What is in this article?:
- Interview: SenarioTek Co-Founders Simi Ghiasvand And Bob Alman
- Bigger And Better
Microwaves & RF sits down with SenarioTek's Simi Ghiasvand,CEO & President, and Bob Alman, CTO.
NF: You founded SenarioTek in 2003, which was a pretty tough time in the electronics industry and the microwave market in particular. With the measurement industry largely covered, how did you carve out your niche?
SG: When we started SenarioTek, our goal was to provide performance RF and microwave solutions without the high overhead associated with large companies. Our prior experience had shown us that the wireless and computer industries were moving to higher and higher data rates, with data being transmitted at RF and even millimeter-wave frequencies. SenarioTek was able to help wireless and telecom engineers meet their goals by improving their margins and the reliability of their test systems.
The tough times over the years have resulted in a wide range of talented engineers becoming available. SenarioTek has hired many skilled veterans of the test and measurement industry. With over 250 years of combined RF and microwave experience, our engineers work closely with our customers’ engineering teams to ensure a thorough understanding of their measurement needs.
NF: Compared to your larger competitors, you have the advantage of being flexible and can quickly move between various projects—while covering DC to 70 GHz with your varied solutions. Can you provide some examples of your breadth of expertise?
BA: Because we don’t manufacture our own components, we use the knowledge and expertise of the engineering staff to evaluate and choose the best components available. We like to say that we are “brand-agnostic.” This gives our engineers the flexibility to perform an unbiased component evaluation and selection based solely on the needs of our customers.
Over the years, SenarioTek has developed unique solutions for a variety of applications. Today, we have over 300 unique designs in use by our customers all over the world. In order for us to compete in our industry, we rely on cutting-edge technologies. Our RF switch matrix and subsystems provide an excellent combination of performance and reliability for a very wide range of applications. In the satellite test area, we have developed thermal-vacuum-compatible test solutions, which are enabling our customers to complete some of their most difficult testing in a more efficient and timely manner.
For our high-speed digital customers, we hold very tight tolerances on delay matching, which they require for many next-generation standards. We also are proud of our expertise in calibration. Many project teams address calibration toward the end of their design; we find that it works best to keep calibration in mind throughout the test-solution design process.
NF: Can you tell us about some of the legacy solutions that you have provided for the defense market?
SG: We have participated in a few well-known defense projects, such as JTRS, JSF, and F-22. We have also participated in quite a few commercial and defense satellite programs. Today, having sold to all of the major primes, we are on most of their vendor lists. In addition, we have participated in both the Air Force and Department of Defense (DoD) Mentor-Protégé programs. These programs are dedicated to growing unique, technical small businesses that have cutting-edge technology to offer to the military sectors.
For legacy test solutions, we have had many projects updating and upgrading existing test solutions. We have replaced old subsystems and addressed obsolescence issues without significant changes to the old test systems—especially the test software. SenarioTek can reverse-engineer decades-old products, allowing the use of even old systems that need to be pulled out of mothballs.
NF: With all of the talk of cutbacks in defense spending, it did not seem like this year and last year would offer great opportunities in defense solutions. Yet SenarioTek and many other firms are producing solid earnings.
SG: The defense industry’s cutbacks are real. It has reduced the defense primes’ contracts, which in turn has had a domino effect on the rest of the defense industry. SenarioTek’s business is primarily providing capital equipment. Of course, capital-equipment budgets are the first to go when budgets get cut. The reason SenarioTek is experiencing steady growth is that we had anticipated and prepared for this tough defense environment. For the past two years, our business team has implemented a strategy to grow in the wireless, commercial, semiconductor-test, and medical sectors of our business. These relatively new products have been very successful. Their growth has dampened the effects of the defense budget cuts.
NF: What commercial applications are currently providing the largest opportunities for you?
BA: One of the commercial applications where we have seen real growth is signal-integrity testing as it relates to high-speed serial applications. The frequencies of these applications continue to climb, and the difficulty of meeting the design requirements has grown accordingly. We strive to ensure that our equipment performs better than the extremes of the customer’s test environment. Most importantly, we have to ensure that station-to-station test results are consistent and correlate, thereby making it easier for the engineers to evaluate the results. Here, we have developed products with very tight phase/delay matching that produce results with the lowest uncertainty and repeatability.
SenarioTek is now a recognized leader in a completely different market as well: the commercial-satellite-payload test area. Satellite payload testing—especially the new trend of satellites moving up to Ka band (32 GHz)—has the hardest RF test requirements in the industry: performance, quality, and longevity. Satellite test brings to the table unique challenges in test fixtures, communications, and connections. In the past seven years, SenarioTek has developed technologies that directly address these challenges. Although only a few companies provide satellite manufacturing, the near-future growth potential for SenarioTek is very high.