Designing for RF Energy Applications, Made Easy   Jun. 14, 2017

RFEToolkit.jpgGallium Nitride (GaN) technology is having a disruptive effect in the microwave and radio frequency (RF) industry, bringing to the table the ideal combination of high-performance and low cost. GaN-on-Silicon (GaN-on-Si), in particular, is set to take advantage of economies of scale and offer customers comparable price points to LDMOS at scaled volume production levels, while still achieving GaN on Silicon Carbide (SiC)-like performance.

These breakthroughs mean that GaN is progressively finding its way into new markets, perhaps most notably RF energy applications for cooking, industrial heating, plasma lighting and medical applications. These applications use controlled electromagnetic radiation to heat items or to drive processes. Bulky, brute force magnetron tubes that are currently used to generate this energy will soon be replaced by a solid-state RF system – delivering flexibility, control and a new level of system reliability that will enable many new use cases.

The efficiency of GaN is typically 10% better than LDMOS or more, which translates into significant energy savings when your power level might be 600W or higher.  On top of this, the extra efficiency translates into better overall system reliability. GaN is also easier to design with than LDMOS, and creates more reproducible results. It can be used successfully at all ISM frequency bands such as 433MHz, 915MHz and 2.45GHz and even in the ISM band at 5.8GHz.

Optimizing the Design Process

Look at traditional RF applications, for example cellular networks, that have architectures which have been around for at least 15 years. Engineers know the standard transistors and components for these inside out. They don’t require much assistance to go and build their own systems, regardless of the technology.

In newer RF energy applications, it’s more or less the same technologies and the same transistors. But, inevitably, engineers in these fields may not have as much RF experience, and there’s potentially a gap in technical knowledge. To keep investment down and get to market quickly, designers can benefit from an improved process to control the transistors to generate energy, and how to drive that energy into their application – making design easier, and speeding time to market.

Accelerating Time to Market

To help engineers create RF energy applications, MACOM is putting together an RF Energy Designer Toolkit, which combines multiple components in a pre-integrated and tested kit.

MACOM’s RF Energy Toolkit packages our various GaN-on-Si transistors, the MACOM GaN-on-Si RF energy sources, with a MACOM control system on the front end. This is delivered with a software package that gives the designer full control of all the key parameters, in addition to a control network and high performing amplifier.

The toolkit allows designers to develop what are known as ‘applicators,’ which determine how RF energy is delivered into different applications. Understandably, a cooking application has a different way of getting energy into the cavity than a plasma lighting application. These applicators are easy to use and feature high-performance, offering designers a head start on the design-in process.

With this help to get them on their way, a designer can focus on their own application and dramatically cut their time to market. MACOM’s RF Energy Toolkit enables designers to create a more reliable end product, making available the resources to debug and see the advantages of the different electrical parameters and frequencies in their own application, without the need to invest in a big design team.

Looking Forward

MACOM is excited to realize the full potential of the RF Energy Toolkit and further enable designers to utilize solid-state RF energy in an easy, affordable and efficient way for their applications. Keep an eye out for the developing toolkit and more of its features – coming soon!

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Evolving Trends in Hi-Rel Components, From Aerospace and Defense to Commercial Spaceflight   Jun. 01, 2017

MiniSpaceHiRelnew.jpg (143175766)On the heels of another successful Space Parts Working Group (SPWG) event, where experts from the aerospace and defense (A&D) domain convene annually to compare notes on new developments in hi-rel components for space applications, we thought it an appropriate time to reflect on some of the trends that have affected this close-knit community through the years – a community that MACOM has been proud to partner with for over five decades.

Fifty years ago, the A&D domain pioneered many of the breakthrough technologies that we take for granted today in the commercial marketplace – radios, mobile phones, satellite communications, etc. Initially developed for military and space exploration applications, these technologies were made possible by new classes of hi-rel components that were scrutinized and standardized to ensure the highest possible levels of reliability and quality. Reducing risk of component failure was essential, as mission success hung in the balance.

