Greg Straiton, General Manager of Amphenol RF, discusses Amphenol RF's tradition of innovation in the connector industry, new products and global approach to manufacturing.
MWJ: Amphenol RF is a pioneer in the RF connector industry having developed the APC-7 connector which was the first instrument grade connector series to achieve repeatable mode resonance-free signal transmission from DC to 18 GHz with a minimum return loss. How has Amphenol continued that tradition of innovation in the industry?
GS: Over the past ten years, Amphenol RF has introduced a number of breakthrough RF interfaces for various markets and applications. AFI, HD-BNC and ML7 are a few examples of our newer products. Amphenol Floating Interconnect (AFI) was designed for board-to board and board-to-cable applications for telecom, broadband, wireless and military markets. AFI provides industry leading radial and axial float to support the most challenging blind-mate configurations.
More recently, Amphenol RF introduced its High Density BNC (HD-BNC). This interface has a familiar bayonet coupling mechanism; however, it is designed to provide four times more density than a standard BNC. The HD-BNC was primarily developed for the 75 Ohm broadcast application in response to a need for a superior 3Gbps electrical performance. Since launching the HD-BNC product line in late 2010, the line is gaining a significant position in the Broadcast market. We are also designing a 50 Ohm variant of the HD-BNC driven by strong interest from Military and Industrial markets.
MWJ: How has Amphenol worked with industry to standardize products for the customer?
GS: Amphenol RF is very active with standardization efforts and is a contributing member of industry committees such as IEC, EIA, SCTE, VITA, SMPTE and USCAR. Recent initiatives include comprehensive efforts with SMPM, MCX, and FAKRA interface technologies. Presently, Amphenol RF is working intimately with the VITA 67 committee to drive interoperability for the new RF back-plane interconnect scheme.
MWJ: Amphenol RF is introducing new rugged connectors for harsh environments. What features and innovations are in these new designs?
GS: In June 2012, Amphenol RF is launching its Amphenol Rugged Connector (ARC) line. These connectors are designed to withstand extreme conditions in harsh environments where they will be subject to intense shock, vibration and heavy mechanical loads. We took a multi-faceted approach to the development process by soliciting feedback from our customers and creating features to mitigate the impact of these conditions. Specifically, we strengthened the plating for increased mating cycles and improved chemical resistance. We also enhanced the moisture resistance by adding seals to common leak areas and geometry that allows for correct sealing with the water-proof heat shrink tubing. This feature has been proven to provide submersion resistance beyond the level of IP-67 per IEC 529. Lastly, we utilized a single-piece body design in our straight connectors instead of conventional, multi-piece modular designs. This provides for greater load capability and mechanical shock survival. To complement the connector line, Amphenol RF offers ruggedized cable assemblies with various integrated armor to limit the effects of abrasion and impact.
MWJ: How are you addressing the low PIM requirements for the cellular infrastructure industry?
GS: Amphenol RF has a long history of supporting the market with robust, low PIM interconnect solutions. In response to the market transition to next generation infrastructure technologies such as remote radio heads and active antennas, Amphenol RF has developed a new high performance product series, the ML7. This new interface not only addresses very low PIM requirements it also takes into account space and weight advantages needed in more compact tower-mounted equipment. A key feature of the ML7 is low-torque interface geometry which provides a strong mechanical fit enabling consistent and stable low-PIM performance without the need for large and cumbersome tools.
MWJ: How are you focusing on distribution of your products globally?
GS: For years Amphenol RF has partnered with distributors in North America. Global manufacturing expansion has dictated the need for North American Distributors to follow their customer’s demands and open offices throughout the world. Amphenol RF has built a wide distribution network with our European, Asian and Latin American offices all working closely with their regional and domestic partners.
MWJ: As the largest RF connector manufacturer in the world, what challenges do you see ahead over the next couple of years for the RF industry from a connector perspective?
GS: Uncertain global economic conditions are having an impact on the commodities such as brass, copper, silver and gold. Over the past two years we have witnessed rising labor rates in China where we manufacture most of the components and final products. In addition, local Chinese currency appreciation makes Chinese-made exports more expensive in terms of US dollars. All of these factors place an upward pressure on the RF interconnect prices. Amphenol RF is working rigorously to contain these cost increases though better purchasing practices, automation, manufacturing efficiency and consolidated transportation to minimize the impact to our customers without compromising quality.
MWJ: What are your plans for major new product introductions over the next year (that you can disclose)?
GS: Amphenol RF's new product road-map is closely aligned with the trends evolving in current and emerging markets that utilize RF technology. One consistent trend is the drive to higher density to gain more data bandwidth with shrinking form factors. Products such as the HD-BNC and ML7 are great examples of this upward trend. We will expand on these lines and introduce new products to reduce connector footprints while enhancing product performance.
Another trend is the transition away from cable assemblies in board to board applications within equipment. We are investing significant R&D resources on development in this category as we build on our successful AFI technology for board to board blind mate interconnect solutions.
Material costs have been challenging over the past years and have influenced the direction of connector manufacturing. New product development strategies must include new materials and processes to limit the influence on fluctuating commodities. Our new product launches will feature innovative configurations to control costs.
MWJ: What primary growth markets/applications is Amphenol RF concentrating on for the next 12-18 months?
GS: We expect to see continued market growth in all Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications, navigation and telematics, industrial control, automation, telehealth and RFID. Overall, the proliferation of wireless technology in the industrial market space brings a positive momentum for RF interconnect solutions. Amphenol RF will extend promotion of the HD-BNC product line for broadcast applications and beyond. We will continue R&D investment into new products for broadband, telecom and wireless applications. The future is encouraging for RF technology and Amphenol RF will remain well positioned through its diversification strategy.