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Get to Know Benchmark Phoenix

by Jon Opalski & Bill Smith / June 4, 2020

Welcome to our new blog series, "Get to Know a Benchmark Site." This series will introduce all of Benchmark's 26 global locations. Next up: Benchmark Precision Technologies Tempe, Arizona.

A New