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Sunstone Circuits, the Oregon-based online vendor of quickturn circuit boards, has recently made a shift in capabilities that will enable a move into the RF and microwave space. At PCB West, I caught up with Sunstone’s David Warren, and we discussed details of this change and how they plan to approach such a competitive marketplace.
Barry Matties: Just to get started, tell us a little bit about Sunstone and specifically, what you do, David.
David Warren: I'm the sales and business development guy at Sunstone Circuits. I’ve been with the company for seven years now. I’ve spent my entire career in manufacturing management and sales within the electronics industry. The majority of my experience revolved around printed circuit board assembly until coming here in 2010. We’ve been in business for nearly 45 years. We were the first to pioneer online quoting and ordering of PCBs. PCBExpress.com and PCBPro.com were the first websites that allowed for online quoting and ordering. We also have our own proprietary PCB design and layout software, PCB123, allowing both schematic capture and the design and layout of PCBs.
Matties: You've had that software out for quite a while, but I understand you now have some new offerings coming out?
Warren: Yes. This past year, we’ve gotten into the RF & microwave market. As you know with the Internet of Things, everything's going Bluetooth, RF or microwave. Typically, RF is anything above 100 megahertz, and then microwave would be 2 megahertz and above. It's a totally different animal than your standard FR-4 circuit board.
RF and microwave PCBs have been on our roadmap for quite a while, and earlier this year we jumped into that world with both feet to help some customers out of a bind. This actually has been a great learning experience for us. We have added equipment, updated processes and added technical resources to help us be successful. In less than a year we have come a long way in the RF PCB field and now we feel that we have the right recipe to be very competitive with high quality and support.
Matties: If you fast-forward to today, what's the result of all of that?
Warren: Well, we've already exceeded our targets in terms of sales on the RF side of the business for 2016. Like I said, RF and microwave is a different beast—a different material, but Sunstone has the people to make it successful.
Matties: When you talk about RF, are you talking about actually manufacturing RF boards? Because that would be new, compared to what you guys have been doing.
Warren: Correct, we have added customers in the communication, testing and wireless space that require the use of high frequency low loss materials. With these designs, there is a lot tighter dimensional tolerancing for the board and internal routs. Tighter control on line widths, spacing and registration, surface finish requirements, material movement and more.
To read this entire interview, which appeared in the November 2016 issue of The PCB Design Magazine, click here.