Friday, June 20, 2008

Thursday - From the show floor

Last day of the exhibition and the frantic days of back-to-back meetings, everyone's growing list of action items and late nights of "networking" may be taking their toll on the exhibitors as the morning seems noticeably quieter than previous days. This will be my day for fewer scheduled meetings so that I can address some marketing issues such as following up on product announcements and press releases, while also stopping by more exhibitors for a quick hello and to check up on what's new. Time to cover as much ground as possible.

For me, the morning starts with the exhibitor’s breakfast meeting. This is the event where the exhibitors hear from the new show management (MP Associates) about the details of the next year’s venue, any changes to the show format and rules and can sign-up to exhibit. Microwave Journal is announced as a premier Media Partner for the IMS2009 show (along with Penton Media). After this breakfast meeting, I hustle over to the exhbition hall for the final morning.

Life is good at the Nitronex booth where so much customer activity means a postponement of our scheduled meeting (I am able to get a quick summary of their GaN on Silicon activity, a GaN essentials application note and a press kit on their latest technology). Given the pending release of certain key new products (likely sometime this fall) which target both commercial telecom and military applications, look for a product feature in Microwave Journal's Government electronic issue or our Emerging Technology supplement in the October/November timeframe.

My last scheduled meeting of the morning is with Peregrine Semiconductor, leading developers of RF-CMOS and mixed-signal ICs. The lion's share of our discussion was about some very exciting technology that is just over the horizon and which I won't divulge here, but I encourage our readers to stayed tuned for a feature article on this hush-hush technology in the fall.

Meanwhile Peregrine can share their IMS news addressing their new SPDT switch that delivers ultra-linear, ultra-fast settling times which is quickly being adapted by all RF/microwave test equipment and ATE manufacturers due to its superior performance. Other news includes more products in the MultiSwitch RFIC portfolio with a Dual-SP4T switch that contains 8 symmetric high-power high-linearity RF ports as well as an expansion of the UltraCMOS digital step attenuator line. Peregrine continues to utilize their unique harmonic reduction (HARP) circuit architecture to improve the linearity (intermodulation distortion - 116dBm IMD3) of the device to achieve a performance level that exceeds the specifications set by the 3GPP standards body for GSM/WCDMA designs.

The remainder of my day is spent walking the show floor for brief product demos and conversation with some of the smaller exhibitors. By 3 o’clock its time to start packing up the literature, turn-off the test equipment and computers and start breaking down the booths. Thank you Atlanta for some truly fine, southern hospitality. I will see y'all in Boston!

Wednesday - From the show floor

I must admit that I'm a little tired and my voice is definitely hoarse after staying up late to watch the Celtics and Lakers in game 6 of the NBA finals. Somehow it feels worth it though. Wednesday will be another full day of meetings with vendors to hear about the latest and greatest products. The Microwave Journal has three full-time editors working the show floor and talking to exhibitors with some help from our Managing editor, Keith Moore who is talking to a few exhibitors himself. Most of Keith's time is up in the MWJ press room (our own command center) along with staff editor, Jenn DiMarco feeding our news wire. Keeping up with all the news coming from the exhibitors is keeping Keith and Jenn extremely busy. To view their work, make sure you visit .

Our first appointment of the day is with our partner in the Besser/MWJ webinar series. Publisher Carl Sheffres and I sat down with Jeff Lange and Rex Frobenius of Besser to discuss the status of the series and start our planning for next year. Our agreed upon goal is to put together a schedule for the entire 2009 calendar year that will be posted on the Microwave Journal and Besser Websites. Doing so will allow potential attendees to sign-up months in advance or sign-up for mulitple web events all at once. We kick around ideas concerning different potential topics, but decide to talk with various exhibitors (and potential sponsors) about themes that seem to be of particular interest to the industry. Have suggestions? Blog us or drop me an e-mail at

By 9:00 I'm on the show floor and meeting with Mark Heibesen of Endwave. These guys are doing some impressive module design with their "Smart T/R" modules. These are integrated transceivers. The smarts comes from an embedded digital micorcontroller that provides automatic adjustments of transceiver parameters. What the Endwave folks have been developing over the past few years is the technology to eliminate cross-talk between the transmit and receive chains, avoiding noise figure degradation in the receiver that could be caused by digital logic, modulation and control signal interference. This isolation also supresses LO leakage that would adversely affect transmitter linearity. Applications include Cellular backhaul, Defense (e.g. phased array radars) and homeland security.

