Pickering Interfaces, a leading provider of high-performance signal switching and simulation solutions, has recently made an exciting announcement in the field of radio frequency (RF) testing. The company has introduced a groundbreaking range of PXI/PXIe RF multiplexer (MUX) modules featuring a revolutionary switching technology. These new MEMS-based RF multiplexers are set to redefine the capabilities of wireless communications and semiconductor test applications, offering significant advancements over traditional electromechanical relay (EMR) alternatives.
The MEMS-based RF multiplexers developed by Pickering Interfaces leverage the power of MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems) technology, which involves integrating miniature mechanical elements, sensors, actuators, and electronics onto a single silicon substrate. By harnessing this cutting-edge technology, Pickering has created compact and highly reliable switches capable of handling RF signals with unparalleled performance characteristics.
Compared to EMR alternatives, these MEMS-based RF multiplexers bring forth a host of advantages. They deliver a remarkable increase in operational life, up to 300 times longer, as well as an impressive boost in operating speed, up to 60 times faster. Moreover, they offer higher bandwidth and improved RF power handling capabilities. Notably, the insertion loss of these MEMS-based multiplexers remains comparable to EMRs and significantly lower than solid-state switches, making them an ideal choice for demanding RF testing requirements.
One of the key factors that sets these MEMS-based RF multiplexers apart is their foundation on the Ideal Switch technology developed by Menlo Microsystems. The Ideal Switch, the first commercially available MEMS components with the required performance characteristics for RF testing, perfectly aligns with the stringent demands of semiconductor, consumer wireless devices, and various S-band applications, including mobile services, satellite communications, and radar. Steve Edwards, the Switching Product Manager at Pickering Interfaces, expressed their excitement, stating, “Pickering has been closely monitoring MEMS technology for years. With Menlo Micro’s Ideal Switch, we now have a production MEMS switch that meets the specifications needed for RF test.”
The collaboration between Pickering Interfaces and Menlo Microsystems spans five years and is driven by a shared vision for advancing RF products and applications. Chris Giovanniello, the Founder and Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Menlo Microsystems, expressed their enthusiasm for the partnership and the incorporation of the Ideal Switch into Pickering’s first line of RF multiplexers. This collaboration paves the way for further innovation and breakthroughs in the field.
The newly launched 40-878 (PXI) and 42-878 (PXIe) RF multiplexers are designed to meet the diverse needs of RF testing applications. They are 50Ω 4 to 1 multiplexers, and to accommodate different test application sizes, the 40/42-878 range offers single, dual, or quad 4-channel multiplexers, all fitting into a single PXI or PXIe chassis slot. This flexibility allows for optimized chassis selection and minimizes slot count. Additionally, the 40-878 can be supported in all Pickering’s LXI/USB Modular Switching chassis, enabling users to utilize a PXI-, LAN-, or USB-controlled switching solution without compromising on performance. The modules come with a choice of SMB or MCX connectors, allowing users to select the most suitable interface for their specific applications. Pickering also provides a comprehensive range of cabling solutions to ensure seamless integration.
Steve Edwards highlighted some key features of the 40/42-878 multiplexers, emphasizing their exceptional operational life of over 3 billion operations. This remarkable lifespan outperforms EMR-based solutions by a significant margin, minimizing system downtime due to relay wear-out or servicing needs. The multiplexers’ operating speed, an impressive 50 microseconds, greatly reduces test cycle time, maximizing system throughput by enabling multiple transitions within the time previously required for a single EMR switching operation. This rapid switching capability makes these products well-suited for a wide range of diverse applications.
Furthermore, the 40/42-878 multiplexers offer a 4 GHz bandwidth, surpassing the 3 GHz limit of existing EMR products. This expanded bandwidth ensures the longevity of test systems, as the multiplexers can effortlessly support new higher-frequency test requirements. Alongside increased bandwidth, these multiplexers also excel in RF power handling, surpassing the 10W capability of EMR solutions. Edwards further highlighted that, unlike solid-state alternatives, the MEMS switches used in the 40/42-878 modules exhibit low insertion loss, typically below 1.4 dB at 4 GHz. This low insertion loss, comparable to EMR solutions, comes with all the benefits of a MEMS-based design.
To ensure seamless integration and ease of use, the 40/42-878 multiplexers are supplied with drivers that support all popular software programming environments. They are compatible with Microsoft-supported Windows versions and popular varieties of Linux. Additionally, they can be utilized with other real-time hardware-in-the-loop (HiL) tools, catering to a wide range of system configurations and requirements. As a testament to their quality and reliability, all modules are covered by Pickering’s standard three-year warranty, providing customers with peace of mind.
With the introduction of these groundbreaking MEMS-based RF multiplexers, Pickering Interfaces has once again demonstrated its commitment to pushing the boundaries of signal switching technology. These modules bring forth a new era of RF testing capabilities, delivering unprecedented operational life, speed, bandwidth, and RF power handling. By leveraging the Ideal Switch technology from Menlo Microsystems, Pickering has created a product lineup that meets the demanding needs of wireless communications, semiconductor test, and various S-band applications. As industry leaders continue to collaborate and innovate, the future of RF testing looks brighter than ever before.