MEMS-based RF multiplexers with Switching Technology

Pickering MEMS-based RF multiplexers deliver 300x operational life & 60x test system throughput

Pickering Interfaces announced at IMS a new range of PXI/PXIe RF (radio frequency) multiplexer (MUX) modules featuring a new switching technology. Ideal for wireless communications and semiconductor test, the new MEMS-based RF multiplexers deliver vastly increased operational life (up to 300x), faster operating speed (up to 60x), higher bandwidth, and increased RF power handling versus traditional EMR (electromechanical relay) alternatives. Insertion loss also remains comparable with EMRs and much lower than solid-state switches.

The family is based on the Ideal Switchâ from Menlo Microsystems, which are the first commercial MEMS components with the performance characteristics to support demanding RF test environments such as semiconductor, consumer wireless devices, and various S-band applications (including mobile services, satellite communications, and radar). “Pickering has been monitoring MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems) technology closely for years,” said Steve Edwards, Switching Product Manager at Pickering Interfaces. “But with their Ideal Switch, Menlo Micro is the first company to offer a production MEMS switch that meets the specifications needed for RF test.”

Our partnership with Pickering Interfaces has been built on five years of collaboration focused on the next generation of RF products and applications,” noted Chris Giovanniello, Founder & SVP of Worldwide Marketing at Menlo Microsystems.Now that our Ideal Switch has been incorporated into these first RF multiplexers from Pickering, we look forward to pushing our innovation further.”

The 40-878 (PXI) and 42-878 (PXIe) are 50Ω 4 to 1 RF multiplexers. To accommodate varying sizes of test application, the 40/42-878 range is available with single, dual, or quad 4-channel multiplexers, all occupying a single PXI or PXIe chassis slot, providing flexibility in chassis selection and minimizing slot count. The 40-878 can also be supported in all Pickering’s LXI/USB Modular Switching chassis, allowing the use of a PXI-, LAN-, or USB-controlled switching solution with the same high levels of performance. The module is offered with either SMB or MCX connectors to allow users to select the most suitable interface for their applications, and Pickering provides a full range of cabling solutions.

Switching Product Manager at Pickering, Steve Edwards commented: “With its operational life of >3 billion operations, the 40/42-878 far exceeds that offered by EMR-based solutions (typically 10 million operations), minimizing system downtime due to relays wearing out or requiring service. Its operating speed of just 50us minimizes test cycle time, maximizing system throughput, since multiple transitions can be performed in the time previously required for a single EMR switching operation. This rapid switching also makes the products suitable for a wide range of diverse applications.

Furthermore, its 4 GHz bandwidth (compared to 3 GHz for existing EMR products) contributes to test system longevity, since the 40/42-878 can support new higher frequency test requirements. And this increased bandwidth is also provided with increased RF power handling, exceeding the 10W capability of EMR solutions,continued Edwards. “Finally, unlike solid-state solutions, the MEMS switches used in the 40/42-878 exhibit low insertion loss, typically <1.4db at 4GHz – comparable to EMR solutions, while offering all the benefits of a MEMS-based design.”

The 40/42-878 is supplied with drivers that allow support in all popular software programming environments. In terms of operating systems, all Microsoft-supported Windows versions and popular varieties of Linux are supported, as well as other real-time hardware-in-the-loop (HiL) tools. All modules are covered by Pickering’s standard three-year warranty.