The inaugural EDI CON USA conference and exhibition took place on September 20-22, 2016 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, Mass.  Nearly 1500 attendees took advantage of the opportunity to meet one-on-one with more than 140 exhibitors from the RF, microwave and high-speed digital industries. In addition, the event offered 15 free training sessions on the show floor as well as 55 technical sessions, 24 workshops, 12 sponsored talks, 4 short courses and 2 panels for conference attendees. The conference boasted more than 100 speakers/instructors who are leaders in their industry, providing insights and suggestions on ways to address today’s electronic design engineering challenges. Many of these speakers were impressed and intrigued by the questions asked by attendees at the end of their sessions.

The conference opened with a featured keynote from James Komiak, BAE Systems, “Microwave and Millimeter Wave Power Amplifiers: Technology, Applications, Benchmarks and Future Trends,” which drew widespread appeal and an appreciative audience. Some of the other top-rated presentations by attendees included a featured keynote from Nathan Cohen of Fractal Antennas, discussing and demonstrating a wideband microwave invisibility cloak using an array of closely packed fractal shaped resonators wrapped around an object. Another popular standout was the panel, “Not Your Father's Oldsmobile: The Connected Car,” which received excellent ratings from attendees with some pointing out that the panel raised some issues with autonomous driving that they hadn’t previously considered.

Another very popular and well-received technical session was “An Introduction to Patch Antennas,” from Dan Orban of Orban Microwave. Another session that was top rated by attendees was “Simulation of Beamforming By Massive MIMO Antennas in Dense Urban Environments,” presented by Greg Skidmore of Remcom, with one attendee remarking that this was an excellent presentation, and this topic is likely to be discussed more in the future. Thursday afternoon saw a slate of short courses, with the "Fundamentals of Power Integrity" course led by Steve Sandler of Pictoest and Heidi Barnes of Keysight proving to be extremely popular and highly rated among attendees.

KomiakOver in the Frequency Matters Theater on the expo hall floor, attendees benefitted from a series of signal integrity topics on Tuesday, including two sessions from Eric Bogatin on debugging and analyzing closed eyes. On Wednesday, Joe Mazzochette from Eastern OptX talked through a case study for snow pack measurement. And on Thursday, the hams in the house enjoyed a talk from Doug Grant, consultant and longtime ham, about the benefits of ham radio for technology, emergencies, education and social fun.

With a focus on innovation, the EDI CON USA plenary session highlighted the innovations of the past and present, and looked forward to the necessary innovations to continue moving electronic design innovation forward. Featuring talks from the conference’s honorary chair, Dr. Eli Brookner, and radar expert Thomas Sikina from Raytheon, the plenary also included insights from engineering leaders working at the conference’s premium sponsors, Keysight Technologies, Rohde & Schwarz and National Instruments.

Getting Social

Geek BostonThe Keysight delegate reception was Tuesday night at the infamous Fenway Park in the State Street Pavilion. Delegates were treated to a full buffet and drinks in the club which was open to the Fenway Park seating area. A special surprise to the attendees was the display of the 3 Red Sox World Series trophies at the event. Everyone was able to view the trophies up close and take pictures in front of them— making a great photo opportunity.

On Wednesday, Geek-A-Palooza Boston held its inaugural event on location at EDI CON USA. The event featured a comedian, drinks, appetizers, raffles and table top displays from supporting companies. The event attracted several hundred attendees and made for a lively event. After several successful years in Minneapolis, the event expanded to Orange County, Calif. and Boston this year.

Exhibitor Highlights

As the host sponsor, Keysight was demonstrating many products in their booth centrally located in the exhibition with their partners. Keysight FieldFox handheld analyzers were on display noting they were the first to deliver benchtop accuracy up to 50 GHz in a portable, rugged package and now available with Real-time Spectrum Analysis (RTSA) which was recently added.

KeysightThey also recently introduced their Signal Optimizer software—the industry’s first all-in-one software for calibration, signal creation and signal analysis of 5G candidate waveforms. By simplifying calibration and the critical design tasks related to 5G signal creation and analysis, the software enables R&D engineers to focus more time on being first-to-market with their own designs. Keysight’s new Signal Optimizer software overcomes calibration issues by making fully-guided system calibrations easier. The software also features task-based instructions that simplify complex system optimization and measurements, and allow engineers to more confidently validate their 5G designs.

Keysight recently added a Gen 3 PXIe chassis and set of Gen 3 system components designed for complex, high-performance applications. Doubling the system bandwidth, the new products improve data streaming for capture/playback applications, such as 5G and electronic warfare. The Gen 3 products also provide a superior platform for large multi-channel and multi-chassis PXIe test systems for applications, such as MIMO and PA/FEM. The products include an 18-slot PXIe chassis with x8 Gen 3 PCIe links to each slot, a set of single and dual-port Gen 3 PXIe system modules and PC host cards, and an improved PXIe embedded controller, now capable of Gen 3 performance.

