Microwave Journal

Are you “able” for 2014?

January 8, 2014

The big news from CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas this past week has been about “able” technology referring to “Wearable” and “drivable” devices. Once portrayed as futuristic (Dick Tracy’s watch) or nerdy (Google Glass), wearable electronics is the darling of technology trend spotters thanks to the combination of exciting aesthetic design and the availability of low cost, miniaturized electronics. The most compelling products of tomorrow are based on the rise of the personal area network, an RF-enabled concept that we have covered in Microwave Journal for several years, initially developed for the modern war fighter and now targeting today’s hipsters and tech-savvy business person. 

Upstart entrepreneurs and major device manufacturers such as Samsung, Qualcomm and Sony introduced gadgets that snap, buckle or fasten to the body for health and fitness monitoring, action video capture, access to hands-free Smartphone-like apps and interfaces to  augmented reality technology. The functionality of such devices will rely on recent advances in sensors and wireless technology (M2M, IoT, etc.). Integrating the underlying semiconductors enabling wearable devices is the IC packaging systems, which are growing increasingly complex. In February, we examine electronic design at the package, PCB and system levels, paying particular attention to the advances in the interconnect technologies, materials and simulation that makes future designs possible.

Considerable engineering effort is focused on getting the most performance out of the design and materials that interconnect integrated circuits and discrete devices. This is especially true at millimeter-wave frequencies where parasitic losses can have a substantial impact on the overall device performance.  Design expert, Liam Devlin of Plextek looks at some of the advances in packaging technology for multi-chip modules at millimeter-wave frequencies and the advanced interconnect technology that should help inspire designers at all frequencies seeking to pack more functionality and devices within a densely populated package or PCB substrate. With regard to PCB substrates, Rogers Corporation offers a look at temperature effects on PCB design.  Millimeter-wave radio design concerns are also presented in a technical feature on E-band mixers from Spacek Labs. Improving power amplifier performance through digital pre-distortion techniques is the subject of another technical feature from National Instruments.

The month of March focuses on test and measurement equipment, techniques and solutions. March also offers our bonus cable and connector supplement. Testing is a critical part of design and verification. Test systems need to be accurate, reliable, and capable of acquiring and displaying the required data as quickly as possible. The modern test system is a complex arrangement of precision test instruments and sophisticated software designed to automate the process of ascertaining complex device performance over an increasingly wide range of operating conditions. How test systems bridge the gap from R&D test to production test will be the topic of our cover feature. Test equipment manufacturers are often on the leading edge of technology, providing solutions to chip, component and system designers also operating on the cutting edge. March will also provide a look at recent advances in individual test equipment and peripheral cables and test fixtures.

March features our cable and connector supplement. With components getting smaller, lighter and cheaper, connectors and cable assemblies must also keep pace with the demand for high density, miniaturized interconnects and a host of other performance requirements such as ruggedness and passive intermodulation (PIM). In March, we look at some of these issues with case studies from leading cable manufacturers and a PIM tutorial.

Looking further ahead, April is our annual amplifier and oscillator issue. Recent advances in digital/analog pre-distortion, envelop tracking and other techniques are enabling unprecedented high efficiency in RF amplifiers and the use of lower cost Silicon ICs in applications where compound semiconductors, i.e. GaAs ruled. In April we will look at the state of these developments in our cover feature, special reports and technical features from contributors leading this revolution in RF power amplifier design.