Cambridge, April 2020: Plextek Services Ltd and Design Momentum Ltd are pleased to announce they have entered into a strategic partnership to develop scientific instruments and laboratory equipment for life sciences. The partnership brings together Plextek’s expertise in electronic engineering design & development at its ISO13485-certified premises with Design Momentum’s 25 years of experience in innovative technology design in the sector.

The life science industry continues to experience change and rapid growth. It is now more than ever vital for instrumentation companies to embrace new technologies, improve efficiencies and productivity, and move to meet the ever-increasing demands of the sector. The Plextek-DM partnership brings together deep skills and experience in product ideation, industrial design, technology development and manufacture, and will allow clients to advance using the latest technologies, speeding time to market.

Current events are showing only too well the need for rapid development of critical technology to support the life science industry, and this partnership is ideally placed to help its clients through a seamless process from design to the market.

“The Plextek-DM partnership provides a unique one-stop opportunity for life science companies to access all the skills necessary for product development, from inception through to product manufacture”, said Nicholas Hill, Plextek’s CEO. “The alliance brings together a powerful combination of skills in the laboratory equipment sector and builds on the two organisations’ previous collaborations. DM’s collaborative approach is uniquely complementary to how we work within Plextek, and we look forward to a long and fruitful partnership”.

“Partnering with Plextek to design and deliver instrumentation for our clients will allow us to provide the very best design and engineering services,” said Professor Phil Gray, DM’s Managing Director. “Together, working as one team, we will unlock the full potential of our organisations and place our clients on the best path for success in a rapidly changing market.”

Our joint approach to scientific instrumentation development will grant life science clients access to a unique combination of long-term engineering know-how and best-in-class product design capability which will enable next-generation devices to be produced more efficiently, bringing products to a market quickly.

About Plextek Services Ltd
Plextek is an innovative electronic engineering consultancy with huge expertise in advanced sensing, data collection and communications technology. The company has extensive experience of developing highly complex and innovative products for a range of sectors, including medical & healthcare. In a world of rapid change, the company prides itself on its ability to solve the hardest engineering problems to deliver effective solutions to meet our clients’ needs.

About Design Momentum
DM is a user-focused industrial design and product development consultancy helping clients innovate and develop the next generation of products, systems and services. The company brings together a highly-experienced team with a unique blend of creativity, innovation and development skills all with a sharp business focus. DM has combined 72 years of experience in life sciences, automation and scientific instrument design & development.

Please contact Nigel Whittle, Head of Medical & Healthcare at Plextek for more information.

3rd April 2020: Dr Nigel Whittle, Head of Healthcare & Medical at technology consultancy Plextek features in The Engineer news article on how advances in health sensing and monitoring tech could help with remote care for those in self isolation or vulnerable situations.

Coronavirus has taken us all by surprise, with many parts of the world in or heading into virtual lockdown. Can developments in tech and healthcare devices now come into their own and help us fight back against the current crisis?

We are only too aware that early detection is absolutely key to monitoring the spread of disease and ultimately improving survival rates, so how can these developments in devices come into play, now so desperately needed?

To read the full article Click Here.

3rd March 2020:  Cambridge-based Plextek Group has completed the sale of one of its spin-outs, the boutique microwave chip design business Plextek RFI Ltd, to Langford, Essex based CML Microsystems Plc. for an undisclosed sum, thus following the well-trodden Cambridge tech house model.

Plextek RFI was founded from within Plextek by Liam Devlin some twenty years ago and demerged into a separate limited company in 2015. It has earned an unrivalled reputation for right-first-time designs of RF, Microwave and Millimetre-wave (mm-wave) ICs and modules. The team has completed in excess of 100 IC designs, operating at radio frequencies up to 100GHz and is a third-party approved design house for a number of leading semiconductor companies globally. Design experience includes front end ICs for mm-wave 5G, broadband Monolithic Microwave ICs (MMICs), receiver, transmitter and power amplifier (PA) ICs for microwave links and GaN PAs for both commercial and defence applications. The designers, IP, order book and customer relationships are all part of the deal.

This represents the first outright sale of one of the Plextek Group companies. These are set up as sister companies and include:

  • Plextek Services Ltd (the original technical product design house):  which solves today’s hardest engineering problems in sensing, data collection and communications
  • Blighter Surveillance Systems Ltd: Best-in-class e-scan radars for border security, counter-drone, perimeter security, wide area surveillance & coastline security, including to Heathrow and Gatwick Airports and civil and defence customers in over 35 countries
  • Redtail Telematics: full stack providers of black box telematics to insurers, OEMs and fleets including Admiral, ByMiles, Concirrus, TRACKER Network, LoJack and young driver specialist Ingenie
  • Telensa Ltd (now co-funded by ETF and others): a world leading supplier of streetlight metering and management solutions, whose deployments exceed GE and Philips combined.

The marriage between Plextek RFI (PRFI) and CML arose out of a clear strategic alignment. “PRFI’s dedicated and experienced team enhances our

Plextek RFI Technologystrategy for expansion within communications markets. Their design expertise expands upon the Group’s existing skills and provides a new independent service and consulting income stream for CML” said Chris Gurry, CML’s Group Managing Director.

