DOLPHIN Integration and AIRBUS pride themselves for a partnership enabling a new generation of safety in airplanes.
Grenoble, France, May 30th, 2002 - Dolphin Integration, selected by Airbus for the design and procurement of a new mixed signal integrated circuit, has met the challenge of delivering its prototypes right-on-first pass for the future giant A380. This new chip for the on-board control computers shall perform among others the mission of controlling all flight flaps, those mobile elements, as ailerons located on the wings, rudders on the tail, and joystick within the cockpit of the airplane. The A380 program is exceptional, not only for its size but also by its technological innovations. For realizing it, Airbus have thrust real challenges to their suppliers. But it represents an unequalled business card for those who have been selected to climb on board the largest airliner ever built.
An unequalled business card
The giant Airbus is launched fifteen years after the A320. Dolphin Integration already was among its suppliers for integrated circuits networking the inside of planes. Over this period, technologies have rapidly evolved and the aeronautics industry has followed the trend, especially in the domain of electronics.
The major function of the component entrusted to Dolphin is to process small electrical signals emitted by the plane sensors. Ailerons for instance are the controllable flaps on the wings of the airplane which control vertically its trajectory. This integrated circuit performs the precise translation into binary values of signals emitted by sensors positioned on diverse and distant moving parts of the aircraft to be processed by the on-flight computers. It enables mostly to ensure that all moves are in accordance with orders given by the pilots.
A total mastery of development
Motivation and implication of the Dolphin design team has been remarkable for the development of such an important link of the A380 program; aeronautical norms applied to elements participating in flight safety lead to a level of demands on the flight computer far beyond that for multimedia electronics of passengers in the cabin! Methods for quality and traceability imposed by Airbus all along the development of the new integrated circuit have had to be scrupulously respected. This results in non negligible excess workload compared to designing an integrated circuit for consumer products and requires close interactions with the end-user. But the outcome is sizeable since the new integrated circuit is part of the heart of the A380: its central control system for flight trajectories.
Entirely designed to satisfy the needs for the most recent international certification and the most demanding, the A380 benefits from the most advanced technologies. It provides it with 15 to 20 % of savings on operating costs in comparison with the largest aircrafts now in service with an operating range augmented between 10 and 15 %, reduced kerosene consumption, and a decrease of noise and pollution. Its total deck surface is 45 % larger and grants more space to passengers, wider seats and lanes, and rest areas on the lower decks. Thanks to its lower costs per kilometer and per seat, airlines might offer to passengers significantly improved services with the A380 at a price equivalent or lower. With the constant increase of air traffic and airport saturation, the A380 contributes the best solution for increasing air travel between large airports.
The integrated circuit
Dolphin has been selected by Airbus after a feasibility study, the purpose of which was to demonstrate validity of the data converter architecture called "Delta Sigma" for signals coming from sensors used in aeronautics. The results of this preliminary study have been positive and have resulted in the complete development of the circuit. The DSAIR chip (code-named for Delta Sigma AIRbus) is comprized of 8 analog to digital converters, of their associated digital filters and of 8 input stages for adaptation and filtering.
A behavior secured against cosmic rays
The circuit integrates two RAM storages (rewriteable memories) secured against the cosmic rays present at the cruising altitude of an A380. Such particles coming from space are hardly filtered by the earth atmosphere and their impact upon structures of an integrated circuit can cause malfunctions. A RAM memory for instance can loose stored data.
Input stages suppress parasites created by electromagnetic aggressions and thunder. They also enable elimination of ground noises propagated along the aircraft cabin.
Such electrical "aggressions" are very powerful onboard a flying plane and operating safety must be irreproachable. These electrical filters have necessitated long weeks of design and simulation on computer in order to verify their characteristics. The integrated circuit simulator SMASH®, developed and commercialized by Dolphin has been indispensable for this development phase. Dolphin already has been a supplier of integrated circuits for Airbus for a number of years. In this type of partnership Dolphin performs the design of the chip, gets it fabricated and tested by the suppliers of its choice prior to delivery of packaged circuits at Airbus.
"TheA380 seems promised to a splendid future, explains Jean-François Pollet, Operational Director for Integrated Circuit Development at Dolphin, so we have contributed our invested capital to financing the design of this quite innovative circuit, which represents several persons x years of development. We expect commercial fall-out from this circuit not only for the A380, but also in other application domains, such as industrial measurement, since this circuit equally performs measurements of pressure, temperature, voltage or current, etc. within systems of the A380". "Moreover, insist Stéphane Maulet and Éric Compagne, respectively project manager and technical leader of the project, this partnership with Airbus has enabled a significant increase of competency in our teams, on the one hand in design tasks, as on the other hand in the management of various subcontractants. The next crucial step is to test the circuit within its environment and to thus take position on board the A380 since all necessary innovations for the new European aircraft shall then be extended on other civil or military programs and toward the low-end of Airbus range and so to increase fabrication volumes ".
The mother company of the Dolphin Group, created on the high tech zone of Meylan in 1985, has a rich past as design center, provider of services in microelectronics: design of libraries of cells, development of mixed signal integrated circuits, analog and logic, synthesis, layout of masks for fabrication, place-and-route, and procurement for their customers in "fabless" circuits.
The present strategy has been launched as early as 1994 around two markets with strong growth:
- Virtual Components, evolution of "Intellectual Property" on Silicon, so called Silicon IP
- Electronic and microelectronic CAD.
The AIRBUS family at a glance
The market has already demonstrated an overwhelming preference for the Airbus product offering in the very large aircraft category. Just six months after Authorization to Offer, Airbus had already received 50 firm commitments from six world-renowned customers, plus options. To date, ten customers have announced firm commitments for a total of eighty-five A380s, including about twenty freighter versions. Over 30 years, many things have changed. Materials, technology and design and manufacturing techniques have all advanced. The A380 benefits from all of these, but more importantly the priorities have changed. A new flagship must now contribute to the overall transport system without having to revolutionise it. A new large aircraft must now be a better fitting piece to the puzzle making the whole system more effective and efficient. This is the key to the A380's contribution - the 21st century flagship.
About DOLPHIN Integration
This European Enterprise, provider of "Service Empowered IP" for Logic, Analog and Memory Virtual Components, offers the FLIP(TM) "Flexible Line of Integration Platforms" with design services and support. Its German subsidiary specializes on MEMS. They operate jointly from turnkey design to consulting support for customers wanting efficient insertion of FLIP cores from kits into their SoC design. Dolphin is a member of the Virtual Socket Interface Alliance (VSIA).
The corporate charter is to help customers meet the challenges of time-to-market with a quality control process leading reliably to success on first pass. For additional information you can find Dolphin at www.dolphin-ip.com or address your inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org .