In addition to a robust three-day exhibition at the Shanghai Convention & Exhibition Center of International Sourcing, EDI CON China provided three days of peer-reviewed and carefully curated conference sessions for attendees, featuring 71 technical sessions, 43 workshops, three panels and a plenary keynote session. This year, our enthusiastic plenary session headline speaker was Peter Rabbeni, the senior director responsible for RF business development and product marketing at GLOBALFOUNDRIES. He spoke to an engaged audience about market dynamics and trends that have enabled us achieve the current state-of-the-art. Then, Rabbeni proposed which high speed and high frequency technologies will play a transformational role in enabling the next wave of mobile data, including advanced packaging solutions, silicon on insulator (SOI), silicon photonics and SiGe. Rabbeni noted that there is no single answer, that “enabling the next wave of mobile data will require a careful selection of technologies to create an optimized end-to-end solution.”
While EDI CON China attendees demonstrated a wide variety of interests across high speed and high frequency areas, the sessions on 5G, GaN and modeling/simulation seemed to be especially popular. Here are some of the top technical sessions, judged by audience attendance and participation:
- “5G Device Design Verification and Test Challenges,” by Li Xin of Keysight Technologies
- The panel discussion “Which Technology is Better for the First 5G Systems: Massive MIMO Sub-6 GHz or mmWaves?” moderated by Patrick Hindle of Microwave Journal
- “Modeling Large Phased-Array Antenna Systems With an Advanced Behavioral Model and Simulated/Measured Radiating Elements,” by Gent Paparisto of AWR
- “A Design of High Efficiency GaN on Si Three-Way Doherty Amplifier for Base Station Application,” by Xin Liu of MACOM
- The panel session “Solid-State RF Energy in 2017: The Volume Breakthrough is Finally There, Is It Not?” moderated by Klaus Werner of the RF Energy Alliance, with presentations by Pinglu Chen of Ampleon, Mark Murphy of MACOM, Dong Wu of NXP, Art Aguayo of Rogers, Yinghao Zhuo of Innovation Technologies and James Huang of Huber+Suhner
- “Millimeter Wave OTA Test Challenges,” by Prasadh Ramachandran of Keysight
- “Modeling and Calibration of High Speed Passive Channels,” by Wu Jun of Shenzhen EDADOC Technology Co. Ltd.
- The panel discussion “Trends in Mobile Infrastructure,” moderated by Gary Lerude of Microwave Journal.
A few of the highly attended workshops presented by 2017 EDI CON China sponsors were:
- “From Wave-Based Load-Pull to Behavioral Nonlinear Models,” by Focus Microwaves
- “20 W Fully Integrated 3.5 GHz GaN Doherty MMICs for 5G Applications,” Ampleon
- “High Performance Material Considerations for Use in Wireless Communications Infrastructure,” by Rogers Corp.
- “Designs of GaN on Silicon Doherty PAs for Commercial Base Station Application,” by MACOM
- “Design Flow and Simulation Technologies Supporting Multi-Technology RF Modules for Wireless Applications,” by National Instruments
- · “Wideband Amplitude and Phase Control Matrix for 5G MIMO Channel Simulation,” by Mitron
- “VNA Based Measurements and Nonlinear Modeling for Efficient RF PA Circuit Design,” by Maury Microwave
- “Challenges of Evaluating RF Performance of High Frequency Wide Bandwidth Devices,” by Keysight Technologies
When not attending the papers, workshops and panel discussions, Microwave Journal’s editors roamed the exhibition floor to see what products and services companies were promoting. While we didn’t have time to cover every exhibitor, we did try to catch our major sponsors and a few others that caught our interest:
Ampleon is one of the market share leaders supplying LDMOS power transistors for wireless infrastructure, Ampleon has a significant customer base in China and had a strong presence at EDI CON. To support the emerging RF energy market, Ampleon demonstrated a 433 MHz, 200 W pallet with integrated sensing. Other products demonstrated were a 400 W, S-Band pallet; a 900 W, UHF broadcast amplifier; and a 2 kW, 127 MHz ISM high power amplifier. Ampleon was very active in the technical conference, presenting a workshop on a 3.5 GHz GaN Doherty MMIC for 5G, participating on the RF Energy Alliance panel on solid-state RF energy and participating on a panel discussing trends in mobile infrastructure.
