Music Electronics

On the threshold of a career

I have often been asked about how I got into Engineering. I got a serious reminder of it on 23 November 2011 when I went to see The Moody Blues in concert in St Kilda.

 

The Moody Blues - Live in St. Kilda 2011

The Moody Blues – Live in St. Kilda 2011

I had started a science degree at Deakin University in Waurn Ponds, Geelong, and stopped after the first year because I realised I didn’t have a good reason for being there. I had always liked science but I had no idea what I wanted to do for a career.

 

Isn’t life strange

One thing that did happen that year was that a fellow student introduced me to a music group I had never heard of. This was The Moody Blues. I was hooked on the first listen. They sang songs about the meaning of life and communicated with such skill that I wanted to able to do the same. So I took up guitar and started teaching myself how to play.

 

At the end of that year I decided not to go back for second year of science and took a year off. I worked a couple of mundane jobs, move from Geelong to South Melbourne and joined a pub band to try my hand at music. We were no comparison to The Moody Blues but something very important happened. I found that I loved working with the equipment and thought it would be really cool to be able to design my own guitar effects, amplifiers and PA equipment. Music Electronics was the career for me.

 

I had no idea what to study so I went back to Deakin University and asked them. They said that I should do a degree in Electrical Engineering majoring in Electronics. So that is what I did for the next 4 years. This time I had a reason to be there and it showed in my academic results when I graduated with a First Class Honours degree and a grade average of a High Distinction. I also started designing music equipment during my career and even before graduating had equipment installed in recording studies and sold to professional musicians.

 

So that is how I got started in Electronics and why Analogue Electronics is one of my technical specialties.

 

Lovely to see you again my friend

So back to the concert.

 

The Moody Blues - Live in St. Kilda 2011

The Moody Blues – Live in St. Kilda 2011

Wow. The Moody Blues were founded in 1963 and the main lineup dates from 1967 where they released the first concept album. That’s right, they beat the Beatles to it. The album was Days of Future Past. Of that lineup, 3 are still touring: Justin Hayward, John Lodge and Graeme Edge. Graeme Edge turned 70 earlier this year. And they still rock. That’s what finding the right career does for you. Passion and perseverance for the long haul. It is one of the best concerts I have ever been to.

 

And again I am grateful for the inspiration they were to me and for the career in Electronics that came from that.

 

Some of you may have noticed that the headings are all based on albums or songs by The Moody Blues.

 

New Horizons

I still play guitar and now also produce music. So as an example, here is a piece I recently produced trying to capture the journey from uncertainty into hope using music only. It is titled “Finding Hope“. Enjoy.

 

Finding Hope -Ray Keefe

Finding Hope -Ray Keefe

 

Finding Hope – © Ray Keefe Right click to save or click to listen in the browser.

 

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2011 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd

Australian Engineering Week 2010

Australian Engineering Week 2010

Today begins Australian Engineering Week 2010. You can get a full run down on all the events at Make It So which you might recognise as a tribute to the Star Trek series.

 

It got me thinking about why I got started in Engineering. It was music. I had done 1 year of a Science degree focusing on Physics and Chemistry at Deakin University and had taken a year off because I had no idea why I was doing a degree. So I worked a few mundane jobs and joined a pub band. We were pretty bad. I had only started playing guitar a year before that. The equipment was low grade and needed a lot of maintenance and I was constantly trying to improve the PA, the mixer, the guitar and amplifier and the effects. They were all analogue electronics in those days. It was mostly trial and error and occasionally trial and success!

 

What if I knew enough about Electronics to be able to improve, or even design from scratch, my own guitar effects pedals, guitar amplifiers, mixing desks and PA system?

 

But where would I learn that? So I went back to Deakin University and asked them. And they suggested Engineering. I had mostly thought of Engineering as roads, buildings, bridges and transport so this was a new type of Engineering for me. But I was also hooked.

 

Four years later with a First Class Honours Degree in Electrical Engineering I was doing just what I had set out to do. Electronics Design was now a part of who I was, not just an area of study. My rig was designed and built by me. And I also doing electronics design and custom pro-audio equipment construction for recording studios and professional musicians.

 

So check out Australian Engineering Week 2010 and for some more insights into Engineering you can also read the blog at Engineering Education Australia.

 

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © 2010 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Local Casey Electronics Business Wins National Awards

We have been pretty busy so far this year preparing several new products for both the Australian and International markets including an advanced DNP3 enabled power controller for the American Smart Grid initiative. So it was a pleasant interruption to this when we received news that our local Council wanted to run a feature on us for their business magazine.

 

City Of Casey

 

The City Of Casey In Business Magazine recently featured Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd following our national recognition with 2 national awards in the technical areas of Analogue Electronics Design and the use of Electronics Design Software in bringing advanced Electronics products quickly to market.

