Ken Boak translates and deciphers datasheets and other text for around 60 ICs from Nanjing, China-based manufacturer Jaingsu Heng Qin (WCH) – ranging from 7-segment LED drivers to I2C I/O expansion chips to multiple UARTs and even an Android Host Interface IC. It’s a very thorough compilation.
You may not know that the CH340 is just one of a series of about 60 ICs produced by Jiangsu Heng Qin, (WCH) in Nanjing, China. These ICs provide very useful circuit functions, at very low cost – yet until recently have been virtually unknown to designers in the West.
WCH are amongst a small group of Chinese and Taiwanese chip manufacturers – including Holtek * and UMC, who produce a vast volume of low cost ICs for some of the most basic, yet essential building block circuit functions. These form the bread and butter devices built into Far Eastern manufactured consumer products, such as MP3 players, telephones, flash drives, USB peripherals etc. Their chips are literally in everything we buy and use. We just don’t get to hear of them so much about them – as we do, of those semiconductor companies founded in the West. (* I will feature Holtek in a later post).
Yet until the CH340 arrived on our shores – there was very little knowledge about any of these Chinese domestic ICs. Data sheets have been often only available in almost impenetrable Chinese language, and even if you did find an interesting device – how and where would you source samples of it, or prototype it with it? – with so very little information available.
Fortunately these barriers to creativity are now becoming a thing of the Past. The Chinese language is no longer a problem – thanks to the almost instantaneous translation available using Google Translate, and there are an increasing number of specialist vendors in southern China, who will gladly source you a few samples and post them over to you. These guys are only a Skype call away – and eager to do business with Western customers. The electronic industry around Shenzhen is unique in that there are literally hundreds of small component vendors who will gladly sell you the parts in individual quantities. Matching a particular part and finding samples is something that they take pride in – and will go the extra mile to keep their customers happy.