Quickfilter Technologies was formed in the fall of 2003 to develop a family of mixed signal ICs for analog signal conditioning and digital signal processing. Quickfilter has raised $5 million in Series A funding primarily from private investors and including Vultron Ventures. The company has 17 employees, plus 4 contracts and is growing.
According to Quickfilter, analog design technology and mixed-signal processing solutions have changed little over the past 10+ years, especially for interference filtering. Today’s approach still requires discrete components for analog signal conditioning and filtering, which is antiquated and cumbersome, with sub-par accuracy levels.
To address this problem, Quickfilter has developed a solution that combines analog signal conditioning, Analog to Digital conversion and digital signal processing into a single programmable IC. This enables customers to rapidly complete a design at significantly lower cost and higher performance with the added benefit of programmability during design, at the time of shipment, or in the field.
The QF4A512 Programmable Signal Converter, the company’s flagship product, is a 4-channel signal conditioner and signal converter. Each channel can be individually programmed for gain, anti-aliasing filter cut off frequency, A-to-D sampling frequency, and unique filter requirements. This is accomplished with 4 separate high precision 512 tap FIR filters. Four analog inputs (differential or single-ended) feed four programmable (1x, 2x, 4x, 8x) gain amplifiers and anti-aliasing filters (3rd Order Bessel). The input bandwidth is DC to 500KHz (single channel, 16 bits).
A 16-bit, 1.17Msps programmable A/D Converter takes the input from each channel via an analog mux and demuxes the output to four individually programmable 512-tap digital FIR filters. The on-chip ADC oversamples the input and can actually run as fast as 100MHz. The output of the digital filters is available via a 3-wire SPI port interface. Other features include internal precision voltage reference and 4K Byte of internal EEPROM for storage of filter coefficients, chip configuration and calibration data.
Quickfilter software enables rapid device configuration and filter design at performance levels unattainable with analog components, according to the company. The software lets designers select from various filter types, including lowpass, highpass, bandpass, bandstop, dual bandpass, dual bandstop and notched lowpass filters. The four independent FIR filters are capable of generating “brick wall” filters such as a lowpass filter with a 1kHz cutoff frequency, 80dB of rejection, and a total transition band of only 10Hz.
Complete filter design and IC configuration can be performed in minutes. Designers can set the sampling frequency, frequency limits, ripple, attenuation, and other parameters for each of the four filters. After the desired configuration is downloaded to the IC, designers can view the actual filter output graphically in the software.
This is one of those parts that appear to be so useful and obvious, that surely one of the many microcontroller companies, like Microchip, Cygnal, Cypress (PSoc), etc. must offer something similar. Yet Quickfilter argues that there is nothing like it on the market. Quickfilter argues that most of these companies focus on embedding “control”, not the signal processing path. General purpose processors typically do not have the horsepower to perform much filtering and DSPs would consume significant power performing this task. Furthermore, processors require designers to write software, a task that may be non-trivial for an analog engineer.
The QF4A512 does not require any programming. With the design software, an engineer can design, implement and test a filter in minutes. The device consumes little power and, with 512 taps, achieves high performance.
The company is targeting sensor-based applications in industrial, medical, automotive, and wireless markets. The QF4A512 has been shipping since August 2005 and is fabricated by UMC in 0.18u CMOS. The device is roughly $8 to $10. A low cost ($199) development kit includes all the hardware and software necessary to design, implement and test a complete filter design in minutes. Future plans include scaling the device in a number of directions such as the number of inputs and filter taps.
Robert Silco, President & CEO (previously GM of Government Products Division, GM of Small Signal Transistor Group, GM of Memory Products Group, and Senior Marketing and Sales Executive at companies such as TI, RCA, VLSI Technology, Compass Design Automation, and Acoustic Technologies)
Dennis Best, VP of Engineering (previously Chief Engineer, Director of Engineering, Director of Strategy Development and Director of Systems Software Research and Development at Raytheon and TI)
Chris Phipps, VP of Marketing and Sales (previously held executive and management positions in marketing and sales at PMC-Sierra, Oki Electronics, Hyundai Semi, AMD and NCR Electronics)
Tony Valentino, VP of Operations (previously held management positions such as GM of Silicon Products, Senior Director of Strategic Accounts, and National Sales Manager positions at TI, VLSI Technology, Rohm Electronics, Alcatel Microelectronics, and Acoustic Technologies)
Rick Zinsmeister, CFO and VP of Finance (previously held VP of Finance, Division Controller and Plant Controller positions at various divisions of Emerson Electric)