A Primer on RF Semiconductors (MMICs) Radhakrishna Setty, Technical Advisor Introduction Semiconductors are ubiquitous in modern society. In addition to microprocessors for computing technologies, they are used in practically every active wireless communications system including cell phone towers, cell phones, radars and satellites to name a few. Mini-Circuits designs and produces several semiconductor-based (MMIC) components […]
A Practical Approach to the Design and Implementation of Scalable, High-Performance, Custom SMT Packages for mmWave Applications
After many years of research and development, electrical engineers, physicists, mathematicians and scientists have come to realize the benefits of operating communications systems at higher frequencies. Some of the most notable advances stemming from this research include: smaller circuit implementations for the same functionality; improved antenna gain for a given antenna size; and dramatic increases in data-carrying capacity. However, numerous challenges remain in implementing high-frequency circuits under real-world constraints. Among the non-trivial problems, packaging stands out.
Rapid growth in the number of connected devices for next generation wireless applications is driving demand for faster, more innovative, and more cost-effective test solutions. The need for reduction in cost and improvement in test throughput is found both at the design verification stage as well as in high-volume production testing. Test engineers are looking for ways to reduce the number of device-under-test (DUT) connections and enable testing of multiple DUTs in parallel from a single test station. This is most often achieved by configuring RF switches in a switch matrix to automate the routing of test signals. This article will explore some of the key differences between the types of switches used in test applications. Switch matrix configurations will be discussed, and a real world switch matrix for a high-volume telecom test application described in detail.
Prior to developing our mechanical switch, Mini-Circuits purchased a significant quantity of mechanical switches for use in our production test facilities. These switches utilized a combination of springs and solenoids to accomplish the switching. Most operated for less than 1 million cycles, or approximately 50 days in our production environment. This turnover prompted Mini-Circuits to develop our own design to address the short operating life, long lead times, and high cost of using commercially available mechanical relay switches.