Cambridge, UK – 18th October 2018 – This week Plextek showcased their mm-Wave Radar on the Government of Dubai stand at GITEX 2018.

The other technology firms that were invited to join the stand were Esharah Etisalat Security Solutions, Airbus and Nokia.

Our Project Engineer Edson DaSilva showed how this technology can be applied for detection of a range of objects, for example:

– people

– vehicles

– UAVs

– even objects as small as a nut and bolt.

Threats such as Foreign Object Debris (FOD) on runways can pose a serious risk to passenger safety meaning this technology is key consideration for organisations.

Edson DaSilva, Project Engineer said:

“Our mm-wave solutions operate in covert frequency bands making them extremely difficult to intercept and have been deployed for diverse security applications, for example, drone detection, sense and avoid, perimeter security, protection of critical national infrastructure, border control and airport protection, and also prevention of contraband drop off at prisons.”

Nick Koiza, Head of the Security Business at Plextek was delighted to have had the opportunity to support the Government of Dubai:

this technology demonstrates our low size, weight and power mm-wave solutions, an area where customers from across the globe have benefited from reliable detection of objects of varying size and speed, including fast moving, small aerial targets.”

To find out more about how our radar technology capabilities could fulfil your security requirements, contact a member of our Secure Technologies team: security@plextek.com

Notes to editors

Based near Cambridge, UK, Plextek designs new products, systems, and services for its clients in a diverse range of industries including defence & security, medical & healthcare, and wireless communications.

Central to its culture is the company’s ability to innovate, taking an idea from concept to market. For more than 25 years the team of consultants, engineers and project managers has turned our clients’ business opportunities into commercial success, designing, manufacturing and supplying leading-edge products. Supported by our network of suppliers, commercial partners and research organisations, Plextek is the trusted partner of choice for more than 300 commercial clients, government agencies, and ambitious start-up companies.

For images, information or interview requests, please contact: Adam Roberts via email: press@plextek.com or call: 01799 533200

Dr Nigel Whittle, Head of Medical & Healthcare here at Plextek featured in ‘Tomorrow’s Care’ magazine this week.  He discusses how different technologies are being adapted in many different aspects of care, and how this is reshaping the delivery of care.

To read the full article click here.

For more information, contact Nigel via nigel.whittle@plextek.com

Smoke Without Fire: How Safe are e-Cigarettes?

Nigel Whittle - Head of Medical & Healthcare

By: Nigel Whittle
Head of Medical & Healthcare

30th May 2018

Home » Technology » Page 2

Tradition has it that on 27th July 1586 Sir Walter Raleigh introduced smoking to England, arriving with colonists bringing tobacco, maize and potatoes from Virginia. It is likely however that tobacco had already been smoked by Spanish and Portuguese sailors for many years since its discovery by the native people of Central and South America thousands of years previously.

Fast forward nearly 400 years to 1963, when Herbert A. Gilbert invented and patented the first e-cigarette as an alternative to burning tobacco. His design for a smokeless, non-tobacco cigarette incorporated flavour cartridges, a heating element, and smokeless flavoured air. However in the 60’s there was no pressing demand for a healthier alternative to smoking, and it was not a commercial success. It wasn’t until the 2000s that Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist and part-time medical researcher, created the first modern e-cigarette as a practical device containing nicotine dissolved in a solvent. Hon Lik was inspired to develop his concept after witnessing his father’s death from smoking-induced lung cancer.

e-Cigarette Technology

Nowadays there are many brands of e-cigarette, and all are essentially battery-powered devices, usually cylindrical in shape, containing a solution of liquid nicotine, water, and propylene glycol. When you take a puff on one, a microphone detects a drop in pressure, causing a battery to heat up the solution rapidly and create a vapour that can be inhaled. The action, called “vaping”, is increasingly becoming the preferred way to consume nicotine, with over 3 million people in the UK using e-cigarettes, either as a tobacco substitute or as a means to cut back on smoking.

The technology around vaping continues to advance: the ability to control temperature avoids overheating the carrier liquids, or causing a ‘dry puff’, in which the wick becomes too dry, and burns the ingredients rather than producing vapour. Other enhancements range from improved battery life, to the use of visual displays and Bluetooth connectivity to display and transfer information about vaping parameters and activities.

