All About AEC-rated Oscillators

All About AEC-rated Oscillators

Learn About Frequency-Control Solutions for the Automotive Industry

As you likely know, automotive manufacturing is a highly regulated industry to ensure quality, and – most importantly – driver safety. Regulation, of course, covers all of the main machinery and components of a motor vehicle, but it is also evident at a granular level. Automotive components are regulated down to the oscillators that are used to generate a frequency. Various frequencies are used throughout all motor vehicles (including electric vehicles) for safety, infotainment, and much more.

Therefore, these products also must undergo a stringent testing process to receive a rating for use in a motor vehicle. This rating system is called AEC-Q200. The following article will explain how frequency works in a motor vehicle, why it matters, and what the AEC rating provides for components that generate frequency.

How Is Frequency Generated?

The average person is probably familiar with frequency as it relates to radio. A radio station transmits a frequency which is received by a radio, and the information transmitted on that frequency takes on the form of sound. If you ever played with walkie talkies with various frequency settings as a child, the concept is the same. When two radios are on the same frequency, they can communicate with each other.

Frequency is generated when a resonant surface, such as a quartz crystal, is agitated mechanically. When this happens, the crystal vibrates and can store and transmit electrical energy in the form of frequency. Quartz is a desirable resonant surface for generating a frequency because the created signal is very precise.

How Is Frequency Used in a Motor Vehicle?

It doesn’t take much imagination to think about how many parts of a vehicle require some form of communication between one part and another. Many automotive functions rely on a precise, strong frequency from a crystal oscillator. Any part of the car that needs to provide a signal likely uses a crystal oscillator to achieve its desired results.

Crystal oscillators are commonly used in modern motor vehicles for several reasons:

  • Wi-Fi
  • Radio
  • Hands-free connectivity between smartphone and vehicle
  • Cruise control
  • GPS
  • Anti-lock braking
  • Tire pressure monitoring
  • Lane departure and blind spot technology

In some cases, a crystal oscillator is used to send information back to the driver – and, in other cases, allows a driver to receive and transmit stable communication. All in all, this technology is absolutely essential to provide safety and reliability for the modern driver.

How Do Oscillators Earn AEC-Q200 Qualification?

To ensure the quality of the oscillators that are used in cars today, these components are stress-tested. This testing certifies that the components will perform at their best, even under duress. Motor vehicles experience a wide temperature range. For example, think about the difference between a car with a running engine and one that’s been sitting all night. This wide range in temperature can affect frequency. Therefore, AEC-Q200-qualified oscillators must be prepared to undergo significant temperature changes and still provide an unwavering frequency.

Here is a list of the many tests a crystal oscillator must undergo before it can receive AEC-Q200 qualification:

  • Electrical testing
  • Stress tests
  • Temperature testing
  • Moisture testing
  • Exposure to solvents
  • A test to ensure performance during vibration or shock
  • Visual inspections
  • Operational life testing

Where Can You Find AEC-Q200-Qualified Oscillators?

Look for an engineering company that specifically mentions these products on their website and has them available in their inventory. Read what they have to say about these products. Check to see if they have articles and technical resources about AEC-Q200 products or about the relationship between frequency and motor vehicles.

A superior crystal oscillator manufacturer should also have a way to filter out unwanted inventory to find the products you’re interested in purchasing for your automotive use-case. Look to see if such a tool exists, typically called a parametric search. If, while using the parametric search function, you can filter out crystal oscillators that are not AEC-Q200 rated. You will then find a curated list of products that do hold this distinction.

If you’ve done your research, it’s probable that you’ve found a company that focuses on crystal oscillators that can be purchased in bulk. These can be used in frequency-control products for the automotive industry. It’s likely, too, that this company performs its own stress tests on its products to ensure they’re ready to be AEC-Q200-qualified. A manufacturing company that offers this service can provide excellent performance and safety on the road – and can stand behind that claim.

In an industry that is saturated with counterfeit electronics, finding a company that offers a high level of quality is important. If the manufacturer you are working with to develop a frequency-based solution in the automotive industry can stand behind their product, you’ll be able to stand behind yours.