Recently, Signal Integrity Journal sat down with Roger Tushingham, the VP of Marketing and R&D for Rogers Corporation’s Advanced Connectivity Solutions to talk about how to foster innovation and bridge the gap between research and commercial development in the materials industry.
Tushingham came to Rogers in November 2016 and has more than 25 years experience in the semiconductor capital equipment and advanced materials industries. He holds a Bachelor’s in Electronics from Salford University (in the UK). Below is a summary of our conversation (edited slightly for length).
SIJ: Rogers has shown a commitment to academic partnerships, tell us a bit about your Innovation Centers, how they came about and how they have changed?
Roger Tushingham: At Rogers, our Innovation Centers are essentially collaborative hubs where teams of scientists and new business development marketers work together with academics, start-up companies, and others to find, explore, and develop new technologies or apply existing technology to new market spaces. We are using these hubs to explore the spaces that are ‘over the horizon’ relative to our current technical competencies and/or markets.
We see the Innovation Centers as the corporate arm of R&D, and we see their role as starting where our business unit R&D leaves off. The Innovation Centers’ goal is to seek out and explore new approaches available to us, to validate them, and then work with the businesses to bring these platforms to the market. The centers are specifically chartered to initiate work on future growth opportunities and to be agnostic about the nature of the technical approach. That gives us the flexibility to explore technologies that traditionally did not reside within Rogers and to pivot to new approaches to solve a problem when a given strategy comes up short.
Since launching our first Innovation Center in 2013, we’ve learned a lot, we’ve created some new-to-the-world technology, and we’ve built a portfolio that we believe is feedstock for organic growth within Rogers. Every day, we work toward the commercial milestones that will validate this belief and generate a significant return on our substantial investments.
SIJ: Besides your work with academic partnerships, how else do you foster innovation at Rogers?
RT: We put a strong emphasis on collaboration with third parties to identify and develop technology. This includes university researchers, entrepreneurs, start-up companies, and other experts outside of our own company. Working with these folks enables us to assemble the skills, experience, and capabilities that are exactly suited to address a specific opportunity at hand. Our collaborative approach also helps protect us from a bias toward our current or ‘in-house’ capabilities, both in terms of knowledge and equipment. And since our partners bring a lot of relevant expertise into our partnerships, they can reduce our learning curve and help us more quickly achieve results that will be used to justify a broader investment into an opportunity.
SIJ: How do you stay ahead of next-generation circuit materials needs? Are your engineers active in any standards development?
RT: Understanding the needs of the markets we serve is absolutely key to our past and future success. At Rogers we do this in a number of ways. In addition to the Innovation Centers that are looking at new platform technologies, there are multiple interaction points with customers and with industry groups. Our sales engineers and applications technology managers are highly skilled and, along with our technical support engineers, interact with our customers on a daily basis to help provide solutions. We also have dedicated marketing personnel that focus on the key markets we participate in. These experts are closely engaged with our customers and sales teams to learn and understand their current and future needs. They take the information they hear from the field, combine it with key industry and market trends, and define our new product development pipeline.
In terms of standards development, we are actively involved in industry consortia, such as RF Energy Alliance and HDP User Group along with standards development committees within organizations such as IPC.
SIJ: You have a presence in the high-speed digital materials market with your Advanced Connectivity Solutions business. Can you talk about your XtremeSpeed™ RO1200™ circuit material?
RT: In our Advanced Connectivity Solutions business, our primary markets have been in the RF space where high performance, product consistency and product reliability are critical. In the high-speed digital market, we saw the trend moving towards 56Gbps serial links and next to 112Gbps as an opportunity to develop a product to address the elevated material performance requirements at those speeds. We took our core competency of developing high performance resin systems and optimized them to develop a product for the unique needs of the high-speed digital market. Our goal was to deliver the highest performing multilayer material system optimized for both electrical performance and thermal/mechanical reliability. The result is our XtremeSpeed RO1200 circuit material.
SIJ: What are the most common SI applications issues that you are hearing from your customers? How are you responding?
RT: With the trend moving towards 112Gbps serial links, the two issues that often come up in discussion are insertion loss over long copper interconnects and signal skew. We set out to address both of these issues with the XtremeSpeed RO1200 material system. To minimize insertion loss, we selected a PTFE resin system for its dielectric properties and paired it with an ultra-smooth copper foil. For skew mitigation, we selected only spread weave glass styles and minimized the glass content in the core and eliminated glass in the bondply.
Sources and Compensation of Skew in Single-Ended and Differential Interconnects
Measuring Glass Weave Skew and the Identification of an Important Hidden Variable Artifact
How Interconnects Work: Modeling Conductor Loss and Dispersion