Frequently Asked Questions

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General

What is Menlo's connection to General Electric?

The Ideal Switch technology was begun as a research effort in the R&D labs of GE back in 2004. GE's focus on high-temperature, high-reliability applications, such as circuit breakers and industrial controls, led to the development of the unique material set and process for making high-power, high-reliability micro-mechanical relays. Menlo was formed in 2016 in order to scale up the process for high volume manufacturing, and to commercialize the technology to other non-GE markets.

What kind of support can Menlo provide, to help designers to integrate the Ideal Switch into their products?

Menlo's Systems Applications team has extensive experience designing ciruits and subsystems with Ideal Switch technology, and can share that knowledge with designers. This includes things like circuit models, device models, PCB layout techniques, and other optimization methods in order to best take advantage of the Ideal Switch performance.

In which applications or products will we first see the Ideal Switch?

The primary applications for the Ideal Switch are RF applications where the benefits of significant size, weight, and power reductions are most critical. This includes high power radios for both commerical (5G) and private networks, as well as military systems. In addition, test and measurement equipment will be one of the early adopters, due to the performance, space-savings, and reliability improvements that the Ideal Switch can deliver.

How will I know if products I own are using Menlo's Ideal Switch technology?

Menlo's unique Ideal Switch technology is trademarked, including its own logo. Keep an eye out in the future for certain products which are "Powered by the Ideal Switch" and marked with the Ideal Switch logo.

Are Menlo products a "drop-in" replacement for other switch products, or does adding the Ideal Switch technology require a complete redesign?

In some cases, we are working with partners to provide solutions where the Ideal Switch technology is provided in the same form factors as traditional relays, to ease adoption into existing architectures.  However, in order to achieve the largest performance improvements in terms of size, weight, and power, it is best to look at the overall system design to see how the Ideal Switch can help redefine the system architecture, to make it much smaller, lighter, and lower cost.

What are typical lead times when ordering Menlo products?

You should contact your local sales representative for the most up to date information, but for products which are released to production, typical lead times for evaluation boards or product is 4-6 weeks.

What is Menlo's "Rule of 99" and why does it matter?

Menlo has coined the term "Rule of 99" to refer to some of the massive gains in system level performance that can be achieved when replacing traditional switching technology with the Ideal Switch™.  It is not uncommon to see improvements of greater than 99% for key metrics ike size, weight and power.

Can I purchase Menlo products from a distributor like Mouser or Digikey?

Currently Menlo is only offering its products for sale either directly or through it's worldwide network of expert sales representatives. Please contact the representative in your region, or email sales@menlomicro.com for more information.

Product

Menlo products are specified for 25W power handling, how is that measured? Is it pulsed or actually continuous wave (CW) power?

We normally spec our devices at both CW power levels, where during characterization the device is subjected to the specified max power level for 60 minutes, and then also peak power levels. For peak power measurements, we typically use a 10% duty cycle (10µs pulse, 100µs period). For longer pulses, the max peak power handling will trend towards the average or CW power handling. 

How much voltage is needed to actuate the Ideal Switch?

Depending on the design, Menlo switch products require a voltage from 50V to 90V in order to actuate (turn on). This is necessary to create the high electric fields necessary to pull the actuator closed through an electrostatic force. Depending on the product, in some cases the actuation voltage is generated internal to the device with a charge pump circuit, and in other cases the actuation voltage is generated externally.

Can your products handle the traditional humidity environments which are normally specified for semiconductors? (1000 hours/85°C/85%)?

Yes. Menlo's unique glass packaging technique ensures that all our switches are hermetically sealed. All products are tested to JEDEC standard package and reliability specifications, with some additional tests added in order to test and stress the performance of our mechanical actuators.

I see that today you have a high power SP4T RF product. Will it be possible to have SP2T and other configurations in the future?

Menlo's roadmap will evolve to offer switches of various power handling and throw count configurations.  We are also able to develop custom products to a particular requirement. In the meantime, we have application notes that you can refer to on how to optimize the layout of circuits using our existing SP4T switches in SP3T or SP2T format.

How are Menlo switches programmed or controlled?

