Winner, Name that Ware April 2021

Somehow, this didn’t get posted when I hit the post button, and I never noticed! I just saw that the new ware was up and assumed this went through as well. Sorry about that!

The boards from April 2021 were from a Bruker NMS120 benchtop NMR analyzer — according to the contributor of the ware, they “generate RF output to the power amp, digitize (downconverted) RF input, and generate some extra control signals”.

I’m always pleased when I manage to blur a logo just enough that you can’t Google image search it, yet it’s somehow recognizable to humans. Someday machines will beat us at this game but, for now, maybe there’s still a place for human experience vs merely large training sets thrown into a DNN!

Picking a winner is much harder this month. Because I don’t know the much larger system-level context from which these come, I can’t know if Willmore’s final guess is correct or not (but perhaps Don Straney can weigh in). Absent that bit of information, I found Zebonaut’s insights about the cultural biases of German PCB design to be really insightful. I can usually pick out a Japanese-made board based on stylistic decisions, but until now I hadn’t heard such a nice summary of some of the biases and preferences of German PCB designers. So, I’ll give the prize to Zebonaut for that bit of insight, along with a generally correct guess on the make and genre of the ware, which I’m unable to resolve further due to my own ignorance. Congrats, email me for your prize!

9 Responses to “Winner, Name that Ware April 2021”

  1. willmore says:

    Yay, congrats, Zebonaut!

    • zebonaut says:

      Thanks. I feel extremely flattered.
      Oh – after I searched some more a few weeks ago, it appeared that the design team may have been in Switzerland. All the hints concerning the language are of course still true (at least for the German-speaking part of Switzerland). Sometimes, you find that Swiss engineers call a PCB assembly “Print”, whereas Germans mostly call it a “Platine” – which in itself is a word of French heritage. Which, again, is funny, considering there’s a French-speaking part in Switzerland.
      If they were not so extremely popular and therefore easy to guess, a board (“Print”) from an old Studer or Revox tape deck might be a good example for a name-that-ware contest? In their service manualy, the assemblies are always called “Print”…

      • willmore says:

        Another hint to the European origin of the board is the RF connectors. They’re DIN 1.0/2.3 which I remember from a past life designing GSM base stations. They were used for the E1 lines on those systems.

        Partial credit shoudl go to the person who figured out the logo. That was very helpful. Of course, we’re not supposed to do that. :)

  2. Don Straney says:

    “…I can’t know if Willmore’s final guess is correct or not…”

    If you mean the 1.5T Siemens/GE scanners mentioned in the last comment, then sadly no, those are full MRI systems for human imaging, but this is just a small “breadbox-scale” NMR system for chemistry instead (apparently you can learn a lot about compounds by how all their individual atomic spins react when poked, with MR spectroscopy etc.).

    • willmore says:

      Mr. Straney, I ended up guessing by finding your work’s web site and looking for machines that were decomissioned and which likely held parts from the era of this board. I didn’t want to poke into that any further as I didn’t want to involve your work in this–no social engineering, etc. So, I stopped that route of enquiry and just posted what I had so far.

      Thank you so much for all of the board images. It’s been really fun to try to learn more about these devices! If you ever want to post more about the boards, the devices they were from, etc. I would love to read it. NMR is a fascinating field and too little is known about it by the public–myself included.


      • Don Straney says:

        Ha you know, that’s a good strategy. This place is actually mostly a Siemens shop, for what it’s worth.
        Glad you enjoyed the images! I’m not at all an MR physics expert, but the basic things involved in MR spectroscopy ( as with this small benchtop unit are:
        1. a strong permanent magnet which aligns all the atomic spins in a specific direction,
        2. an RF waveform generator and power amp to apply an RF pulse at the spin frequency to a coil wrapped around the sample, which kind of pokes the atomic spins,
        3. a low-noise amp (second photo) and downconverter+digitizer (first photo) to receive the RF pulse that the sample gives off as its spins recover from the “poke”
        I have the power amp but not sure about the waveform generation – will have to check the stash of boards I pulled from the instrument. Have a vague feeling the cable to the power amp came from the digitizer board in the first photo; it’s possible it does something like feed the output of those RAM chips through a low-res resistor DAC and rely on a frequency tuning in the PA (and the relative insensitivity of MR to out-of-band signals) to get rid of/ignore the harmonics.

  3. Jeff Epler says:

    A friend ran across these two wild looking PCBs on ebay .. maybe they’re related? what are they for?

    • bunnie says:

      oohooh! i think i can answer that one. They look like the adapter cards for IC testers. so the hole in the middle is where the chip under test goes. There’s a bunch of tiny needles that are added to the board that touch down on the bonding pads, and around the periphery are connections to lower density/easier to wire up signals to a larger, standardized machine that generates the test vectors to ensure that the IC is working correctly.

      • Jeff Epler says:

        Neat — that confirms some things I was seeing when I googled the visible manufacturer’s name. I hadn’t thought before about how testing would be done at that stage of manufacturing!