Austin in August can be a pretty hot place. This was certainly the case this past week (Aug. 17-21) as the mercury hovered near the triple digit mark. Inside the Austin Convention Center, the temperature was much more comfortable and so was the atmosphere as engineers and exhibitors assembled from far and wide for the IEEE EMC Symposium 2009. Roughly 130 different companies were exhibiting their products and services. While activity within the exhibition space ranged from light to moderate, the mood among vendors seemed generally upbeat with the majority having enough overall booth traffic to merit their trip to Texas.

Attendees were also treated to the sounds of instrument-wielding engineers during lunchtime of the first day of the exhibition thanks to an open mic, jam-session taking place in the break area. Such talent among EMC engineers, who knew? The best song may have been an original number called, "I've got the cell phone is breaking up, I can't hear you blues"

By accident or intent, electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and microwaves are inter-related and so there is a fair amount of cross-over between disciplines and vendors developing products for both markets. Folks you will see at both the EMC symposium and conferences such as IMS or EumW include test and measurement equipment manufacturers (amplifiers, antenna, anechoic RF chambers, etc.), EM software providers (3D EM, signal and power integrity and specific EMC/EMI software), materials (braided cables, gaskets, shielding, etc.) and passive components for suppressing unwanted emissions.

Walking into the exhibition, I recognized a number of firms from the pages of Microwave Journal. At the entrance front and center, was ETS-Lindgren, manufacturer of components and systems used to measure, shield and control electromagnetic energy for EMC, microwave, wireless, MRI testing, EMF measurement and RF personal safety monitoring. As a company with its headquarters just outside of Austin and as a big player in the EMC space, ETS-Lindgren stepped up to play a major role in sponsoring and organizing this year’s event. The company took advantage of their proximity to this year’s event by inviting several trade journal editors including myself to their facility for some lunch and a tour/question and answer session hosted by General Manager Brian Sayler.

The ETS-Lindgren plant near Austin is quite impressive with several anechoic and acoustic chambers in operation, performing full 3D component radiation testing on a range of devices such as cell phones with and without human models (SAR). The company seems to be weathering the economical down turn fairly well, in part due to their efficient operation and diverse markets, serving RF/microwaves, wireless, medical MRI, automotive and government/defense.

At the exhibition, the company was announcing the availability of a new omnidirectional bi-conical antenna, the Model 3183 design for CISPR 16 chamber characterization. The antenna offers a broadband of frequency range from 1GHz up to 18 GHz and an omni-directional radiation pattern in conformance with CISPR 16 specifications. Model 3183 also provides an exceptionally low VSWR of 2:1 (average) across its range. The antenna is part of the broadband “mini-bicon” series antennas designed to cover the traditional frequency range of EMC measurements, making it ideal for surveying or spectrum monitoring applications.

Also located at the entrance to the exhibition hall, AR Worldwide made its presence in the EMC and microwave markets known with a sizable booth featuring a dozen or so demo stations showcasing a wide range of products. The company manufactures high power amplifiers, antennas, field monitoring equipment, EMC immunity test systems and other accessories targeting RF and EMC testing. The company’s receiver systems product line includes EMI receiver, leak detectors and impulse generators. The company’s in-house capabilities include their state-of-the-art microelectronics lab, which allows them to provide custom solutions were needed.

Among the company’s hot items at this show were the S series solid state amplifiers that deliver 5, 20 and 40 watts across the 6 to 18 GHz range. The S series amps generate of 100% rated power, made available to the load even when the mismatch is severe. The amps provide exceptional linearity with extremely low spurious signals, distortion and noise figure.

IEEE EMC 2009 may have been the public showing of Rohde & Schwarz’s new BBA100 broadband modular amplifier, which was announced earlier in the month and was highlighted on Microwave Journal’s web site. While we were in the R&S booth, I had the chance to talk with the amplifier’s product line manager, Dr. Wolfram Titze, which we captured on video tape and hope to offer on our web site shortly.

