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