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Focusing on the RF Designer

December 13, 2011
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MWJ: What primary growth markets/applications is ADI concentrating on for the next 12-18 months in the RF market?

PR: The communications infrastructure and microwave backhaul markets have historically been and will continue to be primary areas of focus for Analog Devices. In addition, instrumentation, industrial, military/aero/defense, energy and automotive radar will also be areas of strong concentration. These markets tend to push the RF performance barriers in various ways, which is aligned with ADI’s strategy.

MWJ: ADI has one of the broadest RF portfolios but it best known for Converters, Linear & DSP. What are you doing to raise awareness of your RF products?

PR: Yes, ADI is, and has been for some time, the world’s leader in data converters and high performance amplifiers. ADI also offers the industry’s broadest portfolio of RF ICs covering the entire RF signal chain, from antenna to bits. We have over 1,000 RF ICs in our product portfolio, including industry-leading high performance RF function blocks such as PLLs, detectors and mixers to highly-integrated transceiver solutions. We complement our product portfolio with a variety of design resources including freely available design tools such as ADIsimRF™, ADIsimPLL™, ADIsimSRD™ , complete reference circuits, technical support forums, evaluation boards, samples and more. We work closely with our converter, amplifier, power and DSP teams to fully address customer needs and identify potential RF opportunities. Last year, ADI created market-specific segment teams that focus on serving customers and offering them complete solutions for a wide range of applications. In addition, Analog Devices participates in industry events worldwide such as IMS, European Microwave Week and more; conducts technical seminars worldwide both in person and on the web; generates customer newsletters; utilizes search engine optimization and more. We work closely with our distribution partners throughout the world on various promotions.

MWJ: What types of semiconductor processes do you utilize and which ones are fabricated internally?

PR: Analog Devices employs a variety of propriety and open market semiconductor processes and we determine which one to use based on which process will deliver the most value to the customer. Specific processes utilized at ADI include proprietary SiGe Bipolar, SiGe BiCMOS, proprietary and foundry BiCMOS, as well as foundry CMOS and GaAs.

MWJ: Earlier this year, ADI introduced the Circuits from the Lab program which addresses common analog and mixed signal design problems. This looks like a very innovative approach to the market with extensive design and documentation for each solution. How has this program been received and what future plans do you have for it?

PR: Yes, thank you. Our Circuits from the Lab (CftL) program has been very well received by our customers as these reference circuits significantly reduce design time by providing working solutions to common interface problems with multiple building blocks in the RF signal chain. Analog Devices currently has over 20 RF Circuits from the Lab, with a plan to offer more as we introduce new products.

MWJ: ADI has one of the best web sites in the industry. How has ADI been so successful online and what do you do differently than others in the industry?

PR: It’s great to hear that our efforts on improving our web site have paid off as ADI has placed a great deal of emphasis on enhancing our website in order to make it a more useful tool for our customers. We have listened to feedback from our customers and incorporated many new initiatives, changes and updates, while also improving the overall look and feel of www.analog.com. For example, in the past year, we have introduced new technical support forums, EngineerZone™, that are focused on various product disciplines including RF ICs, DDS, Converters, Amplifiers, DSP and more. ADI engineers are available on EngineerZone to answer customer design and applications-related questions and forum users can also search through the community to see common approaches to design challenges. We continue to monitor customer feedback on our website and will make further changes and updates accordingly.

MWJ: We have seen some unique mixers and amplifiers released recently by ADI. What are some of the unique processes and/or design techniques ADI is using to develop some of the new products we have seen?

