The 2013 International Microwave Symposium in Seattle went quite  well—very hectic, but interesting as usual.  Despite spending most of my time on the exhibition floor, I still had the feeling I didn’t get to see it all. Such is par for the course with a show as big as this. (Speaking of size: I did not hear a final headcount, but my guess is it was around 9000 or so, as it is almost every year. There were about 580 exhibitors.)

My focus this year was to get an update on two major sectors of the industry: test & measurement and design software. You will find roundup videos covering both sectors on Engineering TV, available the week of June 17. In the T&M space, I visited Aeroflex, Agilent Technologies, Anritsu, National Instruments, Rohde & Schwarz, and Tektronix. Lots of updated models with extended frequency ranges were spotted, as were plenty of new vector-network-analyzer (VNA) and vector-signal-generator (VSG) products.

In the software space I visited Agilent, ANSYS, AWR, Cadence, CST, Mesuro, and Remcom. As these companies’ offerings illustrate, there is an amazing amount of great software to speed up and simplify microwave design at the chip, board, and box level. 

The focus was definitely on power amplifiers at this show: Lots of companies were showing the latest power amp chips, transistors, and finished products, with the highlights being gallium-nitride (GaN) transistors and circuits. There were numerous displays and demos of Doherty amplifiers, as well as those using digital predistortion (DPD) for linearization and envelope modulation for improved efficiency. All boasted frequency ranges to 20 GHz. 

One topic I heard discussed several times was the impending “death” of gallium arsenide (GaAs). Many believe that GaN and silicon-germanium (SiGe), and even silicon, will eventually replace GaAs. I am less sure of that: GaAs is well entrenched today and has a wide following. It has its niche. Maybe it will eventually decline but, doesn’t everything at some point? Any decline will take time. In the meantime, it is safe to design GaAs in—but just be aware of the coming replacements.

In the semiconductor space I did get around to visiting Analog Devices, Avago, Freescale, MACOM, Peregrine, RFMD, SkyWorks, and Texas Instruments. One interesting standout was Cavendish Kinetics. They are offering a new microelectromechanical-systems (MEMS) digitally variable capacitor. With nearly 700 tiny MEMS capacitors on the chip, they can vary the total capacitance over a wide range. The targeted market is Long-Term-Evolution (LTE) phones for antenna tuning, and reducing the number and size of antennas.

Another interesting product on display was Eastern OptX’s radar target simulator. The company uses fiber-optic cables and switching to simulate variable range radar targets for testing Doppler radars. Very unique, to say the least.

Last but not least, one memorable event taking place during the show was the Penton Awards Ceremony, in which Microwaves & RF awarded eight “best-of” awards to 16 companies. You can find more details here.

Seattle is a great town and, contrary to conventional wisdom, it did not rain once during the show. And the Space Needle, despite its age (built in 1962), is still an impressive destination. IMS takes place in Tampa, FL next year.  If you are in the microwave field, this conference is definitely for you. The IEEE does a good job of making it a memorable educational experience.

Editor's Note: For more show coverage, be sure to visit Microwaves & RF's IMS 2013 page.