Berkeley Nucleonics Corporation (BNC) was formed in 1963 to develop custom pulse generators. You are also well known for your radiation detection equipment. What motivated the company to branch out and develop equipment for RF/microwave applications?
As a successful science tech company, we are continuously on the hunt for emerging technologies and markets. With the proliferation of data transmission and growth of applications to manage and utilize the electromagnetic spectrum, it was clear that new opportunities to support RF/microwave in research and with commercial customers existed. In addition, with trends pushed by the IoT (Internet of Things) and consumer social behaviors tied more and more to computer-oriented interactions, we saw an opportunity to lead the trend away from large, complex and fragile traditional lab equipment to smaller, more robust, application diverse, GUI-centric (graphical user interface) instruments.
What is the RF/microwave market that you’re targeting — is it a particular type of equipment, a specific application, something else?
Our main targets are multi-pronged and across the board. As I mentioned, we see an opportunity as innovators in providing the market with an alternative to legacy format equipment, thereby providing instruments that have better reliability and application/work flexibility. By offering a smaller, lighter and more portable solution, we are bridging the gap from the lab to the field. Field work such as satellite communications, radar, COMINT, electronic warfare and others requiring “lab precision and quality” now have solutions literally in the palm of their hands.
The RF/microwave industry is served by large and long established test and measurement companies, as well as quite a few relatively new, small companies. What is BNC’s differentiation or value proposition, where you stand apart from your competition?
Our axiom is to “out-package, out-perform, and out-price all competitors.” The fact that this industry is served by many large and long-established companies poses both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is promoting a new idea with less brand recognition in this space. Interestingly, however, the large manufacturers are slowly moving toward GUI-based, cost-reducing designs as well. Our size presents an excellent opportunity, too; we can innovate and develop faster, which translates to higher performance and better solutions with shorter times-to-market. Our value-add proposition is clearly providing customers a higher quality of the data, spectrum and instruments overall at affordable costs. Thankfully, BNC is a recognized brand in the broader test and measurement field, synonymous with the values that our customers need and appreciate.
Test equipment has a long operational life. How do you support your customers over that lifetime — calibration, maintenance and software updates, for example?
BNC’s name, in part, stands for excellent customer service. It is a component of our company’s legacy and what helps us stand out in the field of competitors. Our lead times in deliveries, calibrations or repairs are faster than our competitors. Our direct customer interaction in solving issues and providing solutions is evident from the first call or email inquiry.
In addition to our great customer support, the innovative direction in “interface-less” GUI-centric instruments is literally combating obsolescence and providing even longer operational life. By not tying our equipment to manual interfaces or computer operating systems, our customers are not beholden to third party technology or obsolescence issues like disk drives, old unsupported operating systems or even fading screens and broken buttons. All of our user interfaces are free and open to download. There are no subscriptions, seats or renewals. And all of our updates are provided at no charge, online, over the life of the instrument.
Talk about some of your most popular products, their features and benefits.
We specialize in solutions within the RF/microwave field with both signal generation and signal analysis, all of which we believe to be disruptive to traditional companies and the equipment they provide. The three main flagship product segments are
- signal sources (generators and synthesizers)
- dedicated phase noise/signal source analyzers and
- compact real-time spectrum analyzers/microwave receivers.
All of these products embody our design approach to be significantly smaller, lighter and more portable than their traditional counterparts. They all provide industry-leading performance, function and features. And all solutions are provided at a cost to customers that is a fraction of the price of the traditional competitors — up to a 66 percent reduction. Nothing in the industry comes close to the price/performance/size ratios that we offer.
Can you share some of the interesting technologies you use that are not obvious from the outside of the instrument?
Ironically, many of our innovative engineering approaches and technology advancements are obvious when examining the outside of the instrument. This is clear when noticing the extraordinarily small and compact design when compared to contemporary counterparts. That being stated, we are continuously driving our internal resources to employ cutting-edge engineering techniques and technology in current component design. Each release of our GUI update is loaded with menus options, modes and new features for the user.
When someone hears the name BNC, what do you want your brand to mean to them?
The message has been the same since my father founded the company: a relentless pursuit of satisfied users. We have gone to great lengths to address very demanding needs, and our reputation illustrates that. The name (and logo), BNC, stands for high performance, reliable products backed by a company committed to the long-term needs of industry. We enjoy the accolades from industry and academia alike, often having our name show up in research papers, conference talks or case studies.
You’re privately held, have been in business for 53 years, and the founder is still involved in the business. What’s the personality of the company?
The environment is quite positive. We have a variety of talents above engineering and product manufacturing. The divisions within the company enjoy friendly competitions ranging from darts to March Madness basketball pools. We have occasional evening or weekend events and often bring technical experts from various fields into the company for specialized projects. Having significant business in Europe and Asia, we also enjoy a cultural variety of support, sales and training issues. That can mean 4:00 a.m. phone calls, but our tech support teams are equally committed. It is nice to have Mel involved in the daily operation; he is quite entrepreneurial and resourceful and encourages initiative throughout the organization.
For more information: Berkeley Nucleonics Corporation website