AT Kearny Belgium is among the top ten growth markets. A number Belgian companies have contributed to the development of the smartbox including Quad Industries, Eurocircuits and Clear Channel Belgium. Eurocircuits also takes part in the trial.

But what really makes this project unique is the fact that several different carriers are co-operating for greater customer satisfaction. They clearly see that parcelhome.com is key to the future of e-commerce.

picture-1, picture-2, picture-3 Photo credit: parcelhome.com

Eurocircuits as loyal long term sponsor of GROUP T’s formula student team

Eurocircuits as loyal long term sponsor of GROUP T’s formula student team.

For the last several academic years, Eurocircuits have been supporting the Formula student team of GROUP T in Leuven with PCBs for their car.

In the following video are some impressions of their work and team.

Design UMICORE LUNA from Formula Electric Belgium on Vimeo.

https://vimeo.com/120733447

You really should visit their website and admire what these enthusiastic group of students can do: http://www.formulaelectric.be/home

Eurocircuits involved in a project that is out of this world: WUSAT

Eurocircuits involved in a project that is out of this world: WUSAT.

Eurocircuits had the immense pleasure to provide the PCB’s for such a prestigious project as the recently launched WUSAT-2, and are very pleased to be sponsoring Warwick”s next planned satellite, WUSAT-3‎.

For the last year, eight engineering students from Warwick University, led by their project director Dr Bill Crofts, embarked on a project to design, build and launch their own Satellite into space.

The satellite will measure light frequencies from the outer atmosphere and transmit them back to the team before dropping back to earth. They have designed their machine to estimate the density of elements such as sodium and O2 via their light emission because that is one way satellites can detect other potentially life-supporting planets in a galaxy.

The project is being backed by the European Space Agency, and the German and Swedish Space Agencies are both on board as well.

After months of hard work and dedication the team were ready for launch last Tuesday the 17th March 2015 ‎from the Swedish Space Centre north of the Arctic Circle.

In the words of the project director: “The launch was almost on time, perfect weather conditions, we got some great pics and video of it, the nosecone deployed exactly on time, the satellite ejected, the communications system powered up, and we started to receive data signals through our ground station where most of us were situated on Radar Hill 2km away.

The team were ecstatic and very emotional! Every aspect that each of them had worked on was successful. Later, we heard two sonic bangs which we think was the satellite breaking the sound barrier on re-entry.

Even the ESA guys were excited! Apparently, this is the first time they have successfully achieved transmitted data from an ESA/Rexus ejected unit on re-entry, so an amazing achievement. We have a lot of data now to be analyzed, and we are hoping to estimate the speed of the satellite via the Doppler shift of the radio signals. Nevertheless, to achieve transmission at all in these conditions was quite exceptional! As expected the satellite could not be recovered, but the ejection unit was recovered by helicopter along with the rocket’s service module 40km away.

Project Director Dr. Bill Crofts was keen to point out the vital role played by all of the sponsoring companies in helping the WUSAT team overcome the huge engineering challenges they faced with the WUSAT-2 mission. “They are a key part of the team, and also help to enhance the experience and knowledge that the students acquire through working with them”. We are now aiming for WUSAT-3 to be a fully orbiting satellite potentially launched from the International Space Station. How cool is that!”

Eurocircuits wishes the team great and continued success.

One small step for Man and one giant voyage for Eurocircuits.

You can follow them on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/WarwickUniversitySatellite and twitter https://twitter.com/WUSAT_Team