Plextek Group Chairman Dr Colin Smithers added “We are both delighted and saddened to see Plextek RFI come to maturity and to wave it off into its new beginning at CML where we are sure they will help directly with their strategic goals. The choice of deal partner covered many aspects including a strong cultural fit.”

PRFI will remain based at the Plextek campus in Great Chesterford.

For any queries regarding this release, please contact Colin Smithers directly on +447801398714

8th January 2020: Innovation and design consultancy Plextek has joined the Arm® Pelion™ and Mbed™ Partner Ecosystem, a growing group of leading embedded and cloud companies, component manufacturers, system integrators and OEMs committed to driving innovation in IoT.

The Pelion and Mbed Partner Ecosystem is focused on supporting openness, standards, technology and services needed to accelerate the development and wider adoption of IoT systems based on the Arm Pelion IoT platform, development tools and strong customer relationships. Plextek is an accredited Pelion and Mbed service provider, offering consultancy, engineering services and systems integration.

Shahzad Nadeem, head of smart cities at Plextek, said: “Our technical experience, partnered with Arm’s IoT technologies, competence and global reach, is an extremely significant development for creating effective and secure solutions for our clients. We are proud to be recognised for the quality of our engineering design over the past 30 years and to have been made an Arm Pelion and Mbed Foundation partner and look forward to continuing our strong working relationship.”

For more information on the Arm Pelion and Mbed Partner Ecosystem and list of partners, go to: https://www.mbed.com/en/partners/

Home-Inspired Innovation to Create the Finest Multimeter Probes

Robert Fitzgerald, senior consultant

By: Robert Fitzgerald
Senior Consultant, Signal Processing

6th December 2019

2 minute read

Home » Innovation

During the course of my career in Electronics, almost all semiconductor components have become increasingly smaller. Whilst this has brought many benefits in terms of size, performance and power consumption, the task of debugging circuits has become much harder. Long gone are the days when you could attach a friendly IC test clip over a 16 pin DIL IC to probe key signals.

Magnifying the problem

The inexorable march of long sightedness has provided a double-whammy and made this task even harder. Help is at hand thanks to head mount magnifier glasses, which even with an LED only cost around £10.

In-circuit test techniques such as JTAG have helped, but sometimes there’s no substitute for actually debugging your PCB with a multimeter or scope.

If you’re lucky enough to be probing an IC that actually has pins or a QFN package where there is a tiny area of exposed metal to access, the probes that come with most multimeters are usually too broad at the tip to ensure you’re on the pin you want rather than shorting out the adjacent pin and making matters a whole lot worse!

Many well-known suppliers offer test leads with fine tips buts none were quite sharp enough – and they’re not cheap.

Inspiration!

Salvation came from the unlikely source of my wife’s needlework kit. Whilst rummaging through it looking for some elastic I was stabbed by a needle. Upon removing offending item from my finger I realized that being made of metal and sharp enough to draw blood, it was just what I needed for circuit debugging.

Said needle was promptly soldered to a 4mm banana socket with plenty of heatshrink to make the connection sufficiently robust and the net result is shown below:

innovation, creativity, problem solvingProbing a 0.5mm pitch quad flat pack IC is now slightly less precarious.

innovation, creativity, problem solvingThe end can be made even sharper with the aid of a file but beware such probes are very sharp as I found to my initial cost.
As every Engineer knows, it’s the magic smoke that makes all semiconductors work and these probes have helped me keep it on the inside and aided fault finding.

How have you solved problems in unexpected ways?

During the course of my career in Electronics, almost all semiconductor components have become increasingly smaller. Whilst this has brought many benefits in terms of size, performance and power consumption, the task of debugging circuits has become much harder. Long gone are the days when you could attach a friendly IC test clip over a 16 pin DIL IC to probe key signals.

Magnifying the problem

The inexorable march of long sightedness has provided a double-whammy and made this task even harder. Help is at hand thanks to head mount magnifier glasses, which even with an LED only cost around £10.

In-circuit test techniques such as JTAG have helped, but sometimes there’s no substitute for actually debugging your PCB with a multimeter or scope.

If you’re lucky enough to be probing an IC that actually has pins or a QFN package where there is a tiny area of exposed metal to access, the probes that come with most multimeters are usually too broad at the tip to ensure you’re on the pin you want rather than shorting out the adjacent pin and making matters a whole lot worse!
Many well-known suppliers offer test leads with fine tips buts none were quite sharp enough – and they’re not cheap.

Inspiration!

Salvation came from the unlikely source of my wife’s needlework kit. Whilst rummaging through it looking for some elastic I was stabbed by a needle. Upon removing offending item from my finger I realized that being made of metal and sharp enough to draw blood, it was just what I needed for circuit debugging.

Said needle was promptly soldered to a 4mm banana socket with plenty of heatshrink to make the connection sufficiently robust and the net result is shown below:

innovation, creativity, problem solvingProbing a 0.5mm pitch quad flat pack IC is now slightly less precarious.

innovation, creativity, problem solvingThe end can be made even sharper with the aid of a file but beware such probes are very sharp as I found to my initial cost.
As every Engineer knows, it’s the magic smoke that makes all semiconductors work and these probes have helped me keep it on the inside and aided fault finding.

How have you solved problems in unexpected ways?