But in time, these technologies were adapted for use by everyday consumers, lower cost solutions were needed, and many of the component suppliers that helped enable these advanced technologies turned their attention away from the A&D domain in favor of servicing the more lucrative mass market. This eventually led to a dearth of component suppliers with the interest and/or wherewithal to perform the resource-intensive process development, process control, screening and testing required for space hi-rel components, leaving A&D engineers with fewer and fewer options for sourcing these parts.


With the resurgence of commercial spaceflight and proliferation of small satellites (smallsats), commercial-grade products are being considered for many missions. However, components with process controls and screening will become increasingly attractive to the commercial satellite domain, and the volume of product needed will make discussions on tailored approaches attractive to both the component user and manufacturer.  To be sure, commercial-caliber components will continue to be used in smallsats targeted for short lifespan, low-risk deployments. And on the flipside, the design teams developing half billion dollar ‘big box’ satellites aren’t going to be using cell phone-grade, limited screening parts anytime soon. But as the A&D and commercial domains’ respective interests in hi-rel components begin to converge – we anticipate an exciting new phase in the long history of hi-rel components.

MACOM has been honored to contribute our technology and expertise to the A&D community through the years, and will proudly support any spaceflight endeavor – government or commercial – that expands our knowledge of the universe, and/or improves the quality and safety of life on earth. To this end, we remain steadfast in our commitment to providing hi-rel components that meet the highest standards of reliability and quality.

We invite you to learn more about MACOM’s portfolio of hi-rel, JAN-certified components, and our accreditation by the Department of Defense (DoD) as a Category 1A Trusted Foundry, conferred to microelectronics vendors exhibiting the highest levels of process integrity and protection.

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The View from Up Here: MACOM’s 50+ Years in Space   May. 09, 2017

SpaceHiRelBlogImageMini.jpg (498696374)MACOM’s involvement with the US aerospace industry goes back to the exciting initial developments of the early 1950s, when our products were placed in some of the world’s first deployed satellites.

MACOM’s first known trip into space was on the spin-stabilized unmanned probe Pioneer IV, which successfully launched in March 1959. As the industry evolved, MACOM continued to innovate and expand its product portfolio to support the developments and requirements of the Space and Hi-Rel markets.

Over the years, MACOM products have travelled on hundreds of space missions. Our parts have entered the solar system on the Voyager, touched down on Mars aboard the Pathfinder, played a crucial role in the relay satellites for the manned Moon landings and were part of the space shuttle landing systems. In addition to US space programs, we’ve also supported the satellite business in the UK, continental Europe and India.

Experience Counts

The space industry is often understandably on the uncompromising leading edge of technology and reliability. It’s an incredibly risk-averse sector, and customers go to great lengths to identify the products that work and then stick with them. Perhaps more true for this industry than any other, small mistakes can have dire and global consequences.

Customers need to know that a vendor has in-depth experience and understanding of the products they produce, and knowledge of any implications which can present for the end system. There are certain procedures that manufacturers like MACOM follow which commercial producers need not concern themselves with – such as outgassing of materials, the environment in which we seal the parts and the various verification testing performed.

These additional Hi-Rel, Mil-Spec and Aerospace considerations all have a fundamental effect on the long-term reliability of the final product. And that’s one of the reasons why these customers seek vendors with proven experience – vendors with deep domain expertise, who manufacture their products with exacting processes and process controls, and can screen their products for any potentially catastrophic failure factors.

Developments over the Decades

Perhaps the most significant changes for the Space and Hi-Rel sectors over the years have been driven by issues of obsolescence and diminishing sources of supply.

This has forced many aerospace customers to start looking at best commercial practices that can still meet their strict mil-standard procurement procedures. Gradually, a shift has occurred toward more flexibility in the way products are sourced and the industry is seeing more designs with commercial products that are up-screened with plastic-encapsulation. Manufacturers are forced to experiment with and use commercial parts, tweak them, up-screen them and run them through additional testing to reduce risk.

MACOM, like many of the few Space and Hi-Rel vendors, must therefore maintain rigid control of the entire production/procurement process, ensuring that quality and reliability is assured.

Looking Forward

So what’s coming up next in the space industry? There is a lot of excitement over the new proposed satellite constellations requiring thousands of individual satellites buzzing in orbit.

