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Industry News

European Microwave Week: An American Perspective

October 7, 2010
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While somewhat smaller than the MTT-S International Microwave Symposium (IMS), the European Microwave Week or EuMW is the largest conference and exhibition in Europe exclusively dedicated to our industry. With its delegates in well-tailored suits, espresso served during coffee breaks and sit-down lunches, this is an event that has a distinct European feel. But don’t let the abundance of civility lead any American visitor into believing this event isn’t all about business. The exhibition hall was full to capacity as the event sold out with about 230 exhibiting companies. With many North American microwave companies reporting European-based revenue between 15 to 30 percent of their annual total, attending this show just makes good business sense.

A number of attendees that I spoke with from “our side of the pond” were combining this trip with other customer visits in the UK, Germany, Scandinavia and beyond. Perhaps finding it easier to travel to Europe, many engineers and businessmen from Asia were also on hand, making this event a truly international one. While e-mails and conference calls have their place, this event demonstrated that nothing helps advance opportunity like face-to-face meetings.

For an editor, it is an opportunity to catch up on the industry’s product developments and trends, a good four months after the flurry of the IMS. A number of companies were releasing new products explicitly for this event, while many others were pre-viewing soon-to-be released products or ones that had not yet been seen before by the general public. This event, coming at this time of year, helps Microwave Journal plan out its editorial content for the early part of 2011. All in all, the event was successful from the perspective of attendance, the overall business climate and the quality of information we were able to collect from exhibitors. Here’s a wrap-up of the information that I picked up during the show, focusing primarily on North American companies exhibiting at EuMW. Microwave Journal's International Editor Richard Mumford will file his report on companies from Europe and Asia, including Agilent, Anritsu, Rohde & Schwarz, Holzworth, INGUN, Noise XT, Tektronix, CST, NMDG, MIG, AT Wall, Huber + Suhner, Rosenberger, Creowave, Hittite Microwave, IMST, Mitsubishi, NEL, OMMIC, Precision Devices, Arlon, Brush Ceramic Products, RJR Polymers and SCHOTT Electronic Packaging. See EuMW 2010: European Exhibitor Focus, R. Mumford.

Agilent

Agilent has a large organization in Europe and certainly made its presence known with its sizable exhibition stand, which was located at the main entrance to the exhibition hall. Since Agilent had a large number of new items to discuss at EuMW, the company’s media liasons arranged pre-show press meetings in Istanbul (for the international press, including our own Richard Mumford) and by conference call. For visitors’ to the Agilent stand, there seemed to be no less than eight demo stations in addition to the half-dozen partner displays towards the exhibition-side of their mammoth space. Of particular note for test equipment and simulation technology on display were the introduction of its 67 GHz VNA, latest developments in high performance signal generators (PSG) with 129 dB phase noise at 10 kHz offset, the latest version of their vector signal analysis software (CSA), updates on the company’s X-Series Signal Analyzer Options, PNA-X for linear and non-linear device characterization, X-parameters and their line of RF handheld equipment.

Also in the Agilent stand were its technology partners, mostly representing specialized RF test solution providers such as Maury Microwave (load pull and non-linear device characterization), Anteverta (Mixed-signal active load-pull), AMCAD (active device modeling for CAD), and SATIMO (antenna measurement systems).

Anteverta

Speaking with Mauro Marchetti, founder and president of Anteverta, I was able to get a live demonstration of his company’s mixed-signal active load pull system. This system is capable of producing lots of simultaneous wideband waveforms to approximate arbitrary load conditions, rapidly. The company was touting the system’s measurement speed. The system, which operates in real-time up to 26 Ghz is available with a test set-up up to 200 W. With a maximum bandwidth of 120 MHz (a 240 MHz configuration is also possible), the system targets 3G and 4G amplifier designs for basestations and handsets by providing key load impedance and performance information. Read more in our September issue - Mixed-signal Active Load Pull: The Fast Track to 3G and 4G Amplifiers.

AMCAD and Maury Microwave

In June at IMS, Maury Microwave Corporation and AMCAD Engineering signed an exclusive development and distribution agreement with regards to AMCAD’s advanced measurement suite, IVCAD, and its PIV/PLP family of pulsed IV systems. So EuMW was an opportunity to see the developments of this partnership. Using multi-harmonic load pull optimization process, the company demonstrated its software for generating large-signal transistor models for devices such as large periphery GaN FETs. These device models can then be used directly in commercial simulation software such as ADS or Microwave Office.

SATIMO

This French company was right at home at EuMW and in the Agilent partners stand. The company focuses on the design, measurement and production of antennas and were presenting information on some of their antenna measurement systems, which integrate a probe array to speed up measurement time. These are large systems and so the company had mostly literature on hand to show potential customers as well as some specific antenna designs. I met with Eric Beaumont head of marketing.