Image courtesy of Science Focus (www.sciencefocus.com)


Safety Pros and Cons

The increase in usage over recent years has been paralleled by a debate about whether vaping can be considered safe, or just safer than smoking cigarettes, and what role it should have in smoking cessation. The active ingredient, nicotine, which is crucial to cigarette addiction is not considered carcinogenic, although it is formally a toxin which in high doses can potentially affect adolescent brain development or cause harm to a developing foetus, so it can never be deemed entirely safe. But importantly e-cigarettes contain far fewer of the harmful substances such as tar or carbon monoxide produced by smoking tobacco, and therefore presumably provides a safer experience.

Because the trend in vaping has developed so fast, clinical research into the practice is struggling to catch up. One approach is to analyse e-cigarette liquids, and the vapour they produce, to demonstrate that they contain lower levels of toxic chemicals than tobacco cigarettes. However, it is more important to show what concentrations of chemicals users are actually exposed to in the real world. Such studies can be difficult and complex to conduct, often involving comparisons between vapers, tobacco smokers, non-smokers, and even to those using nicotine replacement therapy. In general these studies, as summarised in a recent Cochrane Review, have demonstrated that e-cigarettes are far safer than smoking, although the most significant benefits come from stopping smoking altogether.

Regulation of e-Cigarette Use

There is considerable variability of regulation of e-cigarettes in different countries, ranging from no regulation to banning them entirely. The unregulated manufacture of e-liquids in countries such as China has led to legitimate concerns over potential health impacts, and there is mounting pressure for world-wide alignment of regulation as exists with traditional tobacco products. It was not until 2014 that the EU required standardization and quality control of liquids and vaporizers, disclosure of ingredients in liquids, and tamper-proof packaging. Similarly in 2016 the US FDA announced the comprehensive regulation of all electronic nicotine delivery systems.

One result of this regulation is the need for rigorous product development and testing by e-cigarette companies, who are generating increasing amounts of data to demonstrate the integrity of their products. It is inevitable that as the industry matures it will begin to develop its own Quality Standards and operate under specific GxP standards for improved quality control.

In Conclusion

Over 100,000 people die each year as a result of smoking-related illnesses in the UK alone. Vaping, on the other hand, has not been linked with a single death in the UK. The advice from Cancer Research UK is that smoking tobacco is the single biggest preventable cause of death in the world, and if you are a smoker, the best thing you can do for your health is to stop. But through 50 years of development, vaping technology has created a significantly safer alternative to traditional smoking and an effective tool for helping people to stop smoking.

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Tradition has it that on 27th July 1586 Sir Walter Raleigh introduced smoking to England, arriving with colonists bringing tobacco, maize and potatoes from Virginia. It is likely however that tobacco had already been smoked by Spanish and Portuguese sailors for many years since its discovery by the native people of Central and South America thousands of years previously.

Fast forward nearly 400 years to 1963, when Herbert A. Gilbert invented and patented the first e-cigarette as an alternative to burning tobacco. His design for a smokeless, non-tobacco cigarette incorporated flavour cartridges, a heating element, and smokeless flavoured air. However in the 60’s there was no pressing demand for a healthier alternative to smoking, and it was not a commercial success. It wasn’t until the 2000s that Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist and part-time medical researcher, created the first modern e-cigarette as a practical device containing nicotine dissolved in a solvent. Hon Lik was inspired to develop his concept after witnessing his father’s death from smoking-induced lung cancer.

e-Cigarette Technology

Nowadays there are many brands of e-cigarette, and all are essentially battery-powered devices, usually cylindrical in shape, containing a solution of liquid nicotine, water, and propylene glycol. When you take a puff on one, a microphone detects a drop in pressure, causing a battery to heat up the solution rapidly and create a vapour that can be inhaled. The action, called “vaping”, is increasingly becoming the preferred way to consume nicotine, with over 3 million people in the UK using e-cigarettes, either as a tobacco substitute or as a means to cut back on smoking.

