by Steve Takaki, Executive Vice President – RFMW, Ltd.
MPD: The defense market for RF and microwave components through subsystems appears to be more lucrative than in recent years, especially in the area of electronic warfare. If your company sells into the defense market, what are your thoughts about how it will perform in 2017?
Defense and Aerospace continues to be a focus area for RFMW sales. As a startup, our first purchase order was from a defense contractor and we’ve expanded that market sector by offering the types of high performance products and services they expect. Now, with our multi-national footprint, RFMW caters to the worldwide defense market. To complement our high-performance RF & microwave components, RFMW offers services such as lead tinning, tape and reel and DIE handling. Our DIE replating service is very helpful for designers who want small quantities of DIE for small custom jobs, or for NPI. RFMW quickly and efficiently supports that need along with larger scale manufacturing requirements. RFMW is an approved supplier for replating DIE products as well as visual inspection, DC probe and dry box storage. And, we are well versed in export controls, something our suppliers are very happy about.
If customers require it, we support RF/MW hybrid assembly builds, whether build to print or custom hybrids. RFMW can source the components or the entire assembly, depending on what the customer needs.
Due to the diverse active, passive and high power RF/MW devices from suppliers such as Qorvo, Ampleon, Skyworks, Smiths, Delta, API and others on our focused line card, Radar, secure Mil-Comm, mesh networking, etc. are all growth areas in the electronic warfare (EW) market that will continue in 2017.
MPD: The fifth generation of cellular is rapidly approaching and the immense scope of 5G seems almost certain to present significant opportunities for the RF and microwave industry. What is your perspective on this issue?
RFMW suppliers have been and continue to develop new products to support 5G implementation. Qorvo, Ampleon, Skyworks Solutions, Peregrine Semiconductor, etc. are well positioned with RF devices for the myriad of frequencies represented by 5G. RFMW’s involvement has grown within the cellular infrastructure and small cell market, allowing RFMW sales professionals to engage with 5G design engineers early in their product development cycle. Our sales team is a valued and integral part of the communication from supplier to customer, providing component engineering support for the latest and best technology solutions. As 5G continues to develop, RFMW will be a conduit of information, relaying what’s needed versus what’s available and supporting both.
MPD: The Internet of Things (IoT) might better be called the Wireless Internet of Things, as without RF and microwave technology, little could be accomplished. If your company is selling into this market, please provide your perspective on IoT and its prospects for the RF and microwave industry.
As IoT connects the world to their “things,” RF component suppliers will continue to see growth paths for their devices. IoT currently uses unlicensed (ISM) spectrum so our product suppliers like Skyworks Solutions, Qorvo and Peregrine Semiconductor already support small cells, WiFi, LoRa, Bluetooth® Low Energy, Zigbee and Z-wave designs. As the market grows, individual component costs will be reduced, but overall RF content in end products may increase as IoT devices address compatibility issues.
Beyond supporting the transceiver components of these IoT devices, RFMW is supporting the test and measurement requirements of both established and new companies capitalizing on this growing market. Connectors and cable assemblies from Rosenberger, test components from API, and USB controlled test equipment from Telemakus are found in many IoT development labs and production facilities.
MPD: In your opinion, what are the RF and microwave technologies to watch in 2017?
From both our supplier partners and customers, we see interest and design emphasis on 5G LTE infrastructure, industrial RF heating, Radar (new designs and tube retrofits) and IoT. These are diverse market opportunities spanning the frequency spectrum from <100MHz to over 80GHz. Whether these technologies boom or something new enters the market, RFMW and our suppliers are well positioned to support customers looking for RF and microwave solutions for initial test, prototype and production anywhere in the world.