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TI mounts data converter offensive

Seeking to gain share on rival Analog Devices Inc., Texas Instruments Inc. has rolled out a new family of high-speed, low-power analog-to-digital converters (ADCs).

The 10-bit and 12-bit, eight-channel ADCs from Texas Instruments (Dallas) consist of three devices: the ADS5281, ADS5282 and ADS5287. Based on a proprietary 0.18-micron CMOS process, the ADCs are low-power versions of the company's previous family of products.

The devices, which TI claims consume 30 percent less power than competitive solutions, come in two speeds: 50 and 65 Msamples/second. Applications include medical imaging, wireless communications, military guidance, automatic test equipment and video.

The converters interface with TI's new octal variable gain amplifier, the VCA8500, which consumes only 63 milliwatts per channel. When paired, the ADCs and variable gain amps provide a complete “signal chain solution” for a number of systems, said Art George, senior vice president of TI's high-performance analog business unit. “These devices will enable new and large medical markets,” George told EE Times.

TI is the world's largest analog chip maker, but the company does not dominate the data converter space. Data converters, which include ADCs and digital-to-analog converters (DACs), are critical signal blocks that connect the separate analog and digital worlds.

In 2006, Analog Devices Inc. (Norwood, Mass.) was the world's largest data converter supplier, with 48 percent market share, followed by TI, with 22 percent, according to Databeans Inc. (Reno, Nev.).

Other suppliers include Linear, Maxim, National and Intersil.

The overall data converter market is projected to grow by 14 percent in 2008, according to Databeans. The market was a $2 billion business in 2006. By 2012, the business is projected to hit $3.7 billion, the market researcher said.

Today, the largest market for data converters is the industrial world. In that segment, ADI, Intersil and Maxim are the big players, said Susie Inouye, research director, president and chief executive of Databeans.

But there is a new and sudden shift in the data converter market: The fastest-growing segments and “sweet spots are in wireless and medical imaging,” Inouye said. TI and National Semiconductor Corp. are among the stronger players in those segments, she said.

In wireless, for example, base- stations require more channels to keep up with the new and complex air-interface standards. That is driving the need for faster and lower-power data converters, she said.

TI's George said there is also demand in the medical imaging field, especially for MRI equipment and ultrasound systems. TI's devices “provide the ultralow power and high density these systems require, without sacrificing performance and image quality,” he said.

The new devices represent the entry-level products within TI's high-speed ADC portfolio. The ADS5281 is a 12-bit, 50-Msample/s device; the ADS5282 is a 12-bit, 65-Msample/s component; and the 10-bit ADS5287 samples at 65 Msamples/s.

The products consume as little as 77 mW per channel. With dynamic scaling, at a 30-Msample/s rate, power consumption is as low as 48 mW per channel, TI said.

A low-frequency noise-suppression mode eliminates the 1/f (flicker) noise. Overload recovery circuitry allows each A/D converter to provide valid data within one clock cycle after an input overload as high as 6 dB, allowing for signal recovery and processing.

And with programmable gain from 0 dB to 12 dB, full-scale outputs can be provided for input signals as low as 0.5 volt peak-to-peak.

The ADS5281 is priced at $60, the ADS5282 sells for $68.60 and the ADS5287 sells for $40. All prices are for 100-piece lots.

Samples of the ADS5281 are available now; the other converters are slated to sample within the first half.

The family is available in a 9 x 9-mm, 64-pin QFN package. The ADS5281 is also available in an 80-pin TQFP.

The VCA8500 variable gain amplifier is also available in a 9 x 9-mm, 64-pin QFN package. Pricing for that part is $40 in 100-piece quantities; samples are available now.

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