The technology around vaping continues to advance: the ability to control temperature avoids overheating the carrier liquids, or causing a ‘dry puff’, in which the wick becomes too dry, and burns the ingredients rather than producing vapour. Other enhancements range from improved battery life, to the use of visual displays and Bluetooth connectivity to display and transfer information about vaping parameters and activities.

Image courtesy of Science Focus (www.sciencefocus.com)


Safety Pros and Cons

The increase in usage over recent years has been paralleled by a debate about whether vaping can be considered safe, or just safer than smoking cigarettes, and what role it should have in smoking cessation. The active ingredient, nicotine, which is crucial to cigarette addiction is not considered carcinogenic, although it is formally a toxin which in high doses can potentially affect adolescent brain development or cause harm to a developing foetus, so it can never be deemed entirely safe. But importantly e-cigarettes contain far fewer of the harmful substances such as tar or carbon monoxide produced by smoking tobacco, and therefore presumably provides a safer experience.

Because the trend in vaping has developed so fast, clinical research into the practice is struggling to catch up. One approach is to analyse e-cigarette liquids, and the vapour they produce, to demonstrate that they contain lower levels of toxic chemicals than tobacco cigarettes. However, it is more important to show what concentrations of chemicals users are actually exposed to in the real world. Such studies can be difficult and complex to conduct, often involving comparisons between vapers, tobacco smokers, non-smokers, and even to those using nicotine replacement therapy. In general these studies, as summarised in a recent Cochrane Review, have demonstrated that e-cigarettes are far safer than smoking, although the most significant benefits come from stopping smoking altogether.

Regulation of e-Cigarette Use

There is considerable variability of regulation of e-cigarettes in different countries, ranging from no regulation to banning them entirely. The unregulated manufacture of e-liquids in countries such as China has led to legitimate concerns over potential health impacts, and there is mounting pressure for world-wide alignment of regulation as exists with traditional tobacco products. It was not until 2014 that the EU required standardization and quality control of liquids and vaporizers, disclosure of ingredients in liquids, and tamper-proof packaging. Similarly in 2016 the US FDA announced the comprehensive regulation of all electronic nicotine delivery systems.

One result of this regulation is the need for rigorous product development and testing by e-cigarette companies, who are generating increasing amounts of data to demonstrate the integrity of their products. It is inevitable that as the industry matures it will begin to develop its own Quality Standards and operate under specific GxP standards for improved quality control.

In Conclusion

Over 100,000 people die each year as a result of smoking-related illnesses in the UK alone. Vaping, on the other hand, has not been linked with a single death in the UK. The advice from Cancer Research UK is that smoking tobacco is the single biggest preventable cause of death in the world, and if you are a smoker, the best thing you can do for your health is to stop. But through 50 years of development, vaping technology has created a significantly safer alternative to traditional smoking and an effective tool for helping people to stop smoking.

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Further Reading

How Technology Companies Can Connect with Generation Z

Richard Emmerson - Senior Consultant, Communications Systems

By: Richard Emmerson
Senior Consultant, Communications Systems

24th January 2018

Home » Technology » Page 2

Generation Z (referring to the cohort born between the mid-1990s to mid-2000s) is the first generation to never know life without the internet, social media and technology with high-resolution colour screens…. just let that sink in for a second.

This new wave of young people will be the future-shapers of technology and innovation in our industry and are already strongly familiar with today’s technological achievements (smartphones, tablets and VR/AR entertainment systems to name a few).

In fact, switching between screens, devices, accounts and platforms all comes naturally to generation Z, as if intuitive; all the while juggling multiple tasks and projects without, seemingly, sacrificing the quality of their work. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised, or worried, if we see them on their phones all day, it’s their default position for communicating with colleagues, taking notes and doing research. This lends itself to the question:

How do you connect with a generation that is, in many ways, already connected?

Having been an Assessor for the Engineering Education Scheme (EES) Applied Programme, an educational classroom scheme that aims to inspire young people into pursuing a career into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics through carrying out projects in ‘real-life’ business conditions; I believe that first-hand experience may hold the answer.

The opportunity for young people to experience real-life exposure to our industry has, I think, a two-fold benefit. Firstly, so that they may be inspired and motivated to lead the way in the latest cutting-edge technology and secondly, so that we, collectively in the industry, may learn from a new and fresh perspective on what we are currently doing in our methods and practises.