Analog Devices (ADI) featured their broad range of RF/microwave technology and products, emphasizing the breadth of their offering — from antenna to bits. With a significant presence of wireless infrastructure equipment manufacturers in China, ADI highlighted their AD9371 dual RF transceiver with integrated observation path. The transceiver, developed for 3G and 4G base stations, covers all wireless bands from 300 MHz to 6 GHz and is compatible with FDD and TDD systems. Each of the receiver and transmitter subsystems provides DC offset correction, quadrature error correction and programmable digital filters. The receiver bandwidth is 100 MHz, 250 MHz for the transmitter and observation receiver, the latter to accommodate DPD algorithms.
ANSYS was showing off DesignerRF™ software that provides an ideal environment for designing RFICs, MMICs and SoC devices. The technology utilizes advanced capabilities such as state-of-the-art harmonic balance solvers along with the ability to use either ANSYS HFSS™ or ANSYS PlanarEM directly within the user interface. This makes DesignerRF an ideal choice for developing advanced high performance RF designs. The tools also enable engineers to design RF and microwave circuits as well as complete end-to-end wireless communication systems based on CDMA, Bluetooth®, Wi-Fi® and other standard communications schemes. The Solver on Demand® capability, integral and unique to DesignerRF, allows the integration of rigorous electromagnetic analysis with system and circuit simulation in the comprehensive, easy-to-use DesignerRF user interface. Solver on Demand can perform electromagnetic simulations on components in a circuit via HFSS, PlanarEM or equivalent circuit models.
CST was previewing the latest version of their 3D electromagnetic simulation software, CST STUDIO SUITE®. The software suite includes 3D EM simulation tools with a number of related products dedicated to more specific design areas, like PCBs (CST PCB STUDIO® and CST BOARDCHECK ™), cable harnesses (CST CABLE STUDIO®) and EM/circuit co-simulation (CST EMC STUDIO®). Filter Designer 3D (FD3D) can automatically synthesize cross-coupled and diplexer filter designs to meet specifications such as transmission zeroes, Q-factor and equi-ripple. The complex and sensitive nature of these filters makes them challenging to design and tune with traditional methods. Coupling matrix extraction with FD3D offers an efficient way to fine tune 3D filter structures. The Interference Task provides a straightforward approach for investigating potential EMI issues using coupling data from simulations. The Interference Task shows at a glance which combinations of RF systems can potentially lead to co-site interference problems, allowing mitigation approaches to be tested on a virtual prototype. The ray-tracing Asymptotic Solver in CST STUDIO SUITE can now directly calculate the coupling between antennas. The Asymptotic Solver can simulate extremely large platforms such as aircraft, ships and buildings very efficiently, making it well suited to many kinds of antenna placement scenarios. This can be combined with the Interference Task for detailed co-site analysis of vehicles, vessels and aircraft.
Focus Microwaves was displaying a wide variety of load-pull and modeling solutions. The RAPID digital tuner is the heart of a precision, high speed, load-pull device characterization system. The RAPID has been developed by Focus’ UK subsidiary MESURO and is suitable for every phase of the design and production test cycle. This series of new digital tuner products provide performance, reliability and cutting edge features at a reasonable cost. The RAPID series is compatible with the hardware and software of existing labs, allowing users to easily upgrade their existing systems. The RAPID can be used as a standalone impedance synthesis and measurement system or combined into a hybrid solution when paired with Focus’ MPT series harmonic tuners. The passive tuners can be used to synthesize fixed harmonic impedances in a high speed fundamental active setup. With this modular configuration, the user benefits from speed, increased tuning range for F0, CW, pulsed and modulated signals, while reducing cost and simplifying the system.
As noted, GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ (GF) Peter Rabbeni was the keynote speaker at EDI CON China 2017, discussing the future of semiconductor technologies for high frequency and high speed applications. GF recently announced the 45RFSOI, advanced 45 nm RF SOI technology targeted for high performance, next-generation mobile communications, including millimeter wave front-end modules, beamformers/phased arrays for commercial broadband, radar and space applications. The process has high ft and frmax of 300 and 355 GHz, respectively, as well as device stacking for high voltage and power handling, plus high linearity.
W. L. Gore and Associates featured their new PHASEFLEX® Type 0N microwave/RF test assemblies, which the company says is the smallest, lightest, most internally ruggedized assembly on the market. PHASEFLEX was developed for modular, multiport and multi-site test applications and provides consistent, repeatable measurements with stable electrical performance up to 50 GHz. With its small size, Type 0N makes initial routing much easier in cramped spaces and reduces the stress on test ports and the devices being tested, as cables are connected to test instrument ports and fixtures. The high density test assembly withstands continuous movement and flexing, delivering enhanced phase and amplitude stability.
