What to Look for in a Programmer and the Manufacturer
There are many programmers available in the market and selecting the right one may not be an easy task. One of the first things to look at is the technology used in design and manufacturing.
Programming algorithm execution engine
Most programmers in the market use technology, which is up to 15 years old. Programming algorithm runs in a host CPU and program timing is generated using a software timing loop. Since the timing loop accuracy depends on the speed of the CPU chip, operating system used, any other process running in the system, and the speed of the connection between the PC and the programmer, etc., any compensation or adjustment method used to stabilize timing loop is unstable at best.
As a result, some chips may program in a certain environment, but not in others. Sometimes, chips may get damaged, and worse yet, chips programmed may not be reliable over a long-term period.
The best current hardware technology is to use a high speed MCU chip built inside the programmer. Program timing is independent of the host CPU speed, parallel or serial port speed, operating system used, or any other process used in the host system.
SuperPro series programmers employ a very high-speed MCU chip producing not only reliable programming algorithms, but also an astounding programming speed. For example, SuperPro 6100 programs and verifies 64 MB NOR Flash memory in 11.3 seconds and 1 GB NAND Flash in 108 seconds. Utilization of ARM7/9/11 32bit MCU combined with an internal Linux operating system makes them the most advanced and versatile programmers in the industry.
- Programming speed: Chip programming speed usually goes hand in hand with the level of hardware design technology used. Slower programmers, in general, utilize a simplified hardware design relying on the PC to do most of the job, which also tends to produce inaccurate program timing. These are not suitable to program most of the latest IC devices. Do not expect an old and slow programmer to program your latest chips reliably.
- Hardware components used: Many programmers in the market still use through-hole components taking up large PCB space and run long signal wires. Besides being bulky and unreliable, longer signal wires tend to produce excessive Vcc and ground loop noise. The noise causes degradation in the programming reliability and limits the ability to program low voltage devices. Xeltek SuperPro programmers utilize SMD components mounted on both sides of multi-layer PCB, resulting in very compact design with a minimized noise factor. Along with the low voltage components selection, they program devices down to 1.2 volts.
- 144 pin universal driver: SuperPro 6100, Superpro 7500 and SuperPro 6104GP come with 144 universal pin-drivers for support of today's most complex devices. Each programming pin is populated with, typically, VCC, VPP (1 or 2), logical I/O, ground, and clock signals. If each pin is fully populated with all the signals, then it is called a universal pin-driver, meaning that the pin can be used for any purpose. Low cost programmers generally do not populate all the pins with all the signals in order to save cost. For example, an EPROM programmer will have signals optimized to program such chips. There are some 40 pin universal programmers available in the market, for example, HiLo-All11. For such programmers, in order to program a device with 48 or 56 pins, it would require a special pin converter to be made by skipping unused pins. The problem is that the unused pins would be different from chip to chip. So the manufacturer would have to come out with chip specific pin converters, making it expensive to stock multiples of 48 pin socket adapters.
- Project file save: This is a convenient time saving feature for engineering and manufacturing alike. Programming data and setup parameters such as manufacturer and chip selected, program, verify, security options, and program data may be saved for later recall (load) for ready use. The feature is especially valuable in a volume production environment where an inexperienced operator may be utilized to program various chips with efficiency and reliability.
- Production mode: This feature is also convenient when programming chips in volume. The chip inserted into the socket is autoID'ed, blank checked, programmed, and verified. The operator only needs to insert a chip and replace it with the next chip without having to operate any key.
- Stand-alone mode operation: This is a unique feature designed to ease volume programming and field service. SuperPro 611S, 6100 and 7500 programmers are designed to be operated without being connected to a host PC.At the beginning, the user downloads the desired programming algorithms and data onto a flash memory resident inside the programmer. Afterward, the user may operate the programmer from the built-in keyboard and LCD display without being attached to a host PC. A Low-level operator may be utilized to program chips in volume. Optional compact flash (CF) card in SuperPro 6100 may store multiple projects and user data. It also can be removed for safekeeping.
- Versatility: SuperPro 6100 is two programmers in one. It is an engineering programmer supporting devices. It is also an ideal programmer for volume production. Used in stand-alone mode without the PC, it programs devices with minimal operator interaction. Migration from engineering to manufacturing is smooth.
- Product design: Consistent with today's technology, SuperPro programmers utilize surface mounted components enhancing hardware reliability substantially. Also, due to compact PCB layout and optimum routing, circuit noises are minimized for reliable programming of low-voltage devices down to 1.2 volts. The new easy to use main software minimizes user error and improves efficiency.
- Government certification: SuperPro and SuperBOT programmers are CE certified. Also, the USB series products are being produced at an ISO9002 approved facility.
- Product service: New IC devices are updated and uploaded to the website regularly for free download. On high-end programmers, devices are updated monthly or sooner. This continues as long as the product is on the current price list. Xeltek maintains easy and fast communication channels with customers and strive to provide same day or 24 hr support in most cases.
- Product value: Value of a product is a combination of price, the number of devices supported, programming speed, regular update of devices and free downloads, and reliability. The new Xeltek products are designed with the above factors in mind and they provide best value in the industry to date.
- The company: Xeltek has been in the business for over 30 years. It has the best capability to design and manufacture new high performance products at the best price among the low cost programmer manufacturers. Being located in Silicon Valley, Xeltek USA keeps good relationships with many major IC companies that are important for us to support new chips continuously. Algorithm updates are available for free and rapidly by internet. When most companies laidoff engineers and staffs, Xeltek hired more people to bolster its position in the market.
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