Tag Archives: electronics

My Year in Industry at Focusrite

I recently caught up with Adam, who is about to finish his year placement at Focusrite; here are his thoughts and reflections.

“I’m currently studying Bsc (Hons) Audio Engineering and I’ll be starting my final year in September. I applied to the course because, unlike many people, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. My degree title is actually in the name of the company I’ve been working for – Focusrite Audio Engineering Ltd. I picked this course and University specifically because it stood out head and shoulders above the rest. I visited a few other Universities with much stricter entry requirements before visiting Solent but the team, facilities and course in general stood out by a mile.”

“I decided to take a placement year for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I figured that applying for a job after University would be so much easier. I can’t put into words how much I’ve learned since being here and developed already existing skills; there’s no better way to learn than actually doing something. It’s not only that though, a good reference from a well-regarded company carries so much weight and the opportunity to socialise and network with people that you aspire to work alongside is priceless.”

“Secondly, I hope that it will make my final year much easier. I’ve had an extra year to develop skills that are necessary for my final major project and I’ve also had to manage my time, workload, deadlines and personal life around a much tighter schedule. “

“I’ve worked on a couple of big product-based projects since I’ve been here; unfortunately I can’t talk about them yet! Major projects that I’ve worked on (that I actually can talk about) include a new factory test system, the migration of all engineering data between PLM systems and more factory test stuff!”

“Our new factory test system replaces a standalone C++ application that’s been neglected over the years and is just u-g-l-y. It ain’t got no alibi. It’s ugly. The new system (pyFactory) is a web-based application hosted solely on Raspberry Pis. Using Focusrite’s existing audio interfaces we can run extremely high performance audio measurements very quickly. We can also test MIDI devices and perform firmware upgrades with the system. The system runs in a master/slave configuration, with one master device (serving database access and also as a system update manager) connected to multiple slaves – test stations running a web app that connects directly to the master’s database. The system also supports RS-232 comms, allowing us to control pneumatic test fixtures and automate entire tests (connector insertion, gain pot adjustment, etc…). The latest products to be tested on this system are Novation Peak and MonoStation; we’ve been working on porting over other product ranges, but new products always take priority. On the old test system, a Scarlett Solo (2nd Gen) would take ~60 seconds per test. The new test system can test ~2.5 units in this time. We’ve not yet figured out exactly how much money this has saved, but it’s a lot!”

“I’ve learned an incredible amount. I’m aiming to have a more software-focussed career; comparing my current code to code that I’ve written previous to this year is like comparing a Mr Men book to Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’. I’ve developed my knowledge of networked audio, electronics, software development, project management, and manufacturing.”

“I’d like to return to Focusrite upon graduating, hopefully as a Production Systems Developer (or, more likely, a junior one of those). This would involve developing production systems software including test systems, analysis tools and workflow automation. I’m tempted to do a Masters but I’m not sure whether I could turn down a job offer! Focusrite are great in that you quite often have the opportunity to study for an advanced, or second, degree. We’ll see where it takes me!”

Thanks to Adam for sharing his thoughts and experiences – we look forward to seeing him again in September. Keep an eye on the Facebook and SOL pages for placement opportunities and get involved with extracurricular events to help make your own.

Dual Poster Exhibition

Yesterday saw the culmination of three years of hard work for our soon-to-be graduands. Final year Media Technology​ students presented their final year projects to the academic team and industry representatives during our annual technology exhibition “poster day”.
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Poster Exhibition in The Spark. Photo Credit: Sean Lancastle
We had a new location this year based in the atrium of the new Spark Building; the exhibition benefited from a more spacious feel and was much more visible to passersby. The exhibition was well received by a number of professionals from a range of related industries. This gave the students excellent opportunities to network as well as practising their communication skills!
As usual there was an eclectic mix of sound, vision and acoustics based projects including design and build as well as research projects. It’s great to see what the students have achieved and to hear then talking so knowledgeably and passionately on a professional level.
This year we also held the second years’ ‘managing projects’ exhibition at the same time. The second years have spent the last six weeks intensively completing a group project having planned it earlier in the year. Each group produced a poster summarising their findings and was able to discuss their thoughts with our industry visitors. This was a great opportunity for the second years to get inspiration for their own final year projects and to discuss them with the third years and professionals.
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Congratulations to all those involved for an excellent day. Special thanks have to be extended to the technicians and staff that worked tirelessly to prepare the venue and to issue all of the equipment.

A Guest Speaker in Audio Systems

Today students studying Audio Systems were treated to a visit from a guest speaker. The Extron SI 26CT Ceiling Speaker dropped by to show off its coaxial dual driver design and switchable transformer for line distribution applications. The 6.5 inch woofer is situated directly behind a 1 inch titanium-coated dome tweeter in an attempt to provide accurate sound reproduction over a wide angle.

The unit houses a passive crossover to protect the tweeter from higher-power low frequencies whilst allowing its light weight diaphragm to concentrate on the fast turnaround required by higher frequencies. The woofer explains: “I can’t keep up with the rapid movements of HF and simply end up distorting the sound; I’m far more comfortable taking the power of LF and generating the longer wavelengths needed for bass”.

Key to SI 26CT’s visit was the concept of 100 V line distribution systems. A specialist amplifier is used to create high voltage, but low current signals to reduce losses over long cable runs. This is useful in applications such as shopping centres and airports where numerous loudspeakers are spread over a large area resulting in enormous cable runs. Each loudspeaker has its own step-down transformer to reduce the voltage and increase the current so that classic drivers can be used. The transformer reflects a high impedance to the amplifier, hence the current is reduced, but the same power is delivered to the load. Furthermore the SI 26CT features multiple taps on the secondary of the transformer which allows it to produce between 7.5 W and 60 W from the same amplifier. This means that the same amplifier and cable run can be used to supply louder and quieter loudspeakers depending on the throw distance and volume of the space. SI 26CT has found application in Europe at 100 V and in America where they tend to use 70 V systems.

There are alternative systems available, for example active loudspeakers could be used with a separate amplifier combined with each driver. This would allow more control over the output level from each driver but means every loudspeaker unit requires a power supply, which is expensive.

It was great to see an alternative style of audio installation and I’m sure we’ll see SI 26CT and his peers soon in classrooms and shopping centres around the local area.

Get A Taste Of Electronics Fundamentals At Solent

Studying media technology based courses at Solent is not just about learning how equipment is used, we also need to have some understanding how the equipment functions and works. This involves learning basic electronics. Electronic labs are conducted with both lectures and seminars, with the key theoretical information being delivered via lectures which are followed up with labs, helping with hands-on understanding and bringing the theory and practise together.

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