The annual IEEE conference has responded to a call for more practical content that engineers can use today.
Another week-long conference on electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), signal integrity (SI), and power integrity (PI) has come and gone. This year, the EMC+SIPI conference location was New Orleans at the Ernest N. Moriel Convention Center (Figure 1) along the Mississippi River waterfront. 2019 saw some notable differences in the conference content.
In the days approaching the event, we were unsure if it would even take place because of a threatening tropical storm, Barry. It arrived a few days in advance and was briefly classified as a Category 1 hurricane, but reduced quickly to a tropical storm. By the time we all started arriving, the weather was back to normal afternoon showers and hot, humid temperatures.
I’ll try to cover some of the highlights, but there are so many parallel events it’s a challenge to include everything.
This year, Todd Hubing served as the technical program chair and it showed. One long-time complaint from the non-academic attendees is that the symposium lacks enough practical presentations. This time was different and refreshing. There were many more practical workshops and experiments/demo sessions, overflowing into Wednesday from the normal Monday and Friday sessions.
While there were plenty of academic presentations, they even seemed more practical and the poster session was better located and promoted. There was also a greater emphasis on the young professionals (less than 15 years out of school) programs.
Lee Hill (Silent Solutions) did a great job chairing the ever popular “EMC Basics” series of workshop sessions. Even many of the more experienced engineers attended as a refresher.
The 5G keynote
Tuesday kicked off with a keynote presentation by Gabriel M. Rebeiz, a member of the National Academy and Distinguished Professor at the University of California, San Diego, entitled “5G and the Rise of Directive Communications (The End of the Marconi Era is Near)” (Figure 2). While we amateur radio operators kind of objected to that tag line, the presentation clarified 5G technology and provided details on the technical challenges and exciting technical features to come.
5G is not only about beam steering antenna arrays and associated high data rates, but the vision is that all communications platforms will be transformed — wireless data (as we now know it), mobile devices, vehicle to vehicle (V2V), and vehicle to X (V2X).
With beam steering, we’ll expect 15 dB gain in a 4×4 array (26-degree beam width) on mobile devices and 33 dB gain from 16×32 arrays (6-degree beam width) at the base stations.
Frequencies are being reserved worldwide in mmWave frequency bands, including 24 to 28 GHz, 37 to 40 GHz, and 64 to 71 GHz. It seems most of the mmWave bands will revolve around 24 GHz to 28 GHz.
Manufacturers such as Qualcomm and Samsung are already producing the integrated antenna and RF modules that include the mmRF and 4×4 antenna array. 5G systems are expected to start rolling out in 2019 and there are already seven mobile phone models from Samsung, ZTE, Nokia, Motorola, and LG with 5G capability ready to be released this year. One interesting point was that the 5G rollout is happening much faster than 4G.
Joint G46 and TC 8 meeting
This year, I decided to sit in on the all-afternoon joint G46 and TC 8 EMC standards update. John McCloskey, NASA/GSFC Chief EMC Engineer, was the keynote speaker and presented a fascinating rundown on “Troubleshooting Challenges on the James Webb Space Telescope.”
There were several other excellent talks on small satellites, EMC challenges for Jupiter-bound spacecraft, and an update on NASA E3 from Dr. Robert Scully (now with JPL).
In standards news, Ken Javor reported the new MIL-STD-464 D revision is mainly a reorganization and has expanded to include helicopter-borne ESD.
Don Heirman says the IEC working groups are considering “radio enabled products,” robots, personal mobility devices, limits for automobile chargers, the aggregation issue of multiple numbers of wireless devices, joint work with TC77 (immunity), CISPR/I (multimedia), and SC 77B (HF phenomenon).
James Lukash reported AIAA S-121 has been revised (2017 version) and is a tailored version of MIL-STD-461 for spacecraft and satellites. Aerospace Corporation also released their TOR-2019-00179, which is a tailoring of S-121 for their purposes. Their goal was to streamline the original.
SAE will be reviewing 15 different “AIR” standards in the coming years. For example, AIR6811 is comparing the suitability between the civil airframes (Boeing 767 frame) and MIL-STD equipment.
