The 2021 International Microwave Symposium (IMS2021) convened in-person in Atlanta, Georgia, from June 6–9. It was the first large RF/microwave industry gathering since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The technical program and exhibition were shortened to account for the limited number of people expected, with total attendance near 1500 — very low compared to a normal year — but this was certainly not a normal year. Nonetheless, everyone seemed quite satisfied with the turnout and happy to see each other. The quality of the attendees was high, as everyone who traveled to the event was intent on doing business and learning about new products and technologies.

Microwave Journal visited many of the more than 200 companies exhibiting at the physical event, producing 20 video interviews and demos and an image gallery of photos. Check out the company videos and photos. In addition, the following paragraphs capture some of the other company and product highlights we saw.

3DGS CEO Mark Popovic met with Microwave Journal to explain the evolving strategy of the 15-year-old company, as it focuses its 3D glass process on fabricating high Q components. According to Popovic, a 3DGS coil inductor has 50 to 100 percent higher Q than traditional coils, i.e., Qs of 100 to 150 versus 50 to 60. During the past five years, 3DGS has shifted from marketing its capability for module integration to component products, motivated by the goal of establishing the technology’s performance, manufacturing capability and competitive cost. 3DGS has not abandoned developing the integration capabilities of its process; rather, it recognizes that potential customers are reluctant to give a small company with an unproven technology a key program. By producing cost-effective components in high volume, 3DGS aims to enhance its credibility. The potential of 3DGS technology has attracted investments from Murata and Lockheed Martin Ventures. 3DGS made several announcements at IMS2021, such as “locking” the process flow for its integrated passive device technology node, with design rules now available in a process design kit.

Altum RF, a fabless semiconductor company just a few years old, continues to build out its internal capabilities and product portfolio, focusing on microwave and mmWave infrastructure applications such as test and measurement, defense, SatCom and point-to-point backhaul. At its booth in Atlanta, CEO Greg Baker was discussing several recent products. For SatCom and 5G, Altum RF is offering two, 27 to 31.5 GHz power amplifier MMICs fabricated with 0.15 mm GaN. First available as die, the ARF1013 delivers 6 W output power, the ARF1014 12 W. For point-to-point radio systems at E-Band (i.e., 71 to 76 and 81 to 86 GHz), the company is now sampling two 1 W power amplifier (PA) MMICs fabricated with a 0.1 mm GaAs process, one optimized for the lower band, the other for the higher band. Using the same GaAs process, Altum RF is developing MMICs at D-Band, already preparing for 6G opportunities. Watch Greg Baker’s update to Microwave Journal editor Gary Lerude.

Because of the pandemic, Ampleon did not have a standalone booth, rather a display in the RFMW booth. Yet despite the limited space, several Ampleon products were featured: asymmetric Doherty PAs and integrated Doherty PA modules for cellular base stations, 1.6 and 2 kW LDMOS devices for industrial plasma generation systems and several GaN on SiC devices. The latter included 10, 30 and 100 W unmatched GaN transistors and a 700 W, 2.7 to 3.1 GHz GaN PA for S-Band radar.

APITech introduced new printed filters in a rugged, low-profile package, covering the 2 to 40 GHz frequency range and available in lowpass, highpass, bandpass, band reject and multiplexer designs. These high reliability filters expand APITech’s reach in the growing market of printed electronics, where printed components and circuits offer ease of use, cost reduction and greater efficiency. Watch David Markman discuss the trends in radar and EW systems with Microwave Journal editorial director Pat Hindle.

AR promoted PAs for wireless component testing, particularly optimum for RF high temperature operational life burn-in systems, which run 24/7. AR’s amplifier family is comprised of class A designs that provide frequency coverage from 700 MHz to 18 GHz and output power from 15 to 500 W. The 40S6G18L, for example, covers 6 to 18 GHz and has 40 W CW output power capability. The 60/40S1G18 covers 700 MHz to 18 GHz and provides CW output power levels of 60 or 40 W. Watch AR’s demo of DPD measurements.

Arralis is setting up full design and manufacturing capabilities in the U.S. At IMS2021, the company was featuring their K/Ka-Band chipset and E-Band radar. The K/Ka-Band chipset comprises all the circuits required to build satellite and ground station front-ends that connect with higher power PAs and antennas. The E-Band radar enables synthetic vision for rotorcraft landings in poor conditions and the detection of obstacles. A 76 to 77 GHz radar, it provides better detection range, elevation resolution and scan area that competing products.

Atlanta Micro announced a 1 MHz to 22 GHz low noise amplifier (LNA). The AM1102 has 2.3 dB noise figure, 14 dB gain, 15 dBm P1dB and 26 dBm OIP3. In addition to the RF performance, the 50 Ω LNA offers attractive size, weight and power: available either packaged in a 3 mm x 3 mm QFN or as a connectorized module and biased with +3.3 V and dissipating less than 160 mW.

