Jul 27, 2011

Touchstone Semiconductor Demo Board

Silicon Valley is rich in electronics history. Nearly every major semiconductor player these days is based out there or got their start among the California hills. Today, numerous startups are rooting themselves to the valley in order to be the next big IC manufacturer. In a time when nearly everything runs on computers, it’s easy to see why.

One of the newest startups to join the fray is Touchstone Semiconductor, an analog IC manufacturer out of Milipitas, CA formed just last year (2010). They have only a few circuits available right now, but seem to be making a name for themselves in the marketplace. Their big marketing ploy is that they second source Maxim parts. Maxim is famous, or infamous, among design engineers for having a large selection of excellent parts that no one can ever get. In actuality, this is more of a problem for orders in the tens of thousands rather than a couple of hundred, or in the case of a hobbyist a one-off. Second sourcing means that they are licensed by Maxim to reproduce some of their designs in Touchstone Semi’s fabrication plants (or “fabs”).

Recently, Touchstone Semi decided to give away some of their development boards through Dangerous Prototypes, who make kits and run a really good electronics blog. I managed to enter in time to win one of the boards, which you can see below. 

If you remember my entry on comparators, then you will understand what it means when I say there are two independent circuits on the board acting as comparators with built-in reference voltages. On one side is the TS9001-1 (click to head to the support site) and on the other the TS9001-2. There is a difference between the two, but this isn’t the entry to really get into that sort of thing. What I will say is that these comparators take advantage of hysteresis when toggling between high and low states. Hysteresis is another concept I will explore in future blogs – I know I say that a lot –  but what is worth knowing now is that hysteresis makes the circuit react much quicker than one without it. In my blog on comparators, I showed how the output of the circuit did not change exactly from the low state to the high state the instant the input voltage was greater than the reference voltage. Instead we saw a gradual rise in the output over a range of a few hundred millivolts. With hysteresis in place the change would be nearly instantaneous.

The only thing I can really think to do with these boards at the moment is run them through a few tests and use the results for my blog on hysteresis. It has also occurred to me that they could be used to generate a PWM signal in voltage-mode feedback DC-DC converters, should I ever choose to prototype a few designs. I am pretty happy to have the chance to mess around with them a little though, and I will definitely be looking more into Touchstone Semi’s products in the future. Check them out if you are interested in their story.


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