Analog Angle Article

Even jaded editors can see utility in clever smaller products

One of the pluses of being an editor at a technical publication such as Planet Analog and EETimes is that you see a lot of new products, whether via press releases, personal contact with vendors, or even live demos at shows or meetings. Of course, the downside is that after a while, you think you've seen it all, and there's nothing new or noteworthy.

I try to avoid this “been there, seen that” attitude by consciously stepping back to appreciate what the new ideas and products provide, the sophistication of the design and execution, and especially the problem/solution niche that the product addresses.

A recent introduction fit neatly into this situation, when I saw a product which addressed one of those nagging concerns in the back of my mind, given the enormous growth in use of strings of LEDs (have you seen how many LED-string drivers are out there; from many vendors?). In critical applications, what happens if one of those LEDs fails “open”? The entire string is useless. Of course, if the LED fails “short”, it is not a problem, since the LED driver is usually acting as a current source; all that happens is the compliance voltage rises, but the LEDs should be OK and continue to function.

Not to worry: Littelfuse, Inc. just introduced their PLED 6 Series “open LED protector” which, they say, “provides a switching electronic shunt path when a single LED in an LED array fails as an open circuit.” It has a bypass thyristor which looks like an open circuit when the LED is OK, but provides a shunt path around the LED when the LED fails and goes open-circuit. As a nice touch, the thyristor resets itself if the LED heals (could happen, it might be a bad internal or external connection) or is replaced. And, if course, it works automatically, without need system management, control or software; such self-initiated operation is a commonly used virtue of analog-centric circuitry!

I haven't checked if this is the first such product on the market. As I said, when you're an editor, you sometimes think you've seen everything, but the reality is that there are things you miss; hey; don't we all? But it's nice little “problem solvers” such as this product that refresh my confidence is engineer's ability to see nominally small problems that may actually have large system-level implications, and then solve them neatly.

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