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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Are You a Microwave System Design Engineer Concerned with Time-to-Market?   Apr. 04, 2017

By their very nature, Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuits (MMICs) are designed to make it easier for engineers to architect RF systems. Combining multiple component functions within a single DIE or package, MMICs take a lot of the speculation and complexity out of the design cycle compared to systems built primarily with discrete RF devices.

Despite the design efficiencies that MMICs enable, prototyping an end-to-end RF system can be a tedious process. Every component needs to be individually characterized, and the datasheets, spreadsheets and app notes can pile up quickly. Designing, fabricating, assembling and testing prototype systems requires substantial time and cost, and often requires several iterations. A typical bench prototype is shown below: 

XMW Conventional Bench Prototype.jpg

Conventional bench prototype (image courtesy of X-Microwave).


Even the most experienced RF system engineers can struggle to achieve first-pass design success, particularly when they’re grappling with aggressive design requirements for higher frequencies, lower power consumption, smaller size and lower costs. And as frustrations mount with each new tweak to the component circuitry – and ‘time to market’ gets longer and longer – there isn’t an engineer among us that hasn’t pondered the possibility that there must be a better way.

Actually, there is.

MACOM is continuing to look for ways to make it easier for designers to get to market faster with their MMIC-based systems. Through our collaboration with X-Microwave, designers can quickly and easily prototype and simulate end-to-end RF systems with ‘building block’ flexibility using MACOM MMICs.

X-Microwave’s ideal system utilizes drop-in and cascadable components called X-MWblocks that can be seamlessly interconnected with each other on a prototype plate, with no soldering required. There are hundreds of X-MWblock components for engineers to choose from, spanning every function in the RF design chain – all of which have been pre-characterized.

The photos below provide a good overview of the X-MWsystem’s key attributes.

First, X-MWblocks such as MACOM’s 22 GHz Amplifier (MAAP-011247) with Integrated Bias Tee can be individually tested as shown in image below (image courtesy of X-Microwave).


Strings of X-MWblocks can then be quickly cascaded as shown below to configure complete RF Systems (image courtesy of X-Microwave).

XMW Block.jpg

Modular wall and lid pieces can be added directly to prototypes to simulate cavity effects (image courtesy of X-Microwave).

XMW Mod Wall.jpg

MACOM and X-Microwave are collaborating to aggressively design in a broad range of MACOM devices with an emphasis on the latest MMIC technology yet including legacy products such as Hi-Rel Hybrid Amplifiers and NLTL Multipliers. Shown in the image belowt are just a few of the devices already on the X-MWformat.


We at MACOM always appreciate innovative RF/microwave engineering when we see it, and X-Microwave’s ‘building block’ X-MWsystem is a particularly elegant design. For a video overview of how the platform works, be sure to check out the 3D animation of the X-MWsystem in action. Any engineer – from novice to expert – who’s ever wrestled with RF system design will be encouraged by what they see. 

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Center Stage at OFC 2017: Breaking New Barriers in Optical Bandwidth Density   Mar. 20, 2017

DatacenterB.pngWith OFC 2017 in full swing this week, vendors from across the optical networking industry are gathered in Los Angeles to showcase the latest and greatest products and technologies targeted for Cloud Data Centers, client access and metro and long haul applications. Across all of these apps, skyrocketing data rates are putting ever increasing pressure on data center and network operators to maximize their bandwidth density, measured in bit rate per available space and power budget. It’s no surprise then that “cost per bit” metrics will be top of mind at OFC this year.

As hundreds of millions of new subscribers and new Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure come online in the years ahead, it’s imperative that we work together to accelerate the transition to higher-performing, power and space efficient optical interconnects at 100G and beyond. OFC affords vendors and customers alike an ideal forum to compare notes and connect in-person with the community of technologists that are driving major innovations in this domain.

Cloud Data Centers are particularly affected by our collective efforts to drive down per-bit delivery costs. Whereas telecom service providers can today justify the investment in 100G technology for decades-long deployment, data center operators will initiate network upgrades every three to five years, incrementally growing their bandwidth capacity at cost structures that are 1/5 of existing infrastructure. 

MACOM at OFC 2017

MACOM has a host of product announcements and demonstrations on tap for OFC 2017, and our subject matter experts will be well represented in live presentations and panel discussions throughout the week. This year, we are excited to play what we believe is a leading role enabling the upgrade from 10G to 100G optical connectivity within Cloud Data Centers. MACOM brings to bear the proven cost structure, capacity and supply chain flexibility that achieved preeminent market share in the PON Access market, and products and platform innovation that achieved similar success with 100G technology in Long Haul, Metro and DCI networks.

All are invited to join us at booth #1736 to talk trends and learn more about our optical technology portfolio – a portfolio that’s growing quickly through intensive in-house R&D and strategic acquisitions. Speaking of which, we’re delighted to join forces with our new colleagues from Applied Micro at OFC this year, where we’ll highlight the unique value of our combined solution for 100G data center connectivity, spanning PAM-4 DSP, linear driver and linear TIA specifically designed to enable 100G per lambda transceiver modules, with a clear pathway to 400G.


OFC attendees and non-attendees alike are invited to read our newly-published Optical and Photonic Manifesto and Etched Facet Technology Manifesto, which provide a comprehensive overview of MACOM’s product initiatives and technology differentiators in the fast-moving optical networking domain. Together they provide in-depth insight into the trends we’re tracking and innovations we’re spearheading to maximize optical bandwidth density in the cloud data center and beyond.

For an overview of MACOM’s news announcements at OFC 2017, be sure to visit our News and Events page. We look forward to seeing you at the show!

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