by John Morelli, President, IW Microwave Products
MPD: How is your company addressing the many constraints that the pandemic has placed on business operations?
IW Microwave Products fell into the essential industry category. We maintained a fully operational production environment. Our production line was reconfigured to comply with social distancing guidelines. Face masks were required of all employees working in the facility. Daily recording of temperatures upon entering the building became part of our operational procedure. We did find that communications were difficult. We had our sales and engineering staff working remotely. As restrictions were eased by the State of Connecticut, we began rotating Sales and Engineering into the facility. In September, once we realigned the sales and engineering departments for the proper social distancing measures, we had all employees return to the facility. We are not conducting business travel but arranging Zoom or WebEx conference calls. We appear to be adjusting well to the new normal.
MPD: The adoption of open architectures is accelerating in many markets, from wireless to defense. Do you feel your company and the RF and microwave industry as a whole benefit from this initiative?
The RF and microwave industry have been promoting open architectures for some time. The introduction of blind mate technology in the early 80s led to many pluggable and stackable concepts being incorporated in microwave systems. The blind mate technology has been standardized and incorporated into various specifications. DLA has written a new military specification for this type of interconnect. The IEC has created international standards around these same products. The industry has gone from midsize blindmates such as BMA and BMZ to microminiatures like SMP, SMPM and SMP3. With the miniaturization trend, we are seeing further packaging initiatives for modularization occurring. The industry has benefited from the open architecture concept, fostering creative new designs as well as opening additional market opportunities for traditional RF and microwave companies.
MPD: Technologies such as direct RF sampling are reducing the number of analog components in receivers and, increasingly, transmitters as well. Do you feel that the “digitalization of RF” will have an impact on your business?
The “digitalization of RF” has opened many new opportunities. There is a convergence of RF and microwave with digital. As digital speed increase they are quite often looked at as a microwave transmission. A 40 Gigabit data rate can be considered a 20 GHz transmission also producing a 3rd order harmonic at a higher frequency which needs to be suppressed. A good transmission line, whether coaxial or waveguide, needs to be produced.
With the higher data rates, we have seen coaxial pairs replacing twisted pairs in the traditional differential pair arena. The digitalization has also led to new high-density coaxial connectors as well as optimization of microminiature high frequency coaxial cable. When combining these two, you have a new interconnect structure employing RF and microwave. There are a few RF connector companies promoting this concept. Many of the new microminiature blind mate interconnects such as SMPM and SMP3 lend themselves to this high-density concept.
With 5G and other high-speed technologies emerging the RF and microwave industry will be called upon to address these new technologies with innovative designs.