Menlo offers products in two different form-factors. The first is bare-die or CSP packaged form-factor where the biasing and control for the individual switches is done externally, in the application circuit. This can be preferable when pushing for the highest possible RF perofrmance and also when many switches are required in a single application. The second is multi-chip-modules (MCM) form-factor where either a charge pump and/or controller logic is included in the package such that switches can be controlled internally by either SPI or GPIO commands.

Does Menlo have plans to create higher frequency products in the future?

Yes, the Ideal Switch unit cell has been characterized to over 50 GHz. We are currently exploring the requirements for a future mmWave product. Please contact Menlo sales if you are interested to discuss with us your specific requirements.

Is it possible to evaluate one of the Menlo RF switch evaluation boards in a 75 Ohm system?

Yes, this is possible, with the use of a MLP pad with both 50 Ohm and 75 Ohm calibration kits (Short-Open-Load-Thru) and the Adapter Removal technique found standard in a VNA.

What is the control current that is needed to drive the high voltage gate line on an Ideal Switch?

Menlo switch products require a very low current electrostatic drive. A highly resistive control line is suitable to route the high voltage control signals to the individual gate lines for each of the switches in the device. In general, an individual switch will need zero current when in the off-state and then only a few pA to turn on and stay closed.

Are there any special mounting procedure for the WL-CSP glass packages?

We have lots of experience with mounting these unique WL-CSP glass packages to the PCB to ensure a reliable assembly. For each of our devices we provide mounting procedures, solder reflow profiles, and other necessary in their respective datasheets or in a separate Assembly Guidelines applications note. We can also refer customers to qualified suppliers that Menlo uses for PCB assembly.

Technology

How does the Ideal Switch compare to other "RF MEMS" switches on the market today?

The Ideal Switch is unique in a few ways from other "RF MEMS" technologies. First, it is a true "ohmic" or "contact" switch, which provides a metal-to-metal, highly conductive path for current to flow, as opposed to "capacitive" switches, which are used for tuning capacitance for things like antenna tuning or impedance matching applications. Second, with the proprietary material set used in the Ideal Switch manufacturing process, it allows for high-power and high-temperature operation, opening up many new applications compared to other traditional "RF MEMS" technologies.

How do Menlo products compare to electromechanical relays?

In general, products manufactured with Menlo's Ideal Switch technology will be significantly smaller than traditional electromechanical relays, allowing for much higher levels of integration. In addition, they have 1000x longer lifetime and 1000x faster switching speeds. See detailed performance comparisons on this page.

How do Menlo products compare to solid-state switches?

In general, products manufactured with Menlo's Ideal Switch technology will be in a similar size/form-factor to other semiconductor or solid-state switches. However, due to the true metal-to-metal contact, and unique metal-on-glass construction, the Ideal Switch will have significantly lower losses and much higher linearity, especially at higher frequencies (>6GHz). The low losses also enable a much higher "power density" than semiconductor technology, which allows for more channels in a smaller package without the need for bulky, expensive heat sinks. See detailed performance comparisons on this page.

What is the switch turn off and turn on time?

The turn on and turn off specification for our initial products is typically <10µs. This includes any settling time to get to the final stable value of on resistance or insertion loss.

What is the typical lifetime specification of Menlo switches?

With current products we guarantee a minimum of 3 billion switching cycles. Typical performance can range from 3 billion to greater than 20 billion before the contacts wear out. With our firm understanding of the failure modes for micro-mechanical contact switches, we will be pushing the cycling reliability much higher in the near future. Our roadmap will allow us  to push to greater than 10 billion guarateed switching cycles in the next 12-18 months.

Can Menlo switches operate at lower temperatures?

Our standard operating range is from -40C to +85C. We do have engineering projects ongoing to explore the possibility of going to much lower temperatures, in order to support emerging markets such as quantum computing. So far we have done successful testing down below -250C and we are working to push even lower.

Is it possible to hot-switch Menlo switches?

While hot-switching can reduce the operating lifetime, it is possible to hot-switch minimal power levels without degrading the overall lifetime. The current typical specification for allowable hot-switching is +15dBm, and we will be pushing that higher in the next 12-18 months.

Is the Ideal Switch technology export controlled?

No, Menlo's Ideal Switch technology and products have been designed for commerical use and as such are not restricted. It is classified as EAR99 per U.S. Government regulations.