PR: ADI utilizes a combination of design skills, systems understanding and process technologies when developing our RF ICs and our latest mixers and amplifiers are great examples of this approach. In the past couple of years, we have placed increased emphasis on integration and combining multiple RF functions on a single chip, without any sacrifice in performance. Our new ADL5811 and ADL5812 RF mixers integrate external circuitry on-chip including the RF balun, LO amp, IF amp and filter, while maintaining high performance over a wide dynamic range. They also include a bias control pin to optimize RF performance vs. power consumption. Another great example of ADI’s ability to integrate multiple functions without sacrificing performance is our new RF/IF digitally controlled VGAs. Designed with GaAs technology, the ADL5240 and ADL5243 offer unsurpassed gain control performance and accuracy. The ADL5240 VGA combines a DSA (digital step attenuator) and a gain block into a single IC, while the ADL5243 combines a DSA, a gain block, and a broadband ¼ W driver amplifier in a single IC. Either the amplifier or the DSA can be first in the signal chain, maximizing system flexibility by allowing the VGA to be used in multiple places throughout a design.

MWJ: ADI is also a leader in supporting customers with software and calculator tools to assist in selecting and designing with their products, such as ADIsimRF, ADIsimPLL and ADIsimSRD. What new improvements or additions to this portfolio are expected over the next year?

PR: Our design tools are quite popular and are great design resources for our customers. We are constantly seeking ways to improve these tools and add features that will be of value. For example, during 2011, ADIsimRF was updated significantly to include new functionality such as the ability to include building blocks from other suppliers and to monitor key parameters between individual building blocks (compared to previous versions which only allowed you to measure the final cascaded output). We also added a feature where the customer is warned if they try to overdrive the signal chain. We will continue to release new versions of our ADIsimRF, ADIsimPLL, ADIsimSRD and ADIsimCLK to accommodate new products throughout the course of the year. In addition, we will also continue to make various enhancements to improve the user experience, address new design challenges and truly make the tools the best design resources available for our customers.

MWJ: How are you focusing on distribution of your products globally?

PR: Analog Devices sells its products globally through both direct and distribution channels. We are franchised globally with a variety of broadline, specialty and independent distributors. ADI products are currently sold through the top two top broadline semiconductor distributors, Arrow and Avnet and we also work with companies such as DigiKey and Premier Farnell, who focus on online selling and next-day delivery. We are delighted to announce this month that we have partnered with Richardson RFPD, who will sell our RF ICs and signal processing technologies worldwide and have extensive RF expertise.

MWJ:: What are your plans for major new product introductions over the next year (that you can disclose)?

PR: Analog Devices is at its core an engineering company and we are very fortunate to have such a strong team of RF engineers, including Barrie Gilbert who designed the Gilbert Cell Mixer which has formed the basis of many RF designs for the past 20+ years. RF represents one of the fastest areas of growth for ADI and while we cannot disclose specific product plans, RF is a priority for ADI and an increased area of focus and R&D investment. We will continue to place increased focus on extending the operating frequency range of our parts into the microwave area, while maintaining high RF performance. With the company’s 45+ years of high performance signal processing expertise and as one of the pioneers in RF (we’ve been active in this area for nearly 20 years), we have developed a reputation for pushing the performance barriers over wider frequency ranges and will continue to do so. ADI is recognized for its leading PLL and detector portfolios and we will continue to expand these product areas along with every other product area in the signal chain. During the past couple of years, we have experienced increased customer demand for highly integrated RF ICs that reduce component count and thereby BOM cost without any sacrifice in performance. As demonstrated in some of the latest products we have introduced such as the ADRF670x modulators, ADRF660x RF mixer and new ADL5811 and ADL5812 RF mixer products, integration of individual RF building blocks and the surrounding support circuitry is a focus and something that ADI does extremely well. This will continue to be a focus as customer demand continues to grow.

MWJ: What challenges do you see ahead over the next couple of years for the RF industry?

PR: There are many challenges to be faced in the next couple of years. New multi- standard modulation schemes are pushing the barriers of RF performance. Smaller footprints, reduced weight, higher levels of integration and lower power without any sacrifice in performance continue to be a challenge. For microwave applications, extending operating frequency range is a common challenge and we are pleased to have recently introduced the industry’s highest frequency Integer-N PLL at 18 GHz.

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