Guest Column | March 22, 2011

A View Of The Microwave Industry From 10,000 Feet


By Richard V. Snyder, 2011 MTT-S President

If I were reading this essay, I would want to know what is so special about 10,000 feet. Why not 40,000 or ground level or some other choice? Well, I want to use a perspective from which one can view large segments of the industry. A stratospheric viewpoint does not provide clarity, while a "boots on the ground" viewpoint is frequently blocked by local obstacles and problems.

I work in a small "niche" company, and thus see the industry from a less than all-encompassing viewpoint, but one that is in touch with large segments of the industry. The niche at RS Microwave is occupied by filters and multiplexers, and although filters are only one element in the microwave world, I am known for having co-opted Shakespeare by stating that "all the world's a filter." Filters are otherwise known as "microwave band-aids," because the need for filters sometimes does not become known until system interference problems surface, and this is frequently when a "problem fix" is necessary. Thus, as a provider of filters, I do interface with systems and requirements of many varieties and applications.

Our industry arose based on the military urgency of World War II and today still owes much of its prosperity and intellectual development to ongoing defense requirements. However, today we are split into both commercial and defense segments, with each segment also divided into domestic and foreign markets. This is true for both U.S. and non-U.S. based communities. What is "domestic" for one is "foreign" for the other, but the knowledge base feeding these communities is essentially a global one at this time.

The commercial segment also arose from the idea that military technology might also be well-applied to the civilian world, and thus we have seen the rise of microwave applications to communication, safety, security, entertainment, and a myriad of other microwave electronic aspects of our daily life. I don't have to explain that cell phones are the offspring of miniaturized and secure military communication systems, or that the anti-collision radar on your car stems from similar military electronics, wireless alarm sensors and biosensors are descended from defense-related antecedents, or that 60 GHz or conventional Bluetooth connections to your WII or car also derive from the defense developments. I am sure that my readers know more about these systems than I do, but all of the above use filters in some way, so I know a little, anyway.

What has changed over the years? Way back when, technical knowledge relating to microwave technology was not available to most engineering students. Industrial developments were close-held. Universities offering microwave education were few. Publications were generally esoteric. Pencil-and-paper computations did not allow for thorough evaluation of proposals. Conference presentations usually were understood by a very few attendees. Practitioners were generally hands-on trained, without in-depth education, and thus good at doing what they do, but not at moving into newer technologies.

Today, microwave education is endemic to virtually all countries. Students from one country frequently study in another. Hands-on people are frequently well educated in the microwave field. Conference organizers and publication editors demand proof that esoteric theory and today's dependable data simulations are used by the authors to provide practical measured results. Information, once available, moves quickly from place to place. Progress today is fueled by virtually instant communications, fast publishing, conference networking the world over, and the willingness (read "need") of commercial companies to share their new developments with the buying community. If something new (idea or product) comes into being or is placed on the market, all that is required is participation in a good technical conference and/or a good exhibition.

This brings me to the subject of the 2011 IEEE MTT-S International Microwave Symposium ( There are quite a few microwave conferences in the world each year, but without a doubt, the highest prestige, best attendance, widest coverage of microwave technology, and certainly the greatest importance is found at the annual IMS! As a former general chair of IMS (IMS2003 in Philadelphia), I know both the challenges and rewards resulting from the preparation and presentation of an IMS.

Baltimore has been the scene of very successful prior IMS events, but this is the first one of the 21st century and has all of the modern appurtenances of events in this century. Authors with new ideas always flock to an IMS as the preferred venue for presenting their work, but the review processes used to evaluate their work have not always been satisfactory. This year, IMS has used a procedure in which no reviewer knows an author, and thus the ideas are judged solely on merit, with no thought of offending an "important" author. So, there is no doubt that what a technical attendee will hear this year has a much better chance of being really useful and new than in prior years (yes, even 2003, I'm sorry to say).

In addition, there are new student competitions, designed to kindle the enthusiasm of our future microwave engineers by allowing them an opportunity to earn money and fame by showing what they can do, in a wide variety of microwave technological challenges. There are new commercial companies exhibiting their products and presenting their latest ideas and developments. In the technical area, everything "microwave" is covered (really, from RF to THz, components to systems). In the product arena, one can find test equipment, materials, components, services, simulation, and design software… you name it and it can be found. You can even get in your daily walking while exploring the availability of new items. If you are anything at all like me, you will go home both energized and enervated, but with a new enthusiasm and with new knowledge that will fuel your work for quite some time.

If you want clarity of vision with respect to the microwave world, come with me to the 10,000-foot viewpoint you will have at IMS2011. Theory and applications are melded into an experience that in truth works to move our entire community forward. Come and have some fun!

About The Author
Richard V. Snyder is president of RS Microwave (Butler, NJ), author of 76 papers and three book chapters, and holder of 18 patents. His interests include EM simulation, network synthesis, dielectric and suspended resonators, high-power notch and bandpass filters, and active filters. He received his BS, MS, and PhD degrees from Loyola-Marymount, USC, and PINY (respectively).

Dr. Snyder served the IEEE North Jersey Section as chairman and 14-year chair of the MTT-AP chapter. He chaired the IEEE North Jersey EDS and CAS chapters for 10 years. He twice received the Region 1 award. In January 1997, he was named a Fellow of the IEEE and is now a Life Fellow. In January 2000, he received the IEEE Millennium Medal. Dr. Snyder served as general chairman for IMS2003 in Philadelphia. He was elected to ADCOM in 2004, and was the 2010 president-elect for the MTT-S. Within the ADCOM, he served as chair of the TCC and liaison to the EuMA. He served as an MTT-S Distinguished Lecturer from 2007-2010, as well as a member of the Speakers Bureau. He is an associate editor for the IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques, responsible for most of the filter papers submitted. He is a member of the American Physical Society, the AAAS, and the New York Academy of Science. He is the MTT-S President for 2011.

Also a reviewer for IEEE-MTT publications and the MWJ, Dr. Snyder teaches and advises at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He is a visiting professor at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. He served seven years as chair of MTT-8 and continues in MTT-8/TPC work. He previously was chief engineer for Premier Microwave.