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The Origin of European Microwave Week (EuMW)

Executive Interview with Holger H. Meinel, Technology Management and Research Policy, Daimler AG

September 12, 2013
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MWJ When you joined the AEG-Telefunken Advanced Technology Department in Ulm, Germany in 1973 after graduating from university what did you first work on?

HM–On my second day in the company I was asked to develop a 35 GHz mixer for an automotive anti-collision-radar sensor. Consequently, I worked on mm-wave components for future radar and communication applications, using waveguide techniques at the beginning, and going on to quasi-planar integration technology like fin-line shortly after.

MWJ You stayed with the same company but it changed its name many times before becoming Daimler AG. How did these frequent changes impact your development as an R&D engineer and affect your progression within the company?

HMThe change of names of the company was not important to me, but there was the possibility to change functions within the company – a large company gives an engineer a lot of choices. Leaving out my first deployment in Ulm, where I stayed for about 10 years (in different teams and as a team leader myself setting up new teams) I got used to change jobs every five to six years. I was always curious to learn, to enlarge my horizons and to get involved in something new.

MWJ During the 40 years since 1973 what would you say were the most interesting projects you have worked on and which had the greatest impact on the RF & microwave industry?

HM–I started as a radar engineer on an automotive project at 35 GHz, moving on to 48 and 60 GHz, switched to military seekers at 94 GHz and ended up with automotive radars at 77 GHz. The entire development of the mm-wave region, from employing waveguide, via quasi-planar integration, like fin-line, to MMICs and their widespread application today had the greatest impact. Without the large bandwidth of 38 or 58 GHz line-of-sight com-links the mobile telephones of today would not be possible.

Personally I think the investigation and development of fin-line technology was most important, not only to me. Standard waveguide became history and new semiconductor components like beam-lead devices as well as planar design techniques took over and the way to MMICs in the mm-wave range was paved.

MWJ You took several leave of absences to work in the US with MDTT and Fisher-Rosemount, and in France with Thomson-CSF. How was the experience and did you notice differences when working in different countries?

HM–Working in a foreign country was an eye-opener for me. Other cultures behave and live entirely differently: e.g. the open-door policy in the US or the very strong hierarchy in France, to mention just two examples. Working in such a different environment means you have to deal with it directly and every day: That is good! In my opinion, you only have one chance – be as open minded as possible and be tolerant.

It is the idea, which is important, not the way you make it happen.

MWJ You have also spent time lecturing in the US and Europe. Why did you choose to do so and did you enjoy the break from industry?

HM–In a way this developed by chance. In those days there were not that many people around who were knowledgeable in the field of mm-waves and mm-wave applications was a growing area.

Spending your time in lecturing is very rewarding, to get your ideas and visions over to younger people, helping them to develop themselves and to find their place in the community: There is nothing more worthwhile.

MWJ It has been said that you ‘returned to your roots’ to work with automotive radar in 2010. What makes the subject so special for you?

HM–It is the very subject I started my career with! That’s the first point. I like driving and that has become annoying, lately; driving in traffic jams is boring. And third, it is a good feeling to realize that you are part of a development that is saving lives.

MWJ You had responsibilities on behalf of Daimler AG within the EU MOre Safety for All by Radar Interference Mitigation (MOSARIM) project? What was yours/Daimler’s role in this project?

HM–Daimler AG was – besides Volvo trucks - the only OEM within the consortium, i.e. offering input from the car manufacturer’s perspective. My job was not an entirely technical one as I was responsible for “foreign affairs” so to speak. Ensuring co-operation within the consortium and with the outside world was my main role. My extensive knowledge of the micro-/millimetre-wave scene was quite handy and advantageous for this purpose.

MWJ What were the main outcomes from MOSARIM?

HM–Six major interference mitigation techniques have been allocated, investigated and implemented during the course of the MOSARIM project. Within multiple test campaigns it was shown that even under severe reflection situations, e.g. in car parks or highway tunnels, the tested ADAS installations were functioning adequately. However, as MOSARIM was only a European program, it is necessary to promote the international standardization on radar interference.

More on this important subject will be presented in EuMW 2013 within WS24 on Tuesday 8 October.

MWJ You were one of the founders of the European Microwave Association (EuMA). Outline how that came about and the role you played in its foundation.

HM–It was 1996 in Prague that we – the six founding members - met first, to change the situation in Europe prompted by the fact that the EuMC in Prague had less than 100 paying visitors. We needed something like the IMS in the US, only taking place in Europe. My part was to enforce the influence of industry somewhat and as a result application oriented paper submission came into being. And – very importantly - from our first earnings the student rate was reduced to €100.