CML Microcircuits used IMS2021 to introduce the SmRF product family: high frequency, high bandwidth RFICs and MMICs for applications such as 5G, IoT and SatCom. Designed with GaAs or GaN, the products cover the microwave and mmWave frequencies from 1 to 100 GHz and are supplied in standard IC packages. Examples include 28 GHz Doherty PAs, several low power 1.4 to 7.1 GHz gain blocks and a 860 to 960 MHz PA series, well suited for ISM and IoT applications where low power dissipation is required to maximize battery life.

Copper Mountain was promoting a new cost-effective 44 GHz vector network analyzer (VNA) in Atlanta. Watch Subbaiah Pemmaiah's demo of the VNA.

Eravant had a new booth featuring many new products. One, the STO-10203-U6, a W-Band VNA frequency extender that extends a VNA’s range to 75 to 110 GHz for two-port S-parameter testing. It is compatible with modern VNAs such as the Anritsu VectorStar, Rohde & Schwarz ZVA24, Copper Mountain CobaltFx C4220 and Keysight PNA-X Series. The companion calibration kit, STQ-TO-10-S1-CKIT1, is offered to support the W-Band VNA test set. Another featured product was the STQ-TO-10-S1-CKIT1, a metrology grade, W-Band calibration kit designed for standard VNAs. It consists of one fixed short, one fixed matching load, three waveguide shims with 1/8 λg, ¼ λg and 3/8 λg offsets, two waveguide quick-connects, 10 waveguide screws, one waveguide screwdriver and one calibration data USB drive. NIST calibration traceable certs can be offered for an additional fee. Available as various models, the kits cover 26.5 to 325 GHz. Watch Pat Hindle’s conversation with Wendy Shu, Eravant’s CEO.

ETS-Lindgren demonstrated its newest positioner, the 2304 Precision Mobile Multi-Axis Positioning System (MAPS). Designed for systems that measure spherical antenna patterns and total radiated power, the 2304 MAPS independently and smoothly rotates a test device in the q and j axes over 360 degrees — either clockwise or counterclockwise non-continuous — and at variable speeds using the optional software. Portable, it can be used in existing chambers and multipurpose or shared test facilities. To minimize reflections, the MAPS is covered with low reflective absorber, and the control and motor units are contained in RF-shielded enclosures designed to be placed below the absorber. Fiber optic signal lines connect the controller to a PC using an Ethernet-over-fiber adapter at the PC.

Fortify introduced a unique 3D printed RF structures using Rogers low loss material at IMS2021. To learn more about the capability, watch Pat Hindle’s interview with Phil Lambert of Fortify.

Gel-Pak featured its new Lid Clip Super System (LCS2), as well as the polyurethane device and texturized film device carriers. The LCS2, developed in collaboration with BAE Systems, prevents thin semiconductor die from migrating out of the pockets of waffle pack chip trays during shipping and handling. Darby Davis, the vice president of sales and marketing, presented the LCS2 during a Microapp session on June 8. Gel-Pak’s new polyurethane device carriers look and function like the Gel-Box, Gel-Tray and Vacuum Release Tray products but use an alternative elastomer technology that is both static dissipative and non-silicone. The textured film carrier products are based on a reversible adhesion technology known as the Gecko effect, using microstructures to securely hold components in place during shipping and handling. The film is well suited for in-process device handling and shipping packaged components.

Guerrilla RF used IMS2021 to announce a major milestone: shipping more than 100 million products less than six years after releasing its first product. While the company’s growth in 2020 was dampened by the pandemic, demand has returned, and founder and CEO Ryan Pratt expects 2021 to resume pre-pandemic growth trends. The team is completing release of its family of linear ¼ W MMIC PAs for the cellular bands, while testing and sampling a new family of ½ W PAs. Guerrilla RF has designed these GaAs HBT MMICs with high “native” linearity, meaning they can meet cellular linearity masks without digital predistortion (DPD) in many applications, which reduces the power consumption and size of a base station or repeater. Pratt told Microwave Journal that new products on Guerrilla RF’s roadmap will tap silicon on insulator (SOI) and GaN processes.

Hyperlabs was showing their 30 GHz broadband linear amplifier with optimized step response and excellent topline flatness, making it well suited for 32 Gbps NRZ and PAM4 data signaling. It has 13 dB gain, ±3 degree deviation from linear phase and a 1 dB compression point of 13 dBm. Hyperlabs is offering some of the broadest bandwidth parts in the industry.

With corporate travel recently approved, Keysight Technologies sent a marketing team to Atlanta to brief attendees on their expansive portfolio of test and measurement products and PathWave design automation. Watch their videos on the IMS2021 video channel to learn more.

Knowles Precision Devices featured their V-series single layer capacitors, which provide higher capacitance in a small footprint and are well suited for GaN and GaAs amplifier designs. Also, Knowles’ staff discussed applications, i.e., how Knowles’ products can address challenging design issues, such as the importance of filtering power supply noise from modulating RF signals and how bypass capacitors are best used with MMIC amplifiers. Another interesting topic where they have expertise: the need for RF filtering at the 5G mmWave bands and the importance of small footprint, surface-mount filters for phased array antennas.