Interview with Thomas Kole from Integra Technologies

  • Thomas Kole - VP of Sales and Marketing

everything RF Interviewed Thomas Kole, VP of Sales and Marketing, Integra Technologies, a company that can optimize your high power amplifier's (HPA's) RF power devices to achieve higher resolution, improved range, and consistent thermal control. Their RF power transistors and modules are capable of over 80% efficiency, and their team of high power experts knows how to deploy them to create the advanced amplification chain you need to go the distance today.

Q. Can you give us a brief history of Integra Technologies?

Integra was founded in 1997 by a few entrepreneurial engineers who believed they could empower a new generation of radar system designers with innovative, high-performance RF power transistor solutions. The first product we brought to market was an S-band RF power transistor using novel semiconductor material growth and processing techniques. These products are still in use today in various radars including air traffic control systems in major airports worldwide.

Q. What products do you manufacture and what technologies do you use?

Over the last 2 decades, Integra has built the industry’s broadest portfolio of high-power transistors for radar applications. Our current products utilize GaN-on-SiC, Si-Bipolar, Si-LDMOS, and Si-VDMOS semiconductor technology. Our products cover frequencies through X-band and can achieve efficiency greater than 80%.

In addition to transistors, Integra also offers an extensive line of standardized RF Power Modules that include a variety of system-level circuit functions. We’re very excited about releasing more RF Power Modules in the coming months that will set new benchmarks for thermal efficiency and control.

Q. What Markets does Integra address?  

Integra has been a key supplier and partner to the world’s premier radar system OEMs across North America, Europe, and Asia markets. Our technology and products combined with our high power systems expertise, have helped us gain the trust of major OEMs in Aerospace and Defense, Weather Radar, Air Traffic Control, Avionics (IFF, SSR, DME, TACAN), Data Links, Electronic Warfare, and Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) applications.  

Q. Are your products custom or standard?

While Integra maintains a large catalog of over 2,000 parts and engineers fully custom devices, the highest growth segment leverages Integra’s vast library of GaN die and package platforms to quickly and economically to provide a semi-custom solution for a wide variety of customer specific applications. The ability to quickly turn these semi-custom solutions is a key differentiator for Integra.

Q. Do you have your own fab? Can you tell us more about your fabrication capabilities?

Integra utilizes both internal and external wafer fabs across the array of our semiconductor portfolios. Integra was founded on semiconductor processing expertise, building and operating a captive 6” fab located in our headquarters in El Segundo CA. We also have forged a long-term, strategic partnership with an external foundry to meet the growing demands of our customers. Together these manufacturing facilities provide Integra with a suite of differentiated technologies that allows us to uniquely address the high-performance radar market’s needs. It also ensures our ability to guarantee supply to our customer base. Unlike most commercial markets, our customers’ radar systems will run in the field for multiple decades requiring product longevity for ongoing spares in mission-critical applications. Integra is a supplier of choice not just for our market leading performance but also for our superior customer service.

Q. Integra is one of the few companies developing both LDMOS and GaN Transistors - What is your view on GaN vs LDMOS for RF Applications?

We continue to offer VDMOS, Bipolar, LDMOS as well as our multi-generation GaN processes. LDMOS is primarily a mature process that we, of course, continue to process given 20+ year program lives. However, the trend we see is that a vast majority of new radar programs and requirements are for GaN-based designs. GaN power levels and efficiencies can far surpass LDMOS making it the technology of choice for our customers’ performance-driven applications.

Q. Integra recently introduced GaN/SiC RF Power Modules to Simplify Radar Amplifier Design - What were the challenges faced by engineers when designing radar amplifiers? Can you tell us about these modules?

Our customers are facing increasing pressures from the marketplace to improve performance while reducing design cycle time. Engineers are aggressively pushing design limits to achieve higher powers with increasing efficiency and enable higher sensitivity and smaller form factors at the radar system level. And they must achieve these break-through improvements under tight timelines and resource constraints. Integra’s RF Power Modules help address these issues for our customers.

By partnering with our customers, Integra is able to design an RF Power Module that alleviates the design challenges of the power stage. Leveraging our deep domain expertise and system knowledge, we can optimize solutions that integrate a variety of system-level circuit functions allowing our customers to rapidly prototype and get to production.

Q. What differentiates Integra technologies from other RF Transistor/Amplifier manufacturers?

Integra’s differentiation is deeply rooted in our IP which has been optimized for radar applications over the last two decades. Our IP spans across our proprietary EPI designs, to our vast library of device designs, to our RF power modules. We further differentiate ourselves by offering semi-custom solutions which provide a very cost effective and rapid way to optimize customer specific system performance. We support long life cycles of radar programs and our customers' supply requirements for decades. This is unique when compared to the majority of other manufacturers who are geared for high volume commercial applications.

Q. What is your vision for Integra Technologies?

Historically Integra’s strategy has been focused on innovating high-performance RF power transistors and modules for the world’s most advanced radar systems.

We believe the need for increasingly disruptive and innovative RF power transistors and modules is growing steadily in our core radar market. We’re confident we are at the right place at the right time as other suppliers shift focus to more volume-driven, lower power requirements of commercial applications. We will continue to invest aggressively in research and development to develop solutions that achieve higher powers and efficiency, enable higher sensitivity and smaller form factors that our customers can depend on for years to come.