RandSRohde & Schwarz (Diamond Sponsor) expanded the analysis bandwidth of its R&S FSW high end signal and spectrum analyzer to 2 GHz by introducing the new R&S FSW-B2000 hardware option recently.  And last year they introduced the R&S FSW85 high-end signal and spectrum analyzer covering the frequency range from 2 Hz to 85 GHz in a single sweep. This makes it possible for users to test baseband and RF with a single analyzer. With these new capabilities, R&S was demonstrating the first commercial test solution for 5G channel sounding using the R&S TS-5GCS channel sounding software together with an R&S FSW signal and spectrum analyzer and an R&S SMW200A vector signal generator which make it possible to comfortably measure channels in high frequency bands. The R&S SMW200A has a frequency range of up to 40 GHz and is used as the sounding signal source. The R&S FSW operates as a receiver and can be employed with various frequencies and bandwidths. The R&S FSW85, for example, enables users to analyze sounding signals up to 85 GHz without an external mixer. Adding the R&S FSW-B2000 option extends the possible analysis bandwidth to 2 GHz.

They also now offer three new options for its R&S SMW200A high end vector signal generator with microwave frequency ranges from 100 kHz to 12.75 GHz, 100 kHz to 31.8 GHz and 100 kHz to 40 GHz. An option covering the range between 100 kHz and 20 GHz has been available since the summer of 2014. The R&S SMW200A is the only microwave signal generator on the market to combine a baseband generator and RF generator with fading, AWGN and MIMO capabilities in a single box. As a result, it supports numerous challenging aerospace and defense and wireless communications applications.

NINational Instruments (Corporate Sponsor) announced a preview of its new 802.11ad, or WiGig, test solution. Highlighting new capabilities in the emerging field of mmWave test, NI demonstrated parametric testing of an 802.11ad radio using its mmWave instrument technology based on NI’s wideband mmWave transceiver technology used by automotive and wireless infrastructure researchers to prototype advanced radar and 5G systems. It consists of a vector signal generator and vector signal analyzer operating at 55 to 68 GHz with more than 2 GHz of instantaneous bandwidth. This new technology for 802.11ad testing also complements NI’s comprehensive product portfolio for wireless test, including existing solutions testing 802.11a/b/h/j/n/p/ac/ax, Bluetooth, GSM, UMTS, LTE/LTE-A, FM/RDS, GNSS and more.

NI AWR recently announced AntSyn™, the newest product within the NI AWR software portfolio, which was the MWJ July issue MVP. AntSyn is an automated antenna design, synthesis and optimization tool that enables users to quickly and easily input antenna engineering requirements and output antenna designs. AntSyn combines EM simulation with the use of evolutionary algorithms (EAs) to explore the design space and automatically locate superior antenna designs to accelerate the overall design process.

They also help EDI CON USA organize the Bits-to-Waves Practical Workshop. This was an interactive workshop hosted by Dr. David Ricketts of North Carolina State University where participants learned the basic theory of modern digital radios as well as the RF circuits and system used to build them. After an introductory session on digital radios, participants will select an RF building block to design and build. After the mini-classes, each participant designed their RF component using NI AWR software. In the afternoon, the designs were transferred to PCB via a simple “PCB in a bag” method and each component built and tested using a simple VNA. The workshop concluded with a full radio test of at transmitter and receiver.

Accel-RF Instruments provides systems that enable their customers to perform DC and RF reliability testing and assurance throughout the full life cycle of power semiconductors. Used by government labs, wafer fabs and design houses, their systems have been instrumental in evaluating, qualifying and maturing GaN through millimeter wave frequencies. To support their growth in both RF and power electronics, Accel-RF opened a facility in the Boston area to provide application support and maintenance of customer equipment.

Analog Devices introduced four high performance RF and microwave standard modules that extend and strengthen its standard module product portfolio. The new modules complement ADI’s existing product offerings by delivering easy-to-use, fully integrated, hermetically sealed solutions that dramatically shorten the proof-of-concept phase of the design cycle and help reduce the overall in-house technical support needed to assemble, test and validate a design. ADI has stepped up its presence in the A&D market.

Anokiwave has quietly been developing a family of highly integrated and high performance silicon ICs for active arrays, anticipating the needs of 5G, satellite communications and both commercial and defense radar systems. From X-Band to Ka-Band, their “core” IC designs reflect a system understanding that incorporates system-level features to simplify system design and enhance performance. Company representatives met with EDI CON attendees to discuss these products and future system needs; CEO Bob Donahue participated on the 5G panel, “How Will 5G Ride the mmWave?”