Among the products SATIMO was able to talk about were products from their Reference Antennas guide. I was particularly impressed by the elegant shape of their quad ridge horn antennas. These high precision machined, circular polarized antennas offer wide bandwidth (QH400: 0.4 to 6.0 GHz and QH800: 0.8 to 12.0 GHz), smooth radiation pattern over the operational bandwidth, uniform gain, dual linear discrimination with high polarization purity and isolation based on a design that is lightweight and prevents excitation of unwanted higher order modes in the aperture.

AWR

My first meeting of the day was to shoot some video over at the AWR stand with application engineer Malcolm Edwards and VP of Marketing Sherry Hess. Mr. Edwards has worked closely with T&M vendors and the OpenWave forum, which we reported on last March, developing non-linear measurement-based behavioral models in Microwave Office. Not surprisingly, the topic of our video interview was Microwave Office’s nonlinear behavioral modeling support for Agilent's X-parameters®, Mesuro's Cardiff model, and NMDG’s S-functions. The company was also demonstrating AXIEM’s antenna analysis capabilities , the new iFilter™ (optional module) for filter synthesis, design and optimization of lumped and distributed filters and AWR Connected™ for Cadence® Allegro® (optional module) for importing Cadence PCB layouts for further analysis and EM extraction. The company was also highlighting new features in their system tool VSS, including time delay neural network (TDNN™), which as advanced amplifier behavioral models for capturing memory effects and VSS’s turbo decoders for support of 3G/4G standards (cdma2000, IS856, WiMAX, and LTE) and custom turbo codes. AWR also announced new device library support for high power RF transistors from Freescale and NXP .

Speaking of NXP, it was nice to run into these folks (formerly Phillips) at the show. While they could be considered a European company, NXP has just recently opened a design center outside of Boston and we hope to be hearing more from them as time goes by. I met with Klaus Werner (Netherlands) and Erick Olsen (US), who walked me through the half-dozen products they were spotlighting at the show including their focus on ISM/broadcast applications, cellular infrastructure- and Radar system offerings, Doherty amplifier technology, advances in LDMOS technology, High-speed interface converters suitable for cellular base stations and other wireless communication infrastructure equipment, as well as medical, instrumentation and military/aerospace applications,"digital transmitters" (towards software defined radios), QUBiC4 0.25um silicon BiCMOS process technology (feature a fT of 40 GHz and a fMAX of 90 GHz at very low currents) and SiGe: Carbon technology & devices which are targeting MPA, LNA, VCO and mixer designs.

Ansoft

It is always a pleasure to run into my friends at Ansoft (ANSYS), this year showing off the latest advances in HFSS and Ansoft Designer. When we last met at IMS, they were demonstrating how HFSS has now been fully integrated into the Ansoft Designer environment. This is a significant feature for engineers who need the accuracy of a 3D solver but are working primarily in planar geometries, such as LTCC or MCM. While “2 ½” D planar solvers such as method of moments can simulate the 3D effects such as side-wall coupling between thick metals and vias, the surface meshing becomes less efficient compared to a true 3D solver. Unfortunately in the past, modeling planar structures in a 3D solver was somewhat tedious. The blending of the HFSS 3D EM simulator in a 2D circuit/layout tool like Ansoft Designer is the best of both worlds. Look for a lengthier discussion on this topic in Microwave Journal in 2011. I also heard about the new FE-BI (finite element/boundary integral) hybrid solver that is going into the next version of HFSS. Again, we will feature a lengthier discussion of this technology in our January issue, so keep an eye out for that.

Analog Devices (ADI)

I met with Marcom Manager Colleen Cronin and Sr. Marketing Manager Dale Wilson, who is responsible for the company’s RF standard products. The company continues to grow its portfolio across the RF signal chain, targeting mid-level integration for P2P radio, backhaul and remote radio heads with ICs and modules based on GaAs and Silicon. Show announcements included RF/IF VGAs based on SiGe technology. The company now offers single (ADL 5201) and dual (ADL 5202) channel versions of these VGAs with 31.5 db control range in 0.5 dB (+/- 0.1 dB) steps, a unique programmable “cranking” feature that allows designers to program in the step size and industry-leading linearity with OIP3 of 47 dBm at 200 MHz. The devices offer serial and parallel control interfaces (to save current in low power operation) and operate off a single 5 V supply.

