Analog/RF Playbook Blog

RF engineers’ demand a key issue at IMS2022 in Denver

From the 19th to 24th of June 2022, Denver, Colorado was the host to this year’s International Microwave Symposium, the preeminent RF, microwave and mm-wave tradeshow. The IMS2022 show included a whole array of rich technical presentations and workshops and a 3-day exhibit with over 400 exhibitors from around the world.

Nearly 7,000 attendees registered for IMS2022, with over 2,000 registrants for the technical sessions. Though not the largest IMS show on record, 2022 definitely saw an uptick in attendance compared to 2021, and obviously the canceled IMS in 2020. Though not quite bustling, IMS2022 certainly had a high energy level throughout the exhibition floor and relatively well-attended technical sessions.

There were also many industry-sponsored social events that drew large and rowdy crowds. For many, IMS is a gathering place to meet old colleagues, friends, and competitors on a friendly and fun platform. The other great possibility at IMS is that through random conversations you will meet an engineer or rep who has an inkling or referral to a solution to a problem you have been struggling with for months.

Latest RF developments

Though IMS is slowly recovering from the global pandemic and lockdowns, the RF/microwave/mm-Wave industry never slowed down. The IMS 2022 show featured several exciting new innovations and developments, including 3D printed low-loss dielectric with surface metallization, robotic radome scanning technology, compact PC-driven/programmable attenuators that can be daisy-chained, a PC-driven spectrum analyzer spanning to 43.5 GHz, and transparent/on-display mm-wave antenna. In general, there were many manufacturers and distributors presenting technology for 5G/6G, new space, and other mm-wave applications.

Like much for the RF/microwave/mm-wave industry, many of the latest developments and innovations were hidden behind a veil of secrecy. Still, there were many designs catering to machine-learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive-radio (CR) solutions targeting cloak-and-dagger applications.

The buzz around the conference was pretty consistent with the few previous years with some interesting twists. In general, many companies have struggled with hiring RF engineers as many are nearing retirement and less likely to be willing to relocate. There is also a troublesome age distribution of RF engineers with the vast majority at the cusp of retirement while recent RF engineers aren’t that far out from graduating college. These situations cause a variety of dilemmas for industry sales representatives of an older generation and sales techniques and a new breed of RF engineers used to delving into the Internet for all of their purchases and information.

Next, with Covid restrictions having limited face-to-face meetings around the world, and further restrictions driving the new work-from-home model for many RF engineers not in the lab, it seems incredibly difficult to even set a face-to-face meeting with RF engineers these days. The question on many’s lips was how to reach this new breed of RF engineer and how to get happily at-home engineers to put on pants/skirts and meet at the office.

It’s hoped that this situation will be resolved by the time we meet again in sunny San Diego, California on 11-16 June 2023. Given the trend, it is likely that next year’s IMS show will have an even larger turn-out with more attendees and exhibitors.

JJ DeLisle, an electrical engineering graduate from Rochester Institute of Technology, moved to technical editing and writing work for design publications after spending six years in the industry as an IC layout and automated test engineer. He writes about analog and RF for Planet Analog.

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