Anritsu introduced the Power Master MA24507A, an ultraportable, millimeter wave (mmWave) power analyzer that enables simple, numeric, frequency based measurement of RF power from 9 kHz to 70 GHz. The first frequency selectable RF power analyzer, the Power Master MA24507A leverages Anritsu’s patented Shockline technology, along with its leadership in ultraportable test solution design to address the growing number of test requirements in mmWave applications, including test of 802.11ad, Wireless HD, and E-band products, at every stage of the product lifecycle. The MA24507A can make measurements as low as -90 dBm at 70 GHz, making it a superior alternative to large benchtop instruments. As a USB-powered unit, it measures approximately 6×3×1 (inches) and weighs less than 15 oz. Because the Power Master MA24507A enables frequency selective power measurements, users can differentiate intended signals from unintended signals for the first time. With spans from 1 kHz to full span over the entire frequency range, the Power Master MA24507A can zero in on a signal of interest in harsh environments, including those with unintended signals that can impact power readings. This enables measurements such as channel power and adjacent channel power to be made, while avoiding spurs and harmonics.

Ardent Concepts introduced a very interesting new twist-to-lock compression mount connector that replaces cumbersome surface mount connectors that require a receptacle on the PCB. Ardent’s patented QUICKLINK™ Connector mounts directly to the PCB with a twist-to-lock footprint design that requires only two small thru holes and a gold pad for the connector to land on. QUICKLINK™ footprints can be placed anywhere on your board to allow easy access to any channels from your device without having to solder on costly SMA or SMP surface mount receptacles. The product has very low loss out to 70 GHz and beyond and can meet the bandwidth requirements of industry leading applications like PAM4 signaling and Ka/Ku band applications.

Berkeley Nucleonics displayed their line of high performance signal sources and phase noise test systems. Three products were featured: A 27 GHz wideband receiver for lab and field applications, a signal source analyzer and phase noise test system that simplifies pulsed phase noise measurements, and the 845 series of signal generators with a fast switching option for radar applications.

Boonton, A Wireless Telecom Group Company, introduced the new RTP4000 series of Real-Time True Average Power sensors at the show. These sensors deliver a dynamic range from -60 dBm to +20 dBm, a frequency range down to 6 kHz and an industry leading measurement rate of 100,000 measurements per second. Built with Boonton’s Real-Time Power Processing technology which eliminates gaps in acquisition and provides zero measurement latency, RTP4000 sensors deliver fast performance in a compact USB form factor. The True Average capabilities of these sensors enable accurate capture and measurement of pulsed, modulated and CW signals. Unlike many average power sensors, the RTP4000 True Average power sensors go beyond reporting numeric power measurements and provide a pulse profiling trace mode with 175 kHz video bandwidth.

Copper Mountain Technologies worked with Farran Technology to create CobaltFx for millimeter wave S-parameter measurements that establishes lab quality results in a more compact and significantly more affordable solution. The system is the first millimeter-wave frequency extension solution built on a 9 GHz vector network analyzer (VNA) and is available in three dedicated waveguide bands: 50 to 75 GHz, 60 to 90 GHz and 75 to 110 GHz. It features fast sweep speeds down to 10 microseconds per point and a dynamic range of up to 162 dB, all comprised in a compact USB form factor. C4209 works seamlessly and exclusively with Farran Technology’s millimeter wave FEV frequency extenders.

FractalDr. Nathan Cohen of Fractal Antenna gave a session and demonstration of their unique RF/microwave cloaking and deflection technology using fractal structures.  Over a broad band, 2.5 to 3 GHz, he created a Waldo (window around a wall) that channeled they RF energy around a barrier (the “wall”) using their array of closely packed fractal shaped resonators that was wrapped around the barrier creating a “window.” The bandwidth is an impressive 500% for front scatter and 100% for backscatter with about 1 dB insertion loss. See our cover story for the Jan 2015 issue for more details.

Integrated Device Technology (IDT) featured their growing line of innovative RF products for wireless infrastructure and cable applications. A relatively new entrant into RF, IDT has combined their silicon design expertise with innovative concepts to create differentiated solutions, such as constant impedance (during switching) switches, “zero distortion” variable gain RF amplifiers, and “flat noise” variable gain IF amplifiers. The company also has a strong product focus in clocks and timing for networking applications.