Mark kindly shows me three generations of products so that I can appreciate the engineering involved with reducing the product size while increasing functionality. Mark credits a fine engineering staff, EM simulation and good old cut and try methods to acheive outstanding performance in module design and component integration. Mark is also proud of their MMIC/RFIC design capability as Endwave moves from using off-the-shelf ICs to ones that they design for even better performance. Mark tells me that the performance and functionality have resulted in strong sales to the point where Endwave is on the lookout for more engineering talent. If your interested check out . Tell them the Journal sent you!

Look for a full article on the Endwave technology and online Interview with Mark coming later this year.

Leaving Endwave, I head over to (L3) Narda Microwave for a chat. Narda is showing off their generation NEXT - microwave integrated circuit (MIC) technology. Narda's multifunctional assemblies, housed in hermetically machined packages combine microwave hybrid manufacturing with multilayer PCB incorporating digital devices. Benefits include very dense integration of digital , microwave and analog functionality; incorporation of FPGAs for signal processing and temp compensation. Their products operate from .5 up to 50GHz and include complex frequency sources, digitally controlled attenuators, MILSATCOM block up and block down converters, 43 Gb/s and higher fiber optic drivers, digitally controlled synthesizers and transceivers. Narda was also showing off their line of products serving the RF safety and monitoring market. With over 1000 parts in inventory for fast delivery, Walt from Narda keeps himself busy maintaining a comprehensive parts catalog. for more go to

Leaving Narda, I head over to Anaren to talk about their products and business. Size is again a leading theme as John Hoeschele of the marketing group tells me about Anaren's matched 0404 balun which is currently being used in Texas Instruments CC2420, CC2430 and CC2500 line of low-power, small footprint low-system cost transceivers. Work continues on further size reductions to the popular Xinger coupler, look for coverage on these developments in the near future. Business is apparently quite good as they too are looking for skilled engineers. Opportunity knocks - in Syracuse NY!

I spend my lunchtime with Mimix management and engineers, talking about their SmartSet line of MMIC C-band and Ku-band chips for SATCOM and point-to-point digital radios. These complete QFN chipsets give design engineers the opportunity to create fully SMT radio boards at very low prices and fast time to market. The Ku-band (10 to 16 GHz) chipset is based upon a common LO feed to the receive and transmit paths. On the receiver side the XR1015-QG integrates an LNA, image reject mixer and LO buffer amp in a 4x4 mm QFN package. This device also includes ESD protection and DC-bypass. On the transmit path an up-converter feeds into a high-gain buffer amp (XB1008-QT) in a miniature 3x3mm GFN package. The buffer amp feeds a driver amp (XP1042-QT) which in turn drives the Mimix flagship product, the XP1043-QH power amp. The driver and PA pair can be bias adjusted for stable power and gain regulation over 30dB of dynamic range. Also includes on-chip temp compensated power detector for output power monitoring and gain power control.

Key for designers looking to utilize these devices are the integration of four or more functions into a single MMIC, reducing chip count and simplifying the board design and layout. We will feature an in-depth article on Mimix's technology and chip sets later this year.

After lunch, it is back to the show floor and a meeting with Freescale's Leonard Pelletier and Jeanette Wilson (among others). Freescale had participated earlier in a video interview with MWJ editor Pat Hindle. Pat and I both got a live demo of the Freescale 50V LDMOS technology. In the morning they were demoing the 330 watt long-pulse (300 MHz, 12% duty cycle) L_band application. My demo was the MRF6VP3450H device in an amplifier operating at 90 watt output power at 860 MHz for analog and digital UHF TV broadcast. This device can handle 10:1 VSWR at 50 Vdc, 470MHz, 450 watts peak power (pulse width of 10usec, duty cycle = 2.5%)

From Freescale it was over to the AWR booth for a meeting with VP of Marketing, Sherry Hess and product manager Mike Hiemlich. Mike give an impressive demo of the new UI innovations designed to improve desktop efficiency and reduce mouse clicks for enhanced design entry and engineering productivity. I also saw the ACE and Axiom technology in action, both of which are worth checking out if you haven't already. I must say the AWR folks understand what it is like to be a microwave engineer, in terms of the fast modeling (layout and simulation) of the distributed networks that characterize RF/microwave design.

