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ELECTRONIC SWITCH Breakthrough new electronic switch released for production

Author / Editor: Luke James / Johanna Erbacher

Menlo Microsystems, the company which claims it is re-inventing the electronic switch, has announced the production release of its first high-performance RF switch manufactured with their novel Ideal SwitchTM IP.

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Menlo Micro closes $44 million in series B funding to support high-volume production of the "ideal switch".
Menlo Micro closes $44 million in series B funding to support high-volume production of the "ideal switch".
(Source: Menlo Micro)

Since its inception in the 19th Century, the electric switch has remained largely unchanged. This is despite decades’ worth of innovation attempts from firms both big and small.

Now, however, Menlo Microsystems (Menlo Micro), a California-based developer and manufacturer of microelectromechanical systems switches, says that it has completely re-invented the switch and intends to begin volume production of its first switch that utilizes proprietary Ideal SwitchTM technology: The MM5130, the world’s highest power density RF switch.

Born from over a decade of MEMS research

Menlo Micro was founded by Chris Keimel and Chris Giovanniello following around 12 years’ worth of MEMS research at General Electric. Their goal was to bring to market what they call a reliable “ideal switch”.

But what makes an “ideal switch” so ideal, exactly?
According to Menlo Micro, Ideal SwitchTM eliminates the compromises of today’s electromechanical relays and solid-state switches. This solves the challenge that companies have been trying to address for over 40 years with little success.

The technology combines electromechanical and solid-state switches to achieve a 99 percent or more reduction in key metrics including size, weight, and power (SWaP), performance, and cost.

According to Menlo Micro, these reductions will bring with them significant improvements to the transition to 5G namely by reducing losses, increasing efficiency, and supporting new frequency bands. They’ll also improve radio performance in communications networks and RF/microwave switching in Wi-Fi, radio, and satellite.

In an interview shortly after Menlo Micro secured $44 million in Series B funding to support volume production of its Ideal SwitchTM IP, Garcia said: "This is a major milestone for Menlo Micro and the deployment of the Ideal Switch, which we firmly believe to be the most important technological innovation in the electronics industry since the transistor.”

The MM5130

MM5130 is Menlo Micro’s first switch to include this Ideal SwitchTM technology. Packaged in a miniaturized wafer-level chi-scale-package (WL-CSP), it is a high-performance RF switch designed to handle 25W with ultra-low losses.

Historically, such a high level of performance has only been seen in large RF mechanical relays which have inherent drawbacks. However, in the MM5130 thanks to the Ideal Switch IPTM, Menlo Micro has eliminated the compromises that engineers have had to make when choosing between RF mechanical relays and solid-state switches. In doing so, they’ve created a switch that offers the power handling and RF performance of an electromechanical relay with all the benefits of a solid-state switch: size, reliability, and speed.

These improvements make the MM5130 an ideal solution for applications including loss switched filter banks, tunable filters, and step attenuators, among others.

"We are very excited to announce that the MM5130, and more importantly our Ideal Switch™ manufacturing line, is ready for production," said Menlo Micro co-founder and SVP Marketing, Chris Giovanniello. He went on to add that this achievement will help more companies realize Menlo’s vision of reducing SWaP across a variety of RF subsystems.

Using the $44 million in Series B funding that was announced in October, the company hopes to produce more than 100,000 units per month by the end of the year, rising to millions per month next year. Menlo Micro has not clarified whether this will apply to the MM5130 or another switch (or mixture of) switch products.

A Menlo Micro RF MEMS switch.
A Menlo Micro RF MEMS switch.
(Source: Menlo Micro)

Menlo also hopes to use some of the funding to grow its talent pool and accelerate expansion into new markets like quantum computing and electric vehicles over the next few years.

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