MACOM introduced two new distributed power amplifiers operating from DC to 22 GHz at the show. These amplifiers can be used as a power amplifier stage or as a driver stage in higher power applications, and are ideally suited for Test and Measurement (T&M), Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) and Radar applications. The MAAP-011247, a 2 watt amplifier, features 12 dB of linear gain, 33 dBm of saturated output power and the highest reported output power for a MMIC amplifier covering DC-22 GHz. The device is fully matched across the band and provides 42 dBm of OIP3 linearity. The MAAP-011248, a 1 watt amplifier, offers 12.5 dB of linear gain, 30 dBm of saturated output power and can be operated over a drain voltage of 9 to 12 V for optimization of RF power versus DC power dissipation. They commented at our meeting that they will be releasing 30 new multi-market new products before the end of the year as they service the vacuum left by the semiconductor consolidation over the past few years.

Mercury Systems featured their microwave integration capabilities, including complex multi-function modules and the functional blocks that enable them (e.g., GaN power amplifiers, ferrites, mixers, VCOs). At the booth and the technical conference, Mercury promoted their OpenRFM concept, a standard for RF/microwave subsystems that eliminates the need for every new design to start with a blank sheet of paper.

MiniCircuitsMini-Circuits showed off their full portfolio of products and featured a new line of test solutions. Combining hardware and software into a turn-key solution speeds development time, as customers only have to focus on product development — not test systems. These solutions are based on a building block approach, which allows many custom configurations to be delivered within two weeks. Systems can be configured as combinations of amplifiers, signal generators and signal routing and distribution. Applications include 3G and 4G base stations, satellite communications and RF burn-in systems. They also featured their absorptive/reflectionless filters from DC to 21 GHz. They prevent unwanted reflections in the stopband and are well suited for pairing with mixers, multipliers, signal sources and more.

NXP Semiconductors, now with the addition of Freescale, featured the market’s leading portfolio of RF power semiconductors — LDMOS and GaN — for wireless infrastructure, industrial, and aerospace and defense applications. NXP has been releasing GaN power transistors for the higher frequency cellular bands, as well as for land mobile radio and aerospace and defense. In parallel, the company is extending its LDMOS portfolio to higher power and lower cost for solid-state cooking, industrial heating and other emerging applications. The original NXP portfolio adds silicon and SiGe capabilities for small-signal RF applications, including the IoT.

Among the products and companies in the Richardson RFPD booth, NewEdge Signal Solutions was highlighting their low loss, tunable filter technology that covers multiple wireless bands from 30 MHz to 2.7 GHz. For transmitters, the company has resurrected high efficiency envelope tracking (ET) for use in commercial wireless infrastructure or military communications. NewEdge featured a two-channel MIMO front-end that transmits 7 W average power per PA channel across 1.8 to 2.7 GHz, using either a 4G or constant envelope waveform.

Rogers Corp. was showing its latest circuit materials including 92ML™ prepregs and laminates, 92ML™ StaCool™ laminates, and RO4730G3™ UL 94 V-0 antenna-grade laminates. 92ML laminates and prepregs are ideally suited for high-power circuits, such as power amplifiers and power supplies. They are halogen-free, lead-free-compatible, epoxy-based materials with excellent heat-transfer characteristics available with up to 4 oz. copper cladding. Rogers RO4730G3 UL 94 V-0 antenna-grade laminates are engineered for high-performance next-generation wireless communications antennas. These affordable, low-loss materials have been developed to meet the performance requirements of antenna designs for current 4G and emerging 5G wireless systems. They are flame-retardant per UL 94 V-0 and are an extension of Rogers RO4000® circuit materials, a top circuit-material choice for wireless base station antennas. RO4730G3 laminates feature a low dielectric constant (Dk) of 3.0 and Dk tolerance of ±0.05 through the thickness (z axis) at 10 GHz for tight control of impedance when designing antennas and antenna arrays plus 30% lighter than PTFE laminates.

X-Microwave was discussing their modular building block approach to microwave systems, useful for rapid prototyping of initial concepts and, ultimately, production. The company offers a catalog of building blocks, reflecting multiple circuit functions, such as amplifiers, switches, digital step attenuators, mixers, filters, couplers and limiters. To aid the design process, X-Microwave offers the X-MWSimulator, which uses Keysight’s Genesys Spectrasys to model the performance of a system built from X-Microwave’s building blocks.

Next year, EDI CON USA will take place again at the Hynes Convention Center from September 11-13, 2017. The following year, it will move to the Santa Clara Convention Center (Santa Clara, Calif.), from October 17-19, 2018. Watch for the EDI CON USA 2017 call for papers to open in January 2017, and, if you would like to be a member of the EDI CON Technical Advisory Committee (http://www.ediconusa.com/commitee.asp), please contact Janine Love, Event Director, at Janine.love@mwjournal.com.