by John Greichen, VP Sales & Marketing, Custom MMIC
MPD: If you sell to the defense sector, what do you believe are the major challenges for RF and microwave technology in serving DoD’s needs?
Over the past several years, the United States has seen other countries close the technology gap when it comes to applications such as Electronic Warfare (EW), advanced radar and secure communications. These mission critical systems have RF and microwave content at the core that enables them to outperform and differentiate themselves from the competition. A key challenge is detecting and deterring the growing number of electronic monitoring and interference devices on today’s modern battlefield. With these growing global threats, we need to continue to push the design envelope with MMICs to offer greater bandwidths and better performance than ever before.
Serving our defense customers is paramount to our continued success and growth. We are working hard to usher in a new age of innovation, working closely with the DoD and many of the world’s largest defense contractors. We visit our defense and space customers regularly and listen carefully to their challenges and needs. We seek to understand their system-level requirements and design features into our products to help meet those requirements.
MPD: What RF and microwave technologies will have the greatest impact in the next few years?
We continue to see strong demand for GaAs and GaN MMIC products that serve a number of high performance markets. At Custom MMIC, we see both GaAs and GaN being strong technology options for advanced phased array radar, communications and space system front ends. These performance driven process technologies become attractive for more functions of the signal chain as the system frequencies continue to broaden and increase. GaAs remains a vital technology for space applications, given its high radiation tolerance.
Packaging technology is becoming more important to microwave implementations. Customers are seeking easy-to-manufacture and assemble MMIC solutions for 40 GHz and higher applications. Packaging of single MMICs or multiple MMICs is driving decreases in system size and weight (SWaP). Custom MMIC is embracing new and innovative packaging for more of our higher frequency devices (>20 GHz) now being offered in surface mount configurations. Flip chip is also emerging for GaAs MMICs, offering improvements in noise figure for packaged products.
MPD: In addition to 5G and IoT, what commercial markets will be the most important for the industry in 2020?
Without a doubt 5G has captured the hearts and minds of most people these days. 5G has rolled out slower than anticipated but it is moving forward on multiple fronts. Generally, other commercial markets are employing microwave technology for some of the same reasons as the military and 5G markets. The automotive market, for instance, has its Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) Wireless innovation, which can be thought of as auto IoT. The need for communicating large amounts of data fast and reliably is requisite with more advanced conventional vehicles and with the introduction of autonomous vehicles on the near horizon. In addition to exchanging information and status data, V2X can provide a multitude of other services, such as safety capabilities, navigation support and infotainment. High end cars make heavy use of microwave technology for driver assist radars, which will become more mainstream as costs decrease.
Commercial space is a huge area of activity and investment, competing to some degree with 5G and making heavy use of microwave technology. Many thousands of Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites will be launched over the next few years, all needing high performance communications links operating up to 55 GHz and perhaps higher.
Commercial drones, advanced marine and avionics radars, MillimeterWave sensors in industrial automation are just a few of the other advanced applications where microwave technology is bringing added value.