A nice coincidence for me is that this reduced rate was enlarged to senior citizens - like myself – these days.

MWJ Also, tell us about your involvement with restructuring the European Microwave Conference and the subsequent evolution of European Microwave Week?

HM–The idea was to bring together researchers and engineers from academia and industry, respectively. A large entity like the ‘EuMW’ would be able to host several different conferences, which was Leo Ligthart’s idea for the first EuMW in 1998 in Amsterdam. This approach offered the advantage of being able to cover very different demands and subject areas – from MMICs to systems - in a single event. It was not at all easy to do in the beginning but – as we see today, with the 16th EuMW about to take place - it has been done successfully.

MWJ The automotive sector will be to the fore at European Microwave Week 2013 in Nuremburg? Briefly what should attendees interested in the subject be looking out for?

HM–There will be three Workshops (EuMC/EuRAD) and a focused session within the EuRAD programme dealing with this subject. The EuMC opening on Tuesday as well as the EuRAD opening on Wednesday will also touch on this subject. As part of the WS24 “Automotive Radar” on Tuesday there will be a life-demo on a blocked off section of road outside the exhibition halls. The Defence & Security Forum on Wednesday will be focused on Automotive Radar Opportunities.

Also, within the exhibition, from Tuesday to Thursday, vehicles will be displayed that will have ‘packaged’ radar sensors on show – the package being an ACTROS truck as well as an brand new Mercedes-Benz S-Class. A Golf VII from Volkswagen as well as a test car from HELLA will also be displayed. Last but not least, on Thursday, the MicroApps within the exhibition will host a panel discussion with seven specialists from the field.

MWJ You have had a distinguished career. What would you say was your greatest achievement so far and do you have any major goals that you are aiming for?

HM–Having been part of and fostering the widespread application of mm-waves in general, while promoting automotive radar in particular has been and still is very important to me. However, there is a lot more to be done in this field. Helping to foster this in the future, will be the major goal I still have in mind. I do hope to be able to put my lifelong experiences to work in this direction.

MWJ Over the years what are the major changes in the RF and microwave industry that you have witnessed?

HM–I see two major changes.

First: when I started my career in the 1970s RF and microwaves where mostly employed in military applications. This is no longer the case. Even the drastically reduced number of people working in the RF and microwaves sector has grown back recently.

Second: RF and microwaves rely on analogue technology, which was – then - general thinking. Only the signal processing was open to digitalization in the early days. Consequently, the first realized phased array systems used analogue phase-shifters.

Today this is all done digitally. The digital age moves on and creates new opportunities. A ‘standard’ blind spot detection (BSD) system using a digital beam forming (DBF) antenna can be switched over to the rear cross traffic alert (RCTA) function by the ‘gears in back’ signal only.

MWJ It is evident from the Cover Story you wrote for the September issue of Microwave Journal that the development of automotive radar is a passion. Please give us a brief insight into how you envisage the technology developing in the next few years.

HM–Today, employing a standard ADAS system like DISTRONIC PLUS, you are able to drive with ‘feet off’. Driving with ‘hands off’ is already possible today using prototype systems and will be available to the customer in the very near future (Autobahn Pilot). ‘Eyes off’ still needs some time to be ready, as it is with ‘brains off’…! INTELLIGENT DRIVE, such as has just been installed in the new S-Class, is paving the way.

The proposal of the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and tourism (MLIT), to transfer the responsibility of driver and system manufacturer during automated driving onto an operating company (something like a special insurance) has the charm and ability to ease the legislative and thus the political barriers.

 

Holger H. Meinel joined the AEG-Telefunken Advanced Technology Department in Ulm, Germany, in 1973 after graduating with a Diploma in Microwave Engineering from the Technical University of Aachen, Germany. Since then he has been with the same company, however, the name changed from AEG-Telefunken to AEG to Daimler-Benz Aerospace to DaimlerChrysler Aerospace and finally to Daimler AG.

He has authored or co-authored over 160 technical papers, mostly on millimetre-wave integration, especially fin-line technology, and applications. He has edited or co-authored three different books in the mm-wave fields, and he holds 13 patents. His research activities in mm-wave applications have led to the involvement and organization of various corresponding workshops, panel discussions and focused sessions at MIOP, IEEE MTT-S, EuMC and EuRAD.

Holger H. Meinel has been involved in key-functions with the European Microwave Association (EuMA) since its beginning. During the restructuring of the European Microwave Conference (EuMC) from 1996 to 1998 he served in the newly founded Steering Committee, and became one of the founders of EuMA.

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