Phonon was founded in 1982 to design and manufacture Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) products for defense and space. Phonon was acquired by Microsemi Corporation (Nasdaq: MSCC) in June 2017.
The SAW market is ~$2B annually worldwide, of which ~3% is defense and space. With its products primarily targeted at defense and space applications, the majority of Phonon’s customers are major contractors for radar, communications and electronic warfare programs. Phonon’s market focus is on high performance high value SAW products.
Phonon’s SAW products are custom designed specialty microcircuits for high performance analog signal processing, including filters, delay lines, correlators, oscillators and associated modules and subsystems. SAW technology provides the small size weight and power required by modern airborne, space and portable systems.
SAW devices use acoustic waves on the surface of piezoelectric materials to achieve their unique signal processing capabilities. SAW devices basically consist of an input transducer to convert electrical signals to tiny acoustic waves, which then travel through the solid propagation medium to the output transducer where they are reconverted to electrical signals, with great flexibility to realize a wide range of signal processing functions. SAW devices are useful at frequencies from 10 to 2500 MHz, bandwidths from .1 to 1000 MHz, and impulse response lengths from .01 to 100 us. In some applications they offer capabilities unattainable by any other technology.
SAW band pass filters (BPF) are used for sorting signals by frequency, a basic and very common requirement in most analog systems. Its advantage over traditional BPF technologies is size and stability under harsh environments. The BPF is the most common of SAW products, representing >95% of total world SAW dollar consumption, and more on a unit basis. They are built and packaged similarly to hybrid integrated circuits and typically sell for $.1-1 for consumer subscriber use in cell phones, GPS receivers, Wi-Fi, and car keyless entry; $1-100 for commercial infrastructure use; and $100-1000 for high performance low quantity military applications.
SAW dispersive filters (DF) are used for special signal processing functions in radar, electronic warfare, and communications applications. As with the BPF, it passes a band of frequencies and rejects the others; but unlike the BPF, its delay changes uniformly across the passband; i.e. it is dispersive. This effect can be used to increase range and resolution in radars, increase speed and resolution in high performance military surveillance receivers, and provide security and jam resistance in communications systems. DFs range in price from $1000 for simple moderate quantity devices to $10000 for difficult low quantity devices.
SAW subsystems and modules vertically integrate SAW components. They are commonly: waveform generator and receiver modules for pulse compression RADAR systems, multi-channel delay modules for EW receivers, modulators and demodulators for digital communications systems, or compressive receiver modules for ESM and laser radar systems. SAW Subsystems are often for airborne applications which demand very small size, weight and power. They range in price from $10K for a simple moderate quantity SAW module to $100K for a complex low quantity SAW subsystem.
SAW design NRE (Non Recurring Engineering) is customer paid. Phonon’s price for one standard design iteration is approximately $30K, to design and build a photo mask and from it build, test, and evaluate a small number of prototype devices. A simple device with standard performance specifications requires only one design iteration, while a complex device with difficult specifications might require several. Phonon’s unique engineering and design capabilities enable prototype development with fewer design iterations thereby minimizing NRE price and delivery.
SAW manufacturing techniques are similar to those of the integrated circuit industry. Phonon has developed special manufacturing techniques to optimize yields for the low to moderate quantity production runs typical of the defense and space markets. 85% of Phonon’s sales are modules and subsystems which incorporate at least one Phonon SAW component.
Phonon’s in-house operations include:
Customer Support: Sales and Program Management resources necessary to meet the complex needs of today’s defense and space customers.
Design: proprietary SAW design, analysis and system modeling software is one of Phonon’s special strengths
Fab: complex thin film Al patterns (CD to .35 micron) are applied by “lift-off” to quartz or lithium niobate substrates (length to 10 in.). Pattern accuracy and reproducibility are carefully controlled, and all die are RF probed.
Assembly: dice, die bond, wire bond, seam weld seal, leak test, screen, PWB/module assembly, all MIL-STD-883C and J-STD-001 Class 3 based.
Test: preliminary test, trim, and 100% final test over temperature. A complete custom test report is delivered with every product.
Quality: quality is based on MIL-PRF-38534, ISO-9001 registered.
IT: extensive ERP system and LAN for all engineering, manufacturing, quality and administrative functions.