Keysight Technologies is the host sponsor for EDI CON China and was showing their Propsim Channel Emulation Solutions that are versatile and easy to use in a wide range of applications, including MIMO, beamforming, WLAN, aerospace, mobile ad hoc networking (MANET) and MIMO over-the-air (OTA) testing. The solution consists of a hardware platform (FS8, F32, F8) and standard tools that include software applications to run and create channel models and test scenarios. Keysight now offers the E8707A radar target simulator to help automotive electronics manufacturers simulate radar targets in various realistic scenarios. The E8707A is a flexible, yet dynamic, solution that can be used by product test engineers looking for fast, accurate and reliable test solution that balances throughput and quality or by design and verification engineers needing to quickly validate the performance of radar products.
On the digital side, Keysight was displaying their oscilloscopes that help get products to market faster by offering the fastest update rates, deepest memory, capacitive touch screens and the most software options. Their new Physical Layer Test System (PLTS) 2017 has significant capabilities for the manufacturing test of high speed interconnects such as cables, backplanes, PCBs and connectors. Many signal integrity laboratories around the world have benefited from PLTS in the R&D prototype test phase. PLTS 2017 now has a full complement of SCPI commands that enable automated programming of test sequences, which are ideal for high volume production testing. Over 200 SCPI commands provide a solid base for efficient automated testing in manufacturing. This software capability coupled with the new 32-channel PXI-based vector network analyzer (VNA) produces the fastest VNA measurements.
On the software side, Advanced Design System is the leading electronic design automation software for RF, microwave and high speed digital applications. In a powerful and easy-to-use interface, ADS pioneers innovative and commercially successful technologies such as X-parameters and 3D EM simulators that are used by leading companies in wireless communications, networking, aerospace and defense. For WiMAX™, LTE, multi-Gbps data links, radar and satellite applications, ADS provides full, standards-based design and verification with wireless libraries and circuit-system-EM co-simulation in an integrated platform.
MACOM announced a wideband low noise amplifier (LNA) with excellent noise figure performance for test and measurement applications. It operates from DC to 28 GHz and has flat gain response and excellent input and output return loss. Requiring only a positive bias supply, the LNA has maximum versatility for varying applications. In a second product announcement, MACOM extended its wired broadband portfolio with two families of CATV amplifiers: single-ended and differential 75 Ω amplifiers that cover 5 to 1218 MHz. They address upstream and downstream DOCSIS 3.1 applications and are offered in industry standard SOT-89 (for the single-ended models) and SOIC-8EP (for the differential designs) packages.
Mini-Circuits and their distribution partner Mitron exhibited Mini-Circuit’s broad portfolio of products and featured their line of “building block” test solutions, which enables customers to focus on product development, not the test system. The building block approach — combining amplifiers, signal generators and switches for signal routing and distribution — allows many custom configurations to be defined and delivered within two weeks. USB and Ethernet control options, with Mini-Circuits’ proprietary graphical user interface, make control of the equipment straightforward. A complete set of DLLs with programming instructions for Windows® and Linux® environments are available for easy integration into existing test setups, allowing use of existing control platforms. 3G and 4G base stations, satellite communications, automotive and RF burn-in test systems have taken advantage of this unique approach.
National Instruments (NI) demonstrated its latest innovations for smarter microwave design and test. Wireless test demonstrations included NI’s latest advancements for 802.11ax, LTE Advance Pro and 5G. Featured was the second-generation Vector Signal Transceiver with specialized software for generating and analyzing New Radio (NR) waveforms. The other demos comprised a 73 GHz channel sounder, 802.11ax test system and wideband DPD test system.
NI also featured the latest release of the NI AWR Design Environment, version 13 (V13), which accelerates product development with RF/microwave circuit and system design. V13 offers new technology for design automation, circuit and system simulation and design assistance. Enhancements to the design environment user interface include new capabilities to automate PCB, MMIC and module design flows, design synthesis, addressing file format standards for import/export support and third-party links. V13 also features speed and functionality improvements to simulation engines, including harmonic balance, system and planar/arbitrary 3D EM solvers.
