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News about ertec

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Flashing Vitality into Electronic Devices

How does it actually work to get Bits and Bytes into electronic devices? What is the trick to bring life to PCBs, LEDs, displays or acoustic signal transmitters? No IC is able to work by itself. To enable a device to function, you need to "inject" its program first, i.e.: instructions, data and parameters, decision features, jumps, comparisons, input and output a.s.f. All these single components and their partially highly complex interaction is usually stored in Flash devices. But how are these flashes filled? To program ICs is a very demanding topic. One of the few companies, who can benefit from almost 30 years of experience in this field, is ertec GmbH in Germany, providing various products and services for the different processes. This is the spot where you can find the full product range of this niche market, commencing with off-line programming site (with motoric vaccum-pump and label printer), all the way up to on-board programming solutions (to be integrated into assembly lines) and, finally, the fully automated programming robot (incl. laser marking and device inspection). What would an electronic device be like without any software – nothing but an empty shell without functional meaning!

Consequently, to make your cell phone ring and dial, your washing machine twist and pump off water, your car accelerate and retard, your printer print out, your navigation system calculate the requested travel route – a software program, i.e. the complete works of conditions and commands, must be transferred into the device. Therefore, it is a necessity to develop the software on the basis of highest quality demands and with the appropriate quality design tools. All in all, we are speaking of a very responsible task. Eventually, each and every programmed function needs to work properly and remain stable in the target hardware. Actually, your are the creator, who brings life to the device by means of your software. Yet, how can the software resp. functionality and "life" be transferred into electronic devices? The topic of programming is quite a difficult one, indeed. The German company ertec GmbH was founded in 1980 as an engineering house for microelectronics developments. Over the many years, ertec has been growing to an international provider of systems and embedded programming solutions when it comes to IC-programming. In accordance with our corporate philosophy "Competence in Device Programming" the customers share our innovations by our products and services guaranteeing high productivity as well as flexibility and an excellent quality. ertec GmbH is Europe´s only manufacturer of programming technology covering the extensive range of systems. The design and production comprises manual programming sites, automated offline programming systems and on-board embedded solutions. Further, the services of a programming house are provided to serve each customer´s individual requirements During the 1980ies, programming data used to be shot with so-called EPROM-burners mainly into UV-erasable memory devices. Ever since, the development of electronic devices has rapidly stepped ahead. In the year 2008 alone, globally approx. 17 billion electronic devices were programmed, out of which 90% were flash devices. The share of 6 billion microcontrollers with on-chip-flash has been increasing continuously, above all, in the automotive sector. A state-of-the-art automobile these days contains up to 60 microcontrollers in function. What´s more, many electronic applications get programmed not only once; just think of the so-called upgrades for cell phones or, e.g., keeping the data for maps of navigation systems up to date. In general, there are two processes to transfer the programming data into memory devices: to program offline and to program on-board.

The programming of assembled PCBs (=on-board) does not require to keep on stock any software versions, i.e. resulting in less administration, lower costs, and avoiding the risk of delivering possibly an older (not wanted) version to the assembly line. Further, mechanical damages to the often times very sensitive and tiny device packages cannot occur. However, the device programming times extend the cycle times in many an assembly line and costs considerably. Well-known automotive manufacturers flash millions of PCBs with ertec-on-board programming systems of the family "PGS8X" in their production lines, taking advantage of the open system solution, which makes it possible to fully integrate their production software. Besides, they can implement transparency and traceability of the processes, which is an absolute must nowadays in quality assurance.

As an alternative, you may decide for offline- and single-device programming or device programming at the electronics manufacturer resp. in a programming house. In one of these cases, the programming times are not only used outside the assembly line; even more, by means of the automated parallel programming mode, you can enjoy an additional time- and cost-reduction here. Either of the mentioned process decisions are well acceptable, depending on each individual case, needs and priorities. Therefore, ertec´s corporate philosophy is based on thhree columns: - Design and production of offline programming systems and programming robots - Implementation of on-board embedded solutions for assembly lines - Premium-programming services using ertec-programmers exclusively Large and medium-sized electronics manufacturers program devices for the usage in their own products, either manually or by having fed the ertec-programming robot "Beaver". But it this does not mean programming alone, but also to verify, to label, to laser-mark, to inspect and to pack the devices – all in one closed process. No manual interaction is necessary. The risk of human fallibility is actually no longer existing when operating the Beaver. The programming technologies in use at ertec are the core know-how. Naturally, these tecniques are taken care of permanently and designed for future needs. One technology in place is the smartJet-Highspeed-Technology® allowing ertec to program devices close to the edge of the device´s physical time-limits, yet keeping a thorough securing of data consistency. Also, the ertec-procedure of Huge Memory Flashing® is based on this solution. Via special data processing- and optimized data transmission procedures, huge quantities of data may be programmed into the flash devices with maximum capacities in record breaking times. When programming the automated method with the Beaver, which can accommodate up to 64 programming sockets, you can reach tremendous throughputs even with such high capacity devices. This is what a 21st century electronics production requires. The management and staff of ertec have always been committed to customer satisfaction. Therefore, we guarantee to provide you with a constructive support - our hotline is here for you, to assist you without delay. Our objective is to keep you convinced of our leading performance. Since late 2008, ertec GmbH has merged with the HTV-group (parent company located in Bensheim/Germany), i.e. ertec has an even broader basis for the future activities and will keep on being your reliable and stable partner. We assure you to stay the innovative and quickly responding innovator in programming systems – to serve your requirements and demands.

© ertec GmbH, 91058 Erlangen/Germany
Author: Dipl.-Ing. Peter Nickel ((Managing Director - Technical Operations))