Reinventing the Electronic Switch

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Tradeshow Talks Menlo Micro

In this interview, Chris Giovanniello, from Menlo Micro talks to AZoM about why they are attending electronica this year.

Please tell us a bit about the company Menlo Micro and why you are attending Electronica this year?

Menlo Micro is a new company. We've been operating as a standalone company for about two years now, and the primary technology that we're commercializing was developed over a decade at General Electric from 2004 to 2016. It's a unique process that GE developed for making micro-mechanical relays.

Menlo is focused on commercializing this technology to a broad number of in-markets, and this show, Electronica, just has so many different in-markets that are represented here. It's a really good show for us to be at because it covers so much of the industry.

Please tell our readers how Menlo Micro has reinvented the basic electronic function switch?

There are two different types of relays in the world. There are mechanical relays, and then there's solid state. Going off what GE had done, Menlo is scaling up and we have come up with the material set and a process that's very unique for making these switches extremely small. It's a mechanical switch, but it's the width of a human hair. So it is very small.

It’s made with some very proprietary metals and alloys that were developed over a decade ago with R&D with GE, which makes them very reliable. They can handle high-temperature, and they can handle high voltage and high therm. So they are very good for extreme industrial requirements, and we can fit all of that technology into an extremely small space.

Our individual switches only measure 50 microns by 50 microns, so we're able to put lots of them into a very small package.

What impact will this have for certain industries and applications?

There are a lot of industries that are still using mechanical relays, and most people still use mechanical relays because they can handle a lot of power, but one of the challenges with mechanical devices is they're very big, so they take up a lot of space. We have been able to shrink the form factor for these by up to 90% in terms of the volume that they take up. So space is a big deal.

The other two issues with mechanical relays are the lifetime. They are mechanical, so they wear out over time, and they can get a limited number of operations before they need to be replaced. Usually, on the order of a few million. We've been able to demonstrate with our technology that it is something that can last billions, so it's a thousand times longer life than a traditional mechanical relay.

The second issue is speed. Traditional mechanical relays will switch in a few milliseconds, and we can actually switch in microseconds. Again, it is improved by three orders of magnitude. Improvement in the speed and all the other factors. The size, the speed, and the life, the reliability of the life-time really has a big impact on systems that are using a lot of those traditional mechanical relays.

What applications and industries will see the benefits behind the new switch?

Right now, we are designing with medical instrumentation. So our first application is working with GE for MRI systems. And following that, we're very focused in 2019 on the aerospace and defense market. Mostly for RF, radio frequency switches, and also the test and measurement market. Any markets that use lots and lots of switches and relays is a target for us.

Then, we have some new products that we're coming out with later this year. We're also going to start branching into the wireless infrastructure and telecommunications space. Those are really the key targets for us for next year.

How does the switch compare to others on the market? What sets it apart?

It is somewhat unique in terms of being able to have this type of performance from a mechanical device in such a small form factor.

From a competition perspective, we are really competing with traditional mechanical relays, as well as some semiconductor switches, diodes, gallium nitride, gallium arsenide, silicon on insulator. There are some solid state technologies that we're competing with, but it's a mix of solid state and traditional mechanical relays.

What does the new reinvented switch mean for the future?

Our goal is to establish the company this year with a series of RF products that we're coming out with and to really start building a baseline revenue for the company. We can then start to invest in some of the other really unique products and applications, in particular, Power IoT.

That's going to be the big growth engine for us in the longer term. That'll be the space that we're starting to invest in 2019 for larger growth in the upcoming years.

Where can our readers go to find out more?

To find out more please visit our website

About Chris Giovanniello

Chris has more than 20 years of experience in electronic systems and semiconductor industries.  As Senior Vice President of Products, Chris oversees all aspects of technology innovation and leads product development efforts.  Prior to Menlo Micro, Chris was Vice President, Business Development for GE Ventures.

At GE Ventures, Chris was responsible for developing new programs and monetization strategies for key technologies developed at General Electric’s R&D center in Schenectady, NY. He employed strategies such as licensing, joint ventures, acquisitions and spinouts for programs covering wireless, semiconductor, MEMS, and thermal management technology segments.

Prior to GE, Chris served in a variety of management and leadership positions over an 18-year career at Teradyne, world leader in semiconductor test equipment.  In his most recent role at Teradyne he was responsible for building a new Services Solutions Business for Teradyne’s Global Service Organization, a full-vertical supply-chain offering targeting emerging fabless semiconductor companies.

Prior to that, Chris alternated between multiple assignments in Europe, where he managed large teams of field application engineers, and management positions within Teradyne’s product development organizations; defining and developing new product roadmaps. Chris holds a BSEE from Tufts University and an Executive MBA Certificate through Teradyne's Executive Leadership Program.

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