Maury Microwave was marketing their complete line of calibration, measurement and modeling solutions, including the MT2000 mixed-signal active load-pull system that operates from1.0 MHz to 40.0 GHz. Key features of the very comprehensive MT2000 include a broadband system concept; reconfigurable hardware; single-ended, differential and number of controlled harmonics; high speed and dynamic range and embedded measurement of (pulsed/isothermal) DC parameters. For single tones, the system has a real-time measurement speed of greater than 1,000 power and load states per minute, multi-dimensional parameter sweeps, (pulsed/isothermal) high power testing, measurement of calibrated voltage and current waveforms, device protection and waveform reconstruction. For modulated signals, it handles wideband modulated signals (e.g. multi-carrier WCDMA) up to 240 MHz, an included modulated signal library, compensation for losses and delay of cables and probes, uploading S-parameters of any “virtual matching networks” (to get one-to-one agreement with the board design) and device testing with digital predistortion (DPD).
Adding to Peregrine’s wide variety of UltraCMOS products, the company recently released the PE42462, PE42482 and PE42412 high throw-count, high performance RF switches. These SP6T, SP8T and SP12T catalog switches offer the industry’s best performance in a high throw-count configuration: port-to-port isolation, linearity, insertion loss and power handling. These absorptive switches are optimized for 4G and 4.5G wireless infrastructure applications, such as robust DPD loops, filter banks and transmit/receive (T/R) signal routing. The three switches cover 10 MHz to 8 GHz, making them compatible with 5 GHz LTE Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) and LTE Wi-Fi Link Aggregation (LWA). Peregrine also recently released the PE42562, PE42582 and PE42512 high throw-count RF switches that are optimized for next-generation test and measurement equipment. These SP6T, SP8T and SP12T absorptive switches cover 9 kHz to 8 GHz and offer an external VSS pin to eliminate spurs. With low insertion loss, high isolation, best-in-class linearity, fast switching and settling times, the switches are optimum for filter bank switching and T/R signal path switching.
Radiall has developed the RAdiall Modular System for Electromechanical Switches (RAMSES), a patented technology that enables microwave coaxial switches to have a typical operating life of 10 million cycles without the contact resistance decreasing with time. Most competitive products only achieve one million cycles. The RAMSES line ranges in frequency from DC to 50 GHz and come in SPDT, DPDT, SP3T and SPnT configurations. Radiall’s unique internal construction makes the switches modular, which reduces cost and lead time.
Richardson RFPD sponsored and organized their popular GaN panel, shifting this year’s focus to the future outlook for RF GaN, now that the technology has established a beachhead in wireless infrastructure power amplifiers. The forum shared the views of MACOM, NXP, Strategy Analytics and Wolfspeed. The panelists seemed to agree that RF energy is “the next big thing,” although GaN’s ability to displace LDMOS isn’t assured. Back on the exhibition floor, Richardson RFPD featured the products of several partners: Analog Devices, HUBER+SUHNER, MACOM, Microsemi and NXP.
Rogers Corporation is addressing the growing demand for 5G with new PCB materials. Designers at antenna OEMs find that PCB designs shorten the design iteration cycle and enable the development of complex, multilayer board designs (MLB). However, PCB designs have challenges: integration of the power amplifier and antenna into one structure for active antennas and higher fabrication and assembly costs of MLB approaches using PTFE materials. To address these, Rogers launched new antenna grade laminates combining a flame retardant, low loss thermoset dielectric with low profile copper foil and incorporating a proprietary filler system. The material has a dielectric constant (Dk) of 3.0, a popular choice for antenna designers, and a dissipation factor (Df) of 0.0023 at 2.5 GHz. The laminate has a low thermal coefficient of dielectric constant (TCDk) that gives consistent circuit performance over temperature. Constructed using a patented LoPro copper foil, the laminate has low passive intermodulation (PIM < −160 dBc). It incorporates low density microspheres, which yields a laminate that is 30 percent lighter than PTFE materials. These laminates offer a practical, cost-effective circuit material for active antenna arrays and PCB antennas, whether for current wireless systems or those on the horizon. With the right combination of materials, these laminates optimize price, performance and durability.
The Rohde & Schwarz display showcased new products covering the latest solutions for radar, EW, 5G, IoT and wideband measurements (802.11xx). Equipment displayed included the R&S®SMW200A vector signal generator, offering an internal modulation bandwidth of 2 GHz and a frequency range to 40 GHz; and the R&S®FSW signal and spectrum analyzer, which is the first offering frequency ranges up to 85 GHz with an analysis bandwidth up to 2 GHz and a real-time bandwidth up to 512 MHz. Other displays covered solutions for phase coherent, group delay, envelop tracking and phase noise measurements. The R&S®FSWP phase noise analyzer and VCO tester combine low noise internal sources and cross-correlation technology to achieve high sensitivity for phase noise measurements up to 50 GHz.
