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issue: September 2009 APPLIANCE Magazine

APPLIANCE Engineer - Technology Report
Integrated Connectivity

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PLC transceiver modules save PCB space and cut time to market by providing embedded CE or networking applications with integrated HomePlug AV solutions.

The modules contain 140-plus parts required for HomePlug AV functionality.

As networked home entertainment systems gain popularity, consumers have come to expect more interconnectivity in other home appliances and devices. A new line of power line communications (PLC) transceiver modules from Bel Fuse Inc. (Jersey City, NJ, U.S.; www.belfuse.com) has been designed to help OEMs add HomePlug AV functionality to any embedded CE or networking applications quickly and easily.

Lee Hancock, product manager for Bel’s PLC modules, tells APPLIANCE, “We have found over the years that many customers do not have the time or resource to completely understand the nuances of a new technology and cannot afford time-consuming and expensive PCB re-spins if there should be a performance problem. The module approach eliminates those potential issues.”

The low-power modules integrate Intellon’s third-generation INT6400/INT1400 HomePlug AV–based power line chipset, along with most of the components required for adding HomePlug AV functionality. “In all, more than 140 individual components are contained within the module,” says Hancock. This allows customers to reduce both production time and cost of procurement and logistics. “Additionally, as the unit is 100% pretested and guaranteed to perform, there is no debug required at final test for the end equipment and production yields are improved,” he adds.

The small-footprint modules are available in vertical or horizontal configurations. “Depending on the PCB real estate available on the customers’ PCB or specific mechanical constraints within the system, the modules enable the designer to elevate the PLC implementation off of the host PCB, thus saving valuable real estate,” explains Hancock. In addition, “the designer does not have to concern himself with the criticality of the layout for optimal performance, as the module form factor and I/O is a simple single row of pins.”

Heat dissipation has been improved on the new modules. “Previous PLC modules required a heatsink to extract heat from the PLC transceiver, but we are able to offer this module without that requirement.” Hancock attributes this to good grounding and PCB layout, as well as the new generation of silicon, which operates at much lower power.

The modules boast a low dc power requirement of 830 mA from a single 3.3-V supply. They deliver up to 200 Mbps PHY rate over power line wiring—“a capability that has increased from just 14 Mbps a few years ago,” says Hancock. The modules feature a MII (Host and PHY) interface, and easily connect to embedded systems via the standard 1.27-mm pin header.

When used in Smart Grid applications, Hancock says, the modules can play a part in establishing a home network that communicates with various appliances. “As all Appliances need power and the network is already installed, power line communications is a low-cost and stable choice.”



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