From AWR, I go see a new competitor to Freescale in the power transistor space - Hvvi Semiconductor. They too are demoing a power device in an L-band pulsed amplifier for identify friend or foe applications. Their technology is based on a novel high voltage vertical FET called the HVVFET which they hope to compete against LDMOS technology with. Excellent heat transfer characteristics, gain, efficiency, power and ruggedness are the capabilities that the HVVi folks are touting. Their 600W amplifier (a balanced amp design using two of their 330 Watt transistors) is impressively small.

Speaking of small - my final scheduled meeting of the day is with Avago and their discrete RF gain blocks are certainly that. About half the size of a lady bug's head, you need a microscope to see the VMMK-2x03 amplifier. Using chip-scale packaging, Avago boosts that this is the world's smallest RF amplifier. This fully matched, single positive DC supply fully-matched SMT design has been optimized for .5 to 12 GHz operation, ideal for radio architectures. the ultra-small 1mmx.5mmx.25mm package is so small, you would think you were looking at a tiny SMT capacitor rather than an amplifier. Besides chip-scale packaging, we talk about their AFEM-9601 dual band (2.4 and 5 GHz) WiFi 802.11 abgn front end module suitable for MIMO applications. This design utilizese enhancement mode pHEMT GaAs ICs on an LTCC substrate and includes dual-band PAs, LNAs, switches, logic and power detectors. We aso get the chance to talk about Avago's highly successful FBAR filter technology (one billion devices shipped to date).
The new ACFM-7103 PCS/Cellular/GPS Quintplexer provides critical miniaturization advantages by replacing two duplexers, one filter and a triplexer in a single compact integrated module with a 4 x 7 mm footprint. This device is ideal for use with the Qualcomm CDMA QSC chipset.

The exhibition floor lights start to flicker, signifying the end of the day for the show and time for the evening IMS reception followed by a great rock n' roll party held by AWR,Mimix,Jazz and Synopsys. The IMS reception is well attended and an excellent opportunity to catch-up with some of the folks I haven’t had the chance to talk to yet while having a drink and light appetizers. Day two comes to an end.

Exhibition tidbits

I visited with many companies about their new products and here is a quick sampling from the exhibition floor. Freescale introduced a new 50 V LDMOS product for higher frequency applications (L-band) with 330 W pulsed operation. Triquint was excited about their acquisition of WJ Communications that gives them a broader product portfolio. Anritsu showed off their low cost Microwave Spectrum Analyzer with typical phase noise of -110 dBc/Hz at 1 KHz offset from the 1 GHz carrier. Keithley had a mobile WiMAX solution on display along with their new software. Skyworks was showing off their integrated front end solutions for wireless meter reading which seems to be taking off. Cree has a nice portfolio of GaN devices for both military and commercial applications. GaN seems to be catching on now with a broader range of suppliers like Cree, Nitronix, RFMD, Triquint, RFHIC, CAP wireless, etc. with both Triquint and Cree offering foundry services. One impressive high power device was on display at CAP Wireless. They have a unique mounting configuration that combines the power of 16 GaN devices to get 20 W of power across the broad range of 2 to 20 GHz from a single module (it looks like a very small jet engine). There was a lot more to see and we will have a comprehensive product wrap up on Mon. on the MWJ Online Show Daily page.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Laser etching

There are several materials processing and services companies at the show. I came across LPKF Laser and Processing who is demonstrating a system for PCB prototyping and production. It precuts the pattern and then goes back and removes the material. The whole process is done in minutes.


MTT Attendance

This year's attendance seems pretty good but might end up being down some from previous shows excluding Hawaii. The technical attendance is reported at about 2400 through Wed. and about 9100 for the total attendance.


Tuesday - from the show floor

The conference has been going since the Sunday workshops, but Tuesday morning signifies the opening of the exhibition. Pat and I kick off the morning conducting video interviews with representatives from our Virtual Trade Booth vendors. Pat and I split up with two film crews to cover the interviews before the heavy show floor traffic makes it difficult to listen to ourselves and the interviewee. This is a first for us and the sight of two Microwave Journal editors scrambling back and forth across the show floor with cameramen seems to draw a bit of attention from others hoping to be interviewed on camera (hopefully next time). I talk with Jeff Burkett of K&L Microwave, Jeff Chavis from Aethercom, Kevin LeDuc of EADS Norther America, Jonathon Oakley of CST of America and Ted Mirraco of AWR. To see the results, make sure you go to the Virtual Trade Booths.