 

Check out what the City Of Casey have to say about us in this extract from their In Business Magazine, “Casey Electronics Business Wins Innovation Awards“. You can see the full In Business Magazine here City Of Casey In Business Magazine which not only has an article on Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd but also on another local company, Paint Tek. Paint-Tek is run by a good friend of ours and they specialise in custom surface coatings and treatments. Ross also runs Can-Tek who specialise in pre-gassed aerosol cans, contract aerosol packing and a range of water and solvent based aerosols in retail, commercial and industrial grades.

 

You can check out the full story on all our awards at Successful Endeavours awards.

 

It was an honour to be recognised by our city council together with other small business owners in the City of Casey, a municipality in the outer south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

 

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Green Electronics Strategies – Reduce Power While Awake

Electronics Design To Save Energy

We have looked at how Low Power Electronics is a green strategy because it reduces the amount of power that has to be generated. And then we looked at a range of options for Reducing Electronics Power Consumption.

 

Now we are into specifics. The last post looked at Sleep Modes For Microcontrollers and how extending the Sleep Period and reducing the Sleep Current could dramatically Reduce Electronics Power Consumption.

 

 

Saving Electronics Power When Awake

The next logical step is to ensure that Power Consumption when awake is also reduced as much as possible. This can be a little tricky to get right as it can sometimes eliminate all the benefits you built up with you sleep strategy. The reasons for this are:

  • you can use Analogue Electronics to reduce software power requirements but it has to be turned off during Sleep Mode
  • if you do turn the power off to Analogue Electronics then there is a Settling Time after it is powered up
  • using Smart Electronics Chips can increase overall Quiescent Current
  • unless the Startup Time and Shutdown Time are quick, these can dominate the Power Consumption

Now there are some Software Architecture issues that affect these, especially the last one, but we will look at that in another post. For the last part of this post we will address the Electronics Design issues that have been raised here.

 

 

Electronics Design – To Save Power

Electronics Design can address these Power Consumption issues. Here is an example of a Power Consumption curve where an RC Time Constant must be taken into account to minimise average Power Consumption.

RC Time Constant affect Power Consumption

RC Time Constant affect Power Consumption

Here is a list of general strategies to select from to reduce Power Consumption:

  • using the lowest feasible Clock Rate so Clocked Devices use less power
  • using shorter Settling Times particularly by controlling RC Time Constants
  • select semiconductors for lowest overall Quiescent Current taking awake and sleep operation into account
  • ensure streamlined Startup and Shutdown operation

The overall Quiescent Current issues often gives the most difficulty. This can be addressed through Design Simulation either by SPICE, Software Modelling or a spreadsheet. For simpler systems the spreadsheet is often the easiest solution to implement. For very Software Intensive Systems the Software Modelling approach is the most reliable method. This will allow you to construct scenarios and be able to predict the Power Consumption implications for each of them.

 

For our Electronics Design and System Test methodology we often create a full system Software Model and so it is easy to use this same Software Model to accumulate the power consumption as it runs. This can also be automated and so simulate months of operation very quickly.

 

Next we will look at the role of Embedded Software in ensuring Power Consumption remains as low as possible.

 

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Green Electronics Strategies – Reducing Power Consumption

What is so good about Low Power Electronics?

If you read my last post, you would have noticed that this has the potential to reduce overall Power Requirements. Up until now, only Battery Operated Devices have really cared about Power Consumption. If you could plug it into a wall outlet then all was OK unless you were consuming more power than a standard circuit allowed.

 

Today, things are different. Climate Change is a global concern and reducing the Carbon Footprint for a product is important, regardless of what sort of power it consumes.

 

If we can reduce the Power Consumption of an appliance by 50%, then provided it’s Electronics Manufacture does not add that back again, we have a net Carbon Footprint gain. In fact, if we can do this across all products then we will meet our Global Carbon Reduction target of 50% by 2050 with this strategy alone.

 

 

How to reduce Electronics Power Consumption

This is not a new topic, and much of what I present here represents the combined experience of the Electronics and Embedded Software industry. Here is the short list:

  • reduce the Supply Voltage for Microcontrollers, Microprocessors and CMOS Circuits in general
  • use Sleep Modes and keep the Wake Periods as short as possible
  • replace High Power Consumption Devices with Low Power Consumption Devices
  • replace high utilisation Digital Filters with Analogue Electronics equivalents
  • replace Polled Operating Modes with Event Driven Operating Modes
  • use Low Power Smart Peripherals that Wake the rest of the System only when required
  • reduce the Time To Wake and the Time To Sleep
  • optimise the Software Execution Flow
  • use Energy Harvesting
  • Remove power from sections of Electronics Circuitry when not in use

There is overlap and interdependency between these but that is a good starting point.

 

Next I will start look at specific examples.

 

Ray Keefe has been developing high quality and market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. For more information go to his LinkedIn profile. This post is Copyright © Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.