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When competing in major league microwave programs having a utility player on your roster is key.

Posted on Tuesday, December 06, 2016
When competing in major league microwave programs having a utility player on your roster is key.

As in baseball, RF/Microwave programs are dotted with holes in the lineup, or development chain, from design to repair. Oftentimes, problems arise out of nowhere, and at critical times. In these circumstances, each field is glad to have their utility player around. Here's a few reasons to consider putting a player like SemiGen on your approved vendor list (AVL) today.

Being from the Boston area, no other players inspire us the way that guys like Steve Lyons and Brock Holt do. Lyons, now a local broadcaster, was a player who helped reshape the position in his career in the 80s and 90s. He once played all nine positions in a single game, and earned himself the nickname "Psycho" for his colorful way of playing. Holt, a likely starter on many other teams, relishes in his role on the Sox bench today as a key contributor being called on at critical moments—as he fills in, flashes his glove and makes contact consistently. Red Sox fans, like microwave program managers, expect the most out of their utility players. And you should to.

For a utility, or contract manufacturing company, to "play several positions" in the RF/Microwave field competently, there is much to look for on their scorecard. For instance, a design firm may have the brainpower and software to put together a robust design meeting all customer specifications but they may not have the in-house assembly or test capabilities to realize their design. SemiGen has repeated success in playing a wide array of positions from rapid prototyping of new designs to broad-scale manufacturing of products.

Design

Prototyping

RF/Microwave design can be complex with integrated microwave assemblies (IMAs), also known as super components, hybrid assemblies, multi-function assemblies, etc. The incorporation of these IMAs has vastly improved performance on the system level but design engineers could often use help with prototype design and process development. SemiGen knows the procedures to minimize a product’s time to market or even just rapidly offer a bigger picture of the various assembly processes.

Material Selection

Assembly trade knowledge holds very high utility for the design of a system, the materials selected for the components as well as in the building process are a balance between a robustness, high performance, and cost. The choice between epoxy, solder, wiring, as well as options on vendors for substrates, circuit boards, housing, and components all have to be taken into consideration early on in the design process or even later in the design of the production process. For example, packaging can degrade the performance of a design, which may be mitigated if the packaging was considered early in the design.

Large Scale Test

In the design for manufacturability, effective production testing can save immense amounts of time and money for a company. Beyond the utility of automated test equipment (ATE) is the utility of the software that is driving the communication between the test equipment. ATE software development may not normally be taken into consideration until it is absolutely necessary, therefore, outsourcing this to software experts with experience in RF test equipment can serve as a great relief.

Test

Electrical & Mechanical Tests

RF test and measurement is critical to the development process, companies may not have in-house testing capabilities, let alone testing capabilities beyond Ka-band. The broader the frequency range and higher the frequency goes, the more expensive the test equipment. Companies that don't have lab access with vector network analyzers, spectrum analyzers, power meters, power sensors, and pulse generators can instead receive test reports on their components. SemiGen offers reports on RF parameters such as insertion loss, isolation, VSWR to tests for noise figure, IP3, switching speed and phase tracking. Mechanical tests are also necessary to fully model a component with lifetime tests in temperature chambers, failure analysis as well as bond pull and die-shear tests.

Up-Screening for Space and Military Standards

With every standard RF component or system, there is a standard of testing, with SemiGen's ITAR and ISO 9001 certifications as well as in-depth application based knowledge the team can assess and potentially up screen components. Screen specifications include MIL-PRF-38534, MIL-STD-750, MIL-STD-883, Class H, Class K, JAN, JANTX, and JANTXV. For instance, these capabilities can often serve high utility in screening all commercial parts that need to be certified to military specifications in order to be used in military equipment.

Assembly

RF/Microwave Assembly

RF, microwave, and millimeter wave circuits and assemblies can be just as intricate as the design itself. Certified experienced assemblers have a high utility in the development process with familiarity in a variety of attachment, bonding, and installation processes. Attachment methods can include eutectic attachment, advanced thermo compression, ultrasonic wire or ribbon, ball bonding, and hand assembly. SemiGen can also handle precision assemblies with automatic bonding and die attach equipment for component position, loop height, and spacing within tolerance.

PCB Assembly

PCB assembly can have it's own set of requirements including leadless, fine pitch, BGA, QFP, large boards, or even non-standard shaped boards. PCB assembly is not a common expertise in the RF design realm and is commonly outsourced to experienced companies. SemiGen is equipped for this level of assembly with J-STD-001 and IPC 610 certified assemblers as well as equipment such as fully automated, surface mount MYDATA machines, and high temperature multi-zoned reflow ovens. There is also support with robotic through-hole manufacturing capabilities for specific challenges and quick-turn prototypes.

Repair

On-field failures can be a hassle to companies that need a rapid replacement or an upgrade to their systems. With engineers experienced in repairing components such as oscillators, switches, gain controllers, amplifiers and attenuators, even a legacy system can be repaired without a complete replacement. Already being equipped with a supply chain that helps with part obsolescence comes with high utility for the redesign, repair and upgrade of legacy military hardware.

From the design and development chain of trending miniaturized components to legacy equipment already being used in-field, SemiGen is utilized to fill the gaps with a team of experts backed with the equipment necessary for in-house design, test, assembly, and repair on the manufacturing level. With a 17,000 square foot facility and wide array of services, SemiGen offers solutions to fill any void in the supply chain and manufacturing floor.

Need more evidence to consider putting us on your roster? Consider this fun fact: In 1986, Steve Lyons had so proved himself as the ultimate utility player, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Hall of Fame pitcher, Tom Seaver, who aided Boston in the home stretch to their appearance in the '86 World Series against the New York Mets. As we Boston fans know with great agony, the move proved brilliant right up through the potential last out in a World Series winning game, as the ball dribbled through first baseman, Bill Buckner's legs (who was brought in for his defense) and the game and series continued to its miserable end in a game 7 Sox loss. Buckner was let go shortly thereafter, and Lyons himself re-joined the team in ‘91. Not sure how things would've turned out without Seaver, but we sure wished “Psycho” was playing first that day. When will you wish you had a player as versatile as SemiGen around?

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