Lunch time is spent with an editors lunch hosted by Agilent Technologies. By chance, I had just met one of the organizers of this event the day before - Barry Alcorn of Agilent. Barry was also a key orgainzer of the microApps, which I hope to get to - time permitting. I did hear the attendance was respectable at the microapps, but would love someone reading this blog who attended some of the microApps sessions to give us their impressions.

Maenwhile - MWJ European Editor, Richard Mumford and I are at the editor luncheon and Agilent rolls out their news about nonlinear vector networks analysis with a keynote talk by Greg Peters - VP & GM of the component test division . Several key factors to mention here- look for the NVNA being demoed at the Agilent booth and keep your ears open for more on "X-parameters" a nonlinear extention of S-parameters (to put it in the simplest terms). David Root was on hand to answer some of our technical questions, but the subject is more complex than I can explain in this simple blog.

From Lunch it was time to visit our friends at RFMD. As usual RFMD has lots of development going on and we look forward to future reporting of their product and technology news in areas such as high-level module integration (with their unique shielding packaging), advances in GaN (look for this story in depth in our daily news release and show wrap-up), front-end power management and front end filtering.

From RFMD we met with K&L Microwave for a reunion of sorts with one of our favorite "Expert Advice" columnist - Rafi Herstig. K&L continues to evolve tthe state of microwave filters with amazing innovations. Look for a future article on how the continue to shrink the size of filter, integrate capability and increasingly work with their fellow Dover Companies to offer more functionality for their customers. K&L Microwave and other Dover Companies (Dielectric Labs - DLI and Pole/Zero) are the sponsors for next weeks Besser Associates Filter webinar. Make sure you catsh this free event!

Running a little late, we are off to meet with National Instruments. NI always has an impressive demo and this time is no difference. This time they are showing off a GPS test solution. Driving around Austin, Texas they captured and stored GPS satelite signals which they were then able to modify for various simulation purposes. The impressive aspect of what NI can do is the speed and volume of data acquitition required to pull this off, similar in ways to the RFID demo they had last year. We hope to be able to feature more of their work in the future in MWJ.

At this point, we are running late and will have to postpone our meeting with Nitronex until Thursday. As the exhibition closes for the first day, I am happy to say that the floor was full and apparently very busy. It was wonderful to run into so many friends and some former colleagues. And now it is off to the Microwave Journal customer appreciation party at Gordon Biersch, where we sample some fine brew and food. As the main party breaks up, the remaining attendees are treated to cigars, cognac and a fine NBA finals game (provided you are a Celtics fan). Its a nice end of the day - cheering at the TV, having a laugh with friends and lighting up just as Red Auerbach would have watching an amazing lopsided victory by Boston. Good times - but its late and there's plenty of work for Wednesday.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wed. reception

The exhibitor reception was packed with people (free food and drinks will do that). I saw a lot of friends and many technical attendees enjoying a few drinks and some light appetizers. Everyone was pretty worn out from a busy Tues and late night watching the basketball finals. I think most people will hit a quick dinner and call it an early night but the hard core ones are ready for some other social events.


Tues. Night Events

I attended the Women in Microwaves reception and met Rashaunda Henderson of UT Dallas (pictured with Christina Nickolas). She was putting together a list of those that attended and will try to keep in touch with everyone. She has a nice idea of putting together a mentoring program for women engineers so I hope it is successful.

Of course, a big crowd attended the Microwave Journal event at the Gordon Biersch brewery. The beer was excellent and the company was even better. We had the Celtics/Lakers game on every TV in the place and those of us from the Boston area were celebrating the big victory!


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

First day of the MTT exhibition

The first day of the MTT exhibition was a busy one with all of the major players present with booths on the floor. One booth that stood out was Triquint with a mint condition Chevelle SS painted bright orange with the number 35 on the side (representing three five compound semiconductors I believe). The recently announced the aquisition of WJ Communications to broaden their portfolio.

David and I did video interviews with 10 or so companies that will be posted tomorrow linked off of our virtual vendor booths on our Online Show Daily page. We hope they will be informational.


IMS 2008 First Impressions

The tall buildings in downtown Atlanta still have a lot of shattered glass from the tornado. Many of the Omni Hotel windows are cracked or boarded up (see photo). I did not get the impression from the news about the tornado that there was this much damage. But the weather is nice and hot with a lively crowd of microwave engineers. The convention center is nice and everything is close together for easy access.

We are doing videos interviews in a little while and they will be posted tomorrow linked off our Online Show Daily page where the virtual booths are located.