ACCEL-RF

RF reliability, life testing and characterization is typically the afterthought of many design efforts or the requirements of a DoD contract. As such, the solution is often a homegrown burn-in rack, thrown together by a technical team distracted from their principle design responsibilities and maintained over many years (at considerable costs) down in the basement. I am happy to report that there is an alternative from San Diego, Ca. thanks to ACCEL-RF. I met with the company’s president, Roland Shaw, who walked me through their turn-key solution for life/reliability testing and system for measuring accelerated performance degradation. Their solution, which leverages many years of knowledge in this specialized area, made me wonder why any company would ever develop their own life test systems.

National Instruments

Product Marketing Manager, David Broadbent (great RF name) was on hand to talk about NI’s introduction of the first PXI-based vector network analyzer (VNA), the NI PXIe-5630. This small form factor instrument, which goes up to 6 GHz and can be configured to support multiple channels for parallel test of multiple RF components, was being demonstrated as a MIMO measurement system. The company also held a workshop on new technologies for modernized RF and microwave test solutions on Tuesday.

TriQuint

The company has a strong tie to Europe ever since (if not before) the acquisition of the Infineon’s GaAs business back in 2002 and that acquisition has continued to drive their own product and technology developments. This was evident in their special of-site event on Monday evening, where the company talked about their new 0.15um TQP15 foundry process. At the heart of the processing breakthrough that supports the 0.15um gates is the TQP15 utilization of optical lithography (based on their i-line stepper) to reduce cost when compared to traditional E-beam based solutions. The process also incorporates refractory gate metal architecture which does not exhibit the standard metal gate sinking failure mechanism of non-refractory gate pHEMT processes. The TQP15 is targeting at the Ka-band segment and is designed for cost-effectively building millimeter wave (mmWave) MMICs for applications such as VSAT, satellite communications and point to point radios. With a focus on supporting efficient basestation networks, other technologies in the TriQuint portfolio being exhibited included the TQM879006 - integrated DVGA module, TQP3M9008 low noise Gain block, AH323 – two-stage 2 W Driver and the TQP8M9013, high dynamic-range two-stage Driver amplifier. See See TriQuint EuMW press release.

M/A-COM Technology and Tech Asia

M/A-COM hosted a reception in its stand on Tuesday to close out the first day of the exhibition. I had the pleasure of speaking with company president Joe Thomas, CFO Conrad Gagnon, and Robert Dennehy, managing director of M/A-COM Tech Asia. The company executives are quite bullish about their future and focus on innovation, taking the opportunity of an informal gathering to chat with the press and potential customers alike. The company will be leaning on its history of innovation and its expanding engineering staff in pursuit of new business and aggressive growth targets. This is an unfolding story the Journal intends to monitor and report on in the upcoming year. During the week, M/A-COM Tech Asia introduced S-band and X-band Core Chip Solutions for military and weather radar and satellite communications applications and an 8.5 to 11 GHz GaAs MMICcore chip, which consists of integrated transmit/receive switches, an LNA, a 6-bit phase shifter, a 5-bit attenuator and a driver amplifier.

Focus Microwave

Christos Tsironis, founder of Focus Microwave and his engineers are rightfully proud of the work they do in developing harmonic and time domain load pull (CW and pulsed) and noise measurement systems. With his vision and guidance, the engineers at focus redesigned and built a new automatic load pull tuner that is approximately a third the size of the previous model. What’s perhaps more impressive, they did the entire project in two weeks, just in time to paint the tuner “military black” and ship it to EuMW for its world premier. Also on display was the company’s multi-purpose pulse generator (MPPG) solution supports pulsed IV and RF measurements for high power devices such as those targeting radar applications. This system supports high power pulses up to 200 v, 19 a (duty cycle dependant) and minimum pulse widths of 300 ns. Their patent pending Ingenium plus system is a joystick controlled microwave tuner with on board processor and firmware, supporting manual tuning.

Pluton

After several years of credible rumors about a growing Russian microwave market, EuMW had its first Russian-based exhibitor, Pluton. Located in Moscow, this company is actually the oldest developer and manufacturer of pulse generating magnetrons in Russia. Their products, which range in frequencies from 4 GHz to 150 GHz (in classical and coaxial execution) and 100 watts to 500 kilowatts target military, industrial and scientific applications. Company representatives, Dmitry Zotin and Igor Matochkin (Director General) presented visitors to their stand with information on their field emission cathode magnetrons (without heating the cathode), claiming to have no analogues in the world. The company offers batch production of magnetrons in the 2 mm wavelength range for radar-tracking equipment and RF electronic warfare. Their Sa-Co magnets provide radio electronic systems with low weight, small size components with increased mechanical rigidity. The company can also claim to have a long and successful history working with leading world manufacturers and government agencies. As the Russian microwave market opens up and its suppliers begin to target western markets, we look forward to hearing more from companies like Pluton.


Recent Articles by David Vye, Editor

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