With the latter in mind, here are 3 things I think a company in the technology/electronics industry can do to gain maximum benefit from their newest and youngest workforce.

1. Mix and match project teams

While selecting a project team involves much strategic decision-making, many project managers may favour in picking teams stocked with their most experienced and specialist experts. From personal experience during projects, I’ve found that the most effective working groups often feature a mix of top experts with junior and lower-level professionals.

2. Let Junior Engineers lead project work (when appropriate) with guidance

Giving junior engineers the chance to contribute as to what direction the project should be heading will help them integrate quickly and develop the confidence they need to bring their skills and education to the table. At the same time, gentle guidance can be given here so that they can learn from each team member’s unique areas of expertise and stay on track with the project timeline. Life skills, such as teamwork, time management, and project management skills can also develop faster.

3. Create a mentorship scheme

Similar to my previous point, a mentorship scheme goes one step further that project-based guidance. A mentorship scheme is extremely important for young people, while information is available at a touch of a button; real-life experiences can only be taught and cannot be downloaded. Such relationships encourage knowledge transfer and skills development, honing softer skills that will ease them into the established ways of working.

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Generation Z (referring to the cohort born between the mid-1990s to mid-2000s) is the first generation to never know life without the internet, social media and technology with high-resolution colour screens…. just let that sink in for a second.

This new wave of young people will be the future-shapers of technology and innovation in our industry and are already strongly familiar with today’s technological achievements (smartphones, tablets and VR/AR entertainment systems to name a few).

In fact, switching between screens, devices, accounts and platforms all comes naturally to generation Z, as if intuitive; all the while juggling multiple tasks and projects without, seemingly, sacrificing the quality of their work. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised, or worried, if we see them on their phones all day, it’s their default position for communicating with colleagues, taking notes and doing research. This lends itself to the question:

How do you connect with a generation that is, in many ways, already connected?

Having been an Assessor for the Engineering Education Scheme (EES) Applied Programme, an educational classroom scheme that aims to inspire young people into pursuing a career into Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics through carrying out projects in ‘real-life’ business conditions; I believe that first-hand experience may hold the answer.

The opportunity for young people to experience real-life exposure to our industry has, I think, a two-fold benefit. Firstly, so that they may be inspired and motivated to lead the way in the latest cutting-edge technology and secondly, so that we, collectively in the industry, may learn from a new and fresh perspective on what we are currently doing in our methods and practises.

With the latter in mind, here are 3 things I think a company in the technology/electronics industry can do to gain maximum benefit from their newest and youngest workforce.

1. Mix and match project teams

While selecting a project team involves much strategic decision-making, many project managers may favour in picking teams stocked with their most experienced and specialist experts. From personal experience during projects, I’ve found that the most effective working groups often feature a mix of top experts with junior and lower-level professionals.

2. Let Junior Engineers lead project work (when appropriate) with guidance

Giving junior engineers the chance to contribute as to what direction the project should be heading will help them integrate quickly and develop the confidence they need to bring their skills and education to the table. At the same time, gentle guidance can be given here so that they can learn from each team member’s unique areas of expertise and stay on track with the project timeline. Life skills, such as teamwork, time management, and project management skills can also develop faster.

3. Create a mentorship scheme

Similar to my previous point, a mentorship scheme goes one step further that project-based guidance. A mentorship scheme is extremely important for young people, while information is available at a touch of a button; real-life experiences can only be taught and cannot be downloaded. Such relationships encourage knowledge transfer and skills development, honing softer skills that will ease them into the established ways of working.

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Further Reading

PCB surface finishes

PCB Design for High Frequencies: Start with the Finish

Dave Burrel - Senior Consultant, Product Design

By: Dave Burrell
Senior Consultant, Product Design

20th December 2017

Home » Technology » Page 2

A Printed Circuit Board (PCB) surface finish is a coating between a component and a bare board PCB. It is applied for two basic reasons: to ensure solderability, and to protect exposed copper circuitry.