Also in the Rohde & Schwarz booth were solutions for terahertz applications up to 750 GHz, front-end module testing, semiconductor on-wafer and multiport measurements using the latest VNAs. They featured solutions including the RS®ZNBT multiport analyzer, with up to 24 ports and frequency coverage from 9 kHz to greater than 20 GHz.
Sample Technology (Shanghai) Co. was established in 2013 and is registered in the Shanghai Caohejing National Hi-Tech Development Zone of high-tech enterprises. The company specializes in RF microwave measurement and measurement technology products as well as RF components. They provide RF and microwave signal generation products (channel simulators, converters, noise sources, RF/microwave sources, AWGs), RF and microwave modules, power electronics measurement, calibration and semiconductor test systems. Sample has also manfactured automatic test systems, as well as military and civilian microwave transceivers.
Chinese RF Semiconductor Industry
Since the inception of EDI CON, we have noted the growth of the Chinese RF semiconductor industry, with several firms offering products or foundry services using high performance pHEMT and GaN process technologies. The following firms exhibiting at EDI CON are expanding their marketing presence, as they bring their technology to market.
Chengdu HiWafer Semiconductor is the first foundry based in mainland China to offer 6-in GaAs MMIC processes, according to the company. Located on a 225 acre site in an industrial park in Chengdu, HiWafer occupies several buildings, including their wafer fab. Their released process technology comprises InGaP HBT; switch, low noise and power pHEMT; BiFET (HBT + pHEMT); and an integrated passive device (IPD) platform. The power pHEMT process has a 0.25 µm optically-defined gate and is rated for MMICs to 20 GHz (Ft = 65 GHz and Fmax = 90 GHz). The HBT process uses a 2 µm emitter and has an Ft of 40 GHz. HiWafer is developing a GaN on SiC process for RF applications, timed for release in July 2017. Focused on opportunities within China, HiWafer has defined an E-Foundry business model, combining their wafer fab capabilities with partners upstream and downstream to provide a complete MMIC development solution for their customers. This approach assumes that MMIC designers in China are generally earlier on the learning curve and will need more training and technical support.
Dynax Semiconductor, founded in 2007 and located in Suzhou City, develops and manufactures GaN RF power transistors for wireless infrastructure and broadband applications. The company also serves the power electronics market with high efficiency and high speed GaN for industrial applications, electric vehicles and solar inverters. To support these markets, Dynax is vertically integrated with its own wafer fab: 3,000 square meters of clean room and a capacity of 6,000 3-in GaN wafers per year. Dynax RF products are available packaged and in die form, with the broadband devices covering DC to 6 GHz and the transistors for wireless infrastructure tuned for specific wireless bands (e.g., 1.8 to 2.2 GHz or 3.4 to 3.8 GHz). The portfolio based on their +48 V GaN on SiC process offers saturated output power from 10 to 320 W.
Sichuan YiFeng Electronic Science & Technology was established in 2008 to become a microwave semiconductor technology leader that provides microwave ICs, microwave components and system-based solutions based on III-V semiconductor processes (i.e., GaAs, GaN and InP) to 300 GHz. Yifeng Electronics has independent R & D, production, testing and assembly capabilities. The company's standard and customized products are widely used in communications, aerospace, security, automotive electronics and test. At EDI CON, they showed the wide variety of MMICs and components. They are partnered with OMMIC in Europe.
Xiamen San’an Integrated Circuit Co., based in Xiamen City, which is on the Chinese mainland directly across from Taiwan, is also a pure-play foundry and claims to have been the first pure-play foundry in mainland China. It was founded in 2014, a subsidiary of San’an Optoelectronics Company. San’an IC’s process technology is broader than HiWafer’s, as it includes GaN for power electronics. Like HiWafer, San’an is developing a GaN on SiC process for RF, targeting sub-6 GHz wireless infrastructure applications. It will be a +48 V process with 0.25 and 0.45 µm gate length options and is scheduled for release by the end of 2017. A 0.1 µm GaN process is being developed, planned for release by the end of 2018. San’an’s traditional RF/microwave processes comprise two HBT processes, optimized for linearity and ruggedness, and three 0.25 µm pHEMT processes: power, E/D and switch. Three 0.1 µm pHEMT processes are also being developed, planned for release during 2017.
2018 EDI CON China Conference
Next year, the EDI CON China conference and exhibition return to Beijing, March 20-22, home of the first four EDI CON China events. We are looking forward to another busy show floor, as well as engaging and knowledgeable technical speakers at EDI CON China — where high frequency meets high speed.