Dan Hoolihan gave an update on what the ANSI C63 committee will be working on. This includes a host of standards, but what stands out is antenna calibration, validation for radiated emission sites, compatibility between wireless devices and hearing aids, immunity for medical devices, measurement uncertainty, NSA measurements, best practices for EMC, emissions from lighting equipment, wireless power transfer for automobiles, and licensed and unlicensed radio services.
Technical program features
With so many parallel technical sessions, workshops, and more highly featured EMC experiments & demos, it was difficult to report on all, of course, but here are some highlights I attended.
The EMC Basics Workshop was presented all day Monday, as usual. Lee Hill always has an informative and entertaining presentation; this time on conducted emissions, which I’m not sure has been featured before. He pointed out that line impedance stabilization networks (LISNs) were merely a “magic impedance box” to measure current in terms of voltage. He also described the physical geometry of the measurement, along with some pointers on troubleshooting.
Todd Hubing presented a remarkably clear presentation on “grounding” and made distinctions between ground structures (your zero-volt reference) and current returns. The important point is that you don’t want to run current through your ground structure. That’s the job of ground planes. He also pointed out that while single-point grounds are OK where we want all the reference points the same, single-point current returns are “really bad.”
There were several EMC experiments & demos being presented in parallel–some of which were located in the regular presentation rooms, rather than the exhibit hall, as in the past. This was actually a bit confusing, because you had to carefully review the program guide to ensure arriving at the right place.
There were many excellent presentations, but two of them were noteworthy. Arturo Mediano, professor at the University of Zaragoza (Spain), always has practical hands-on demos and this year he was showing how to use a spectrum analyzer with tracking generator and near field probe to measure resonances in components, cables, and circuit boards (Figure 4).
Another well-attended session was presented by Würth Elektronik engineers, Antonio Alcarria and Jared Quenzer. They demonstrated several EMI troubleshooting techniques and basic EMC filtering (Figure 5).
The number of exhibitors continues to decrease and only 50 companies were represented this year, compared with 113 last year, a 44% drop. This downward trend has continued over the past years, but not so dramatically. Major exhibitors continue to include AR RF/Microwave Instrumentation, ETS-Lindgren, Fischer Custom Communications, and Rohde & Schwarz.
One new company represented was SteppIR Communication Systems. What caught my eye was the fact they market very unique remotely-tuned yagi antennas to the amateur radio community. Because the antenna can be automatically tuned for low VSWR, it requires much less RF drive (with correspondingly low harmonic distortion from the amplifier) for radiated immunity testing.
XGR Technologies is also a new exhibitor and they've purchased the technology and IP for a unique "snap-on" local shield from W. L. Gore & Associates. The shields are designed to snap onto solder balls on the circuit board, providing a nearly continuous bond to the return plane.
Tektronix was out in force, showcasing their new line of 3, 4, 5, and 6-series touchscreen-controlled oscilloscopes; most with built-in spectrum analyzers and included spectrum view software. The new instruments allow an easy mapping between time and frequency domain analysis.
Rohde & Schwarz is really pushing their "test early, test often" theme and continue to develop affordable spectrum analyzers and oscilloscopes. They were also showing off their fast EMI receivers, along with a host of instruments to make up "total test solutions" for EMC compliance testing and EMI troubleshooting.
The Tuesday welcome reception was held at the Generations Hall (an 1820s sugar refinery, now decorated with artwork depicting New Orleans jazz) near the convention center and was very well attended, as you can imagine, with all the local New Orleans-style food offerings (Figures 8 and 9).
Wednesday’s Gala Event was lower key this year with a jazz trio performing most of the evening (Figure 10). With the lower music level, it was easier to hold conversations.
I’d have to say, the Young Professionals program really raised the bar this year. Monday was EMC Jeopardy, where they had to test their knowledge among many areas of EMC. There were several other networking events throughout the week. Other social events included the youth program and New Orleans bike ride.
To wrap up the week, the symposium was better technically with many more practical presentations and workshops. There continues to be more focus on the young professionals, which is really good, because some of the "older hands" are beginning to retire and we need to teach the ropes to the next generation.
For the first time, I believe the balance is about right between EMC basics, practical technical content, and academic papers. As a "working engineer" there has always been a long-standing gripe about the lack of practical presentations at past symposia and this is really the first time I recognized such a dramatic improvement. We have Todd Hubing and the technical program committee to thank for that.