To fulfill the dream of providing satellite communications, services and entertainment through high bandwidth LEO satellite constellations, there will be a need for whole batches of small, essentially disposable satellites that will be replenished on a regular basis. Ultimately, this would lead to the commercialization of the entire supply chain. If customers go with the least-expensive/lowest-risk trade-off, we’re looking at more large volume custom parts for their satellites, similarly as we saw back in the cellphone industry in the 90s.  

To enable this mass deployment, Space and Hi-Rel customers will need to drive the overall cost of each satellite down to a bare minimum. This may lead to the space business transitioning to a commodity model, superseding the present highly specialized, high-cost/low-volume approach. The time from ‘concept to launch’ will likely drop steeply, and the industry will see more adoption of newer technologies like GaN and SiGe that can deliver the performance requirements at the correct cost structures and volume.

Will the constellation plans work out as envisioned? The traditional space customer will likely adopt some of these best practices if they prove reliable. The jury’s still out, but if they do, then buckle yourself in and get ready for some radical changes.

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The Key Things We Learned at OFC 2017   Apr. 18, 2017

OFC2017.JPGThe value of tradeshows are hotly debated in our digital age. With hundreds of ways to interact, communicate and advertise, tradeshows can be seen as less and less relevant, and increasingly time consuming and costly. Many companies find themselves questioning whether tradeshows are worth the investment.

After participating in numerous technology tradeshows over the decades and across a wide range of markets, MACOM fully recognizes the value of attending these events. In a previous blog, we discussed the numerous benefits of attending and participating in technology tradeshows, including the opportunities to announce breakthrough technology, display compelling demonstrations, interact with diverse attendees, and engage in vigorous exchanges of ideas and harmonization. And when it comes to doing technology tradeshows right, no event stands out more prominently than the Optical Fiber Communication Conference (OFC).

What exactly is OFC doing right?

  1. Enabling Technology Innovation – Every big player in the optical industry gathers for OFC, which means every hot and relevant topic in the industry is represented. Perhaps most outstanding this year were the advances taking place in Data Center and Long Haul/Metro solutions to support escalating need for bandwidth growth. The buzz this year was all about speeds and feeds, and getting the fastest speed with the least number of feeds. Enabling 100G to 400G on a single wavelength was a major accomplishment. Over 140 product, service, partner and technical advancement announcements were made during the event, including MACOM’s own L-PIC for Data Centers and 600G on a single wavelength for Long-Haul/Metro announcements.
  2. Offering Unlimited Networking Opportunities– OFC is undeniably a must-attend event for anyone in the optical industry. Drawing around 15,000 attendees and over 660 exhibitors this year, OFC is the premier show in the optical space, showcasing the latest innovation in technology and creating a prime avenue for networking. With every year, the demand for meeting room spaces increases as open marketplace booth space shrinks to accommodate. Exhibitor hours set no constraints on the willingness of attendees to enclose themselves in open air meeting rooms or claim a few chairs in the coffee area to talk. Customers, competitors and students alike are given an opportunity to discover and discuss. OFC offers a tremendous opportunity to engage, share and shape thinking, allowing the industry to actively develop their understanding and further enhance technology innovation.
  3. Empowering Information – More than a tradeshow, OFC is a conference that aims to inform and educate its attendees. Presentations, panels, interactive workshops and technical speakers use the week to share expertise and field questions; during the OFC 2017 event, over 1,100 peer-reviewed papers were submitted, and conference hours expanded into the weekend to accommodate the thriving industry. In a recent video interview with OSA, MACOM’s Ray Moroney summarized the resulting value of OFC: “By bringing the entire industry together for a week, it really enables innovation across the whole supply chain.”

As an enthusiastic OFC attendee and component vendor sitting in the middle of this optical ecosystem, MACOM values the opportunities to share and grow at each event. This year we had a host of product announcements, and took full advantage of representing our developments in presentations, forums and panel discussions throughout the week. We welcomed the opportunity to meet with customers and offer private demonstrations to further solidify our position as the preeminent supplier of optical components supporting the industry’s growing demand for data capacity. With another exciting tradeshow behind us and plenty of information gleamed, MACOM is already looking ahead to OFC 2018 and the possibilities that await. For all these reasons, we continue to find tremendous value in technology tradeshows—especially those like OFC.

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