The amplifier is based on the company’s expertise in RF test and measurement and will be used in their own EMC systems. At market launch, the amplifier will have three frequency bands that cover the range from 9 kHz to 1 GHz and provide power up to 500 W. The base unit includes comprehensive control functions. The integrated system controller, for example, controls the frequency bands, switches the system components and monitors the unit.

The basic version of the R&S BBA100 features up to three individually configurable interlock circuits that are each assigned to an RF path. This innovative safety concept makes it possible, for example, to work on the test setup or a DUT in one room while a test is being performed and RF power is output in another room. As an option, input switch modules for RF path selection as well as switchable sample ports can be selected. The amplifier is field-serviceable allowing upgrade components to be installed on site as needed.

Also from the test world, Agilent Technologies was on hand to show their array of products for EMI & EMC testing. Agilent Technologies has EMI measurement solutions ranging from precompliance measurements and EMC diagnostic evaluation to full compliance testing. The company offers a fully compliant EMI measurement receiver using the E4440A series PSA performance spectrum analyzer and the new N9039A RF preselector. This new EMI measurement receiver meets all the CISPR 16-1-1 requirements.

The E7400A EMC spectrum analyzer, also called an EMI receiver, reduces the cost of achieving EMC compliance by providing the capability of detecting unwanted radiated and conducted emissions during the design stage. The E7400A EMC analyzer is an integral part of the 84115EM Precompliance Test System. The E7400A EMC analyzer works with most third party antennas, LISN's, and other EMC accessories.

A number of software companies were present with their electromagnetic simulation solutions. Notables included Ansoft, CST, 2Comu, Sigrity, and FEKO. These companies are well established in the microwave field and while EMC is not a primary focus, each described capabilities in their products that provide valuable information to engineers chasing down EMC/EMI issues or developing EMC test equipment such as an antennas. Both FEKO and Ansoft are nearing the next release of their flag ship products (FEKO 5.5 and HFSS 12, respectively).

Tom Sertic of CPI Industries was proud to be showing off the company’s VZX-2783C1, a 1.0 kW TWT high power amplifier that operates in the 8.0 GHz to 12.75 GHz frequency band. The amplifier, employs a CPI dual-depressed collector helix traveling wave tube which increases efficiency by a nominal 20% over conventional single collector TWTs, and also features a power supply designed with a minimum number of parts for maximum uptime. Configured for wideband testing, the amplifier is available in a compact 19-inch rack-mount dual drawer configuration and has an Integrated microprocessor control that lets the user adjust and monitor all operating parameters from one easy-to-read local or remote panel, using straightforward menu-driven commands.

Activity seemed steady for the IFI (Instruments for Industry, Inc.) booth, which had a perpetual stream of visitors interested in talking about their particular solutions for EMC, Wireless, Medical , Military, Space and communications testing. The company manufactures solid-state, TWT and Tetrode tube amplifiers, antennas, E-filed sensors and monitoring systems for frequencies ranging from DC through 40 GHz and up to 50 kW (CW & pulsed).

Milmega also manufactures high power RF amplifiers for IEC61000-4-3 and automotive EMC test applications. The company will also soon be launching a 100 watt (P1 dB) amplifier to their 2-6 GHz Gallium Arsenide product line.

Murata captured some interest with the introduction of their BLM15AX series of chip ferrite beads. These compact 0402 high performance ferrite beads offer 60% lower DC resistance compared to conventional ones on the market and are available with impedance values from 10 ohms to 100 ohms, rated to currents as high as 1740 mA. These components are ideal for applications requiring noise suppression in portable devices such as PND, GPS, mobile phones, PDA, smart phones and MP3 players.

ARC Technologies was taken on EMI absorption with their new “Wave-X Heat” shrink tube absorber. We were informed this is the industries first heat-shrinkable tube designed for absorbing unwanted EMI interference. Like standard heat-shrink tubing, the material slides over wires, cables and interconnects and is then heated to shrink to a snug fit. This product hopes to replace heavy and visually un-attractive ferrite cores or the need to wrap conductive tape over the offending cable or connection. ARC Technologies also offers dielectric materials, composites, radomes and radar absorbing materials.