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From Concept to Product: Knowledge and Imagination Converge

From Concept to Product: Knowledge and Imagination Converge

by David Vye, Director of Technical Marketing, AWR Group, NI

Congrats and thank you for reading Microwave Product Digest, presumably to quench your thirst for knowledge and your curiosity about RF business/technology trends, as well as to stay informed on your customers and competitors. By staying current on the ever-changing and increasingly complex state of microwave technology, you are well-positioned to play a role in the development of tomorrow’s microwave products. Your efforts to stay knowledgeable are very much aligned with the efforts of electronic design automation (EDA) vendors to help you succeed.

As you likely already know, tomorrow’s communication systems will deliver higher performance (more data capacity, higher resolution, lower latency, and more) through greater spectral and spatial efficiency, and individual component requirements will be impacted by these evolving technologies. If you are not aware, consider for a moment spectral efficiency, which is made possible through advanced digital modulation schemes and carrier aggregation (CA). Both of these will impact power amplifier (PA) bandwidth and linearity requirements, a subject more fully explored in this issue’s cover feature. Good to know.

Likewise, spatial efficiency is driving the need for multiple-in-multiple-out (MIMO) and beam-steering antenna systems, as well as all the underlying front-end component integration technology that is needed to realize these systems. Perhaps you’re working to solve these challenges right now, in which case you are likely to rely on design tools, including test and measurement (T&M) equipment, simulation software, knowledge extracted from trade magazines, and other sources, along with your own personal experience and creativity. Great, these are all keys to success.

Now let’s consider the exchange of expertise that occurs between the RF technologists who develop simulation software and the RF designers who use these tools to migrate from conceptual specs to working products. Together, these tool technologists and consumers form a powerful symbiotic relationship that relies on the strengths of each to realize a cost-effective and to-spec final working product. Consequently, EDA vendors must not only invest resources in developing the capabilities of their software but also in the design know-how of their customers. This investment is especially crucial in times of new, emerging technologies and applications and insufficient design expertise.

Scarcity of design expertise is a concern that can limit and/or delay innovation and new product development. The Internet of Things (IoT) and the integration of wireless transceivers into smart devices represents a prime example of a large-scale opportunity driven by emerging technologies—an opportunity that can potentially be hindered by a shortage of engineers with RF design experience.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported around 330,000 electrical/electronic engineering positions in 2018, with a projected growth of 2% through 2028. A fraction of these engineers have actual RF/microwave design experience. The rest? Not so much. And while IoT module and antenna suppliers provide considerable design support through application notes and their own application engineering teams, non-RF engineers tasked with wireless device integration are struggling with antenna placement, transceiver module-to-antenna impedance matching, and a host of EM-related parasitics and coupling effects.

But what’s even more important to know is that at NI we are working with partners such as Fractus Antennas to help both new and experienced engineers overcome IoT integration challenges and all types of RF front-end design problems. By providing innovative software capabilities that expedite most design tasks, as well as education (webinars, technical articles, e-Learning, and more), we empower engineers with the design expertise of tool technologists and enable them to focus their energy on product development. Harnessing our shared collective knowledge with a touch of your imagination is the key to turning concepts into products.