It was only a matter of time before IKEA entered the home automation market. Sales of smart home and connected devices are expected to increase 500% over the next two years. So it is fitting that IKEA just announced the launch of its Tradfri line of home automation devices. Tradfri means “wireless” in Swedish and at present consist of a gateway, lighting products, and sensors.

The system uses the ZigBee link standard for connected lights. If you have heard of that before, it is because it is the same system used by the Phillips Hue bulbs. The good news is that while the gateway device connects to the internet, the bulbs and the gateway from their local network. You will not need an internet connection to control your lights.

Just like all its other products, IKEA is pricing the Tradfri line aggressively. The main bundle, which is a gateway, remote and two lights costs just $85. There is also a motion controlled dimmer switch which looks very interesting. The demo video shows the user dimming the lights by rolling the dimmer around in his hands.

The standalone bulbs will cost around $22, but there are several other bundles which are more cost effective. For example, you can also buy a bulb and remote for $34. You can also pickup up the gateway alone for just $28.

IKEA is also selling LED panels and illuminated doors which are compatible with its storage units. Making a connected that fits easily into other existing products shows how IKEA can leverage its entire portfolio of products to stake a major position in home automation.

Alexa is Amazon’s voice assistant that powers its Echo series of home automation devices. One of the main reasons for its current popularity is the number of third party skills. There are as many as 4000 skills available covering everything from controlling light bulbs to reading jokes. For a new owner, there are just too many to go through so here is a list of what might be useful to set up at the start:

Shopping list

Adding items to a shopping list is one of the two most popular uses of the Echo. The default location for items is the built in list. However, you can link the list function to either Todoist or, two third party list services.


The number one use for voice assistants so far is as a kitchen timer. With an Alexa based assistant, creating a timer is as simple as saying “Alexa set a timer for xx minutes.” The Echo supports three simultaneous timers.


You can stream music from Amazon Prime music, Spotify or TuneIn Radio. It is unlikely that Apple Music and Google Play music will be available anytime soon.


The third most popular use for Alexa is to control smart home devices. There is support for hundreds of devices, either directly or through hubs and bridges. For example, The Phillips Hue Bridge has direct support, which enables access to all lights controlled by that bridge.

Regardless of the other skills available, these four are the first things any new Echo owner should activate.

There are two hardware based voice assistants available today: The Amazon Echo and Google Home. They both do the same thing: they listen for a keyword and use any voice input from that point to structure a command. Google Home is a recent entrant, so it lags behind the Echo in both available third party integration and market share. However, now that the Echo has a competitor, we can expect large strides regarding performance and capabilities. Here are some improvements we can expect soon:

Voice recognition

Alexa uses a very specific method of interpreting commands. Google Assistant, which powers Google Home, is better suited for natural language. We can expect big leaps in both recognition and understanding from both as they use machine learning and current use tune the service.

Authorized voices

The biggest shortcoming for both assistants is that they respond to commands from anyone. Also, they respond to queries for calendar and lists for a single person or the primary account holder. In a future update, we can expect it to respond only to the owner and other authorized voices. Also, queries will be specific to the person asking them.

Device control

Recent announcements show that vendors will ship devices and appliances with Alexa and (later) Google Assistant support. The built-in support will finally allow direct device control by voice. Rather than simply switching appliances on/off using connected plugs, we will be able to tell the oven to reduce temperature directly or tell the washing machine to start a spin cycle.

Written by: Denton Vacuum, LLC

Read below to see how e-beam evaporation is a favorable alternative to film evaporation.

The process of e-beam evaporation is similar in the way thermal evaporation works. The source is heated to a certain temperature that’s above boiling point and then evaporated down to form a thin film on the substrate. There are, however, several notable differences that make e-beam evaporation more favorable then thermal evaporation.

Higher Density

The electron beam, or ebeam, that is used on the substrate has a higher dedicated amount of energy than thermal evaporation, thus yielding a higher density film. Additionally there is increased adhesion to the substrate because of this high density. This also makes this method more ideal for lift-off processes.

Multiple Depositions

The ability to utilize a multiple crucible electron beam gun, a variety of source materials can be deposited on the substrate without the vacuum breaking. Additionally there will be a lower degree of contamination from the crucible than there would be in PVD thermal evaporation. This creates a “safer” resulting film created on the substrate itself.

The Process

The process of e-beam evaporation is fairly simple. The source material is placed in the crucible and a filament is then heated. Once the heating process peaks, a large amount of electrons are drawn from the actual filament to form a beam. Several magnets are bent into shape allowing the beam to heat up all areas of the material. This is the basic concept of this evaporation technique and it is, to a certain degree, complex but it has also brought new opportunities for film deposition.

Guest post is provided by Denton Vacuum, LLC, a leader in processes such as thin film vacuum coating.  Browse their website for more information.

There are some important differences between a basic sputtering process and a magnetron sputtering system.  There are various ways to deposit materials, including metals and plastics, onto a substrate, in order to create a thin film.  One such process is known as a sputtering system.  It is by far one of the most popular ways to fabricate thin films.

Sputtering is a type of physical vapor deposition which is performed in a precision vacuum.  In the basic sputtering process, a target is bombarded by ions, such as an inert gas.  The way that the ions crash onto the target releases target atoms.  The target atoms then have to move in order to reach the substrate and condense into a film.  Once a significant amount of atoms lie on the substrate, they create an atomic layer, resulting in a thin film structure.

The magnetron sputtering systems are similar to the basic process, however, this process can be used to enhance the basic process.  The process is similar except for the fact that a magnetron sputtering system involves a strong magnetic field that’s placed close to the target area.  In this process, electrons spiral towards the target, but are not attracted toward the substrate.  This is a more efficient sputtering process due to a faster deposition rate.  Impurities on the thin film are kept to a minimum with this process.

Another popular vacuum process is ebeam evaporation.  This is used to heat a source material.  It is a process that requires significant skill and safety because it’s complicated.  It utilizes 10,000 volts in order to create thin film coatings that are used in many different objects.