Since the early days of Tin/Lead Hot Air Solder Levelling (HASL) finish, there have been many PCB finishes over the years, each with their own advantages and limitations. Cost, technology requirements and legislative demands are only some of the reasons for this growth in choice.

The current, common finishes like Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold (ENIG), Immersion Silver and organics like Organic Solderability Preservative (OSP) provide much better planarity and smoothness for finer pitch devices. An example of such devices would be a Ball Grid Array (BGA), a Quad-Flat No-Leads package (QFN) or a Land Grid Array (LGA).

Changes in RoHS regulations (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) have also made these common finishes more mainstream, making them more accessible over their cheaper counterparts, like OSP and Silver, which tend to be susceptible to shelf life issues.

This difference can be seen more clearly when RF frequencies are introduced. At low RF frequencies, current will typically pass through the copper track of a PCB surface very efficiently. However, as the frequency increases, current tends to pass more on the outer surface/skin of the track, so the plating and its conductive loss becomes of greater significance.

Copper, gold and silver all provide very low resistance and insertion loss; however bare copper is, of course, not suitable as a finish as it will degrade, similarly (but to a lesser extent) to silver.

This leaves us with gold as the most suitable top plating but this has its own unique setback. Gold cannot be put directly onto copper; it needs a barrier layer, provided either by the nickel in ENIG, the silver in ISIG (Immersion Silver/Immersion Gold) or by Palladium in ENIPIG (Electroless Nickel Immersion Palladium Immersion Gold).

At this point, most engineers would opt for nickel in ENIG (the most common solution), but it is very resistive to RF and, as frequency increases, preference moves towards ISIG or ENIPIG. Both of which provide a highly conductive outer skin and, therefore, a better signal path.

As RF frequencies increase to 60 GHz – 80 GHz, the PCB finish has a greater significance to the efficiency and performance of the PCB, becoming a crucial part of the overall design functionality.

In addition, with technologies pushing the boundaries of RF frequencies further in sensors and radar, I predict that these more exotic PCB finishes are going to become more prolific in the future.

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A Printed Circuit Board (PCB) surface finish is a coating between a component and a bare board PCB. It is applied for two basic reasons: to ensure solderability, and to protect exposed copper circuitry.

Since the early days of Tin/Lead Hot Air Solder Levelling (HASL) finish, there have been many PCB finishes over the years, each with their own advantages and limitations. Cost, technology requirements and legislative demands are only some of the reasons for this growth in choice.

The current, common finishes like Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold (ENIG), Immersion Silver and organics like Organic Solderability Preservative (OSP) provide much better planarity and smoothness for finer pitch devices. An example of such devices would be a Ball Grid Array (BGA), a Quad-Flat No-Leads package (QFN) or a Land Grid Array (LGA).

Changes in RoHS regulations (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) have also made these common finishes more mainstream, making them more accessible over their cheaper counterparts, like OSP and Silver, which tend to be susceptible to shelf life issues.

This difference can be seen more clearly when RF frequencies are introduced. At low RF frequencies, current will typically pass through the copper track of a PCB surface very efficiently. However, as the frequency increases, current tends to pass more on the outer surface/skin of the track, so the plating and its conductive loss becomes of greater significance.

Copper, gold and silver all provide very low resistance and insertion loss; however bare copper is, of course, not suitable as a finish as it will degrade, similarly (but to a lesser extent) to silver.

This leaves us with gold as the most suitable top plating but this has its own unique setback. Gold cannot be put directly onto copper; it needs a barrier layer, provided either by the nickel in ENIG, the silver in ISIG (Immersion Silver/Immersion Gold) or by Palladium in ENIPIG (Electroless Nickel Immersion Palladium Immersion Gold).

At this point, most engineers would opt for nickel in ENIG (the most common solution), but it is very resistive to RF and, as frequency increases, preference moves towards ISIG or ENIPIG. Both of which provide a highly conductive outer skin and, therefore, a better signal path.

As RF frequencies increase to 60 GHz – 80 GHz, the PCB finish has a greater significance to the efficiency and performance of the PCB, becoming a crucial part of the overall design functionality.

In addition, with technologies pushing the boundaries of RF frequencies further in sensors and radar, I predict that these more exotic PCB finishes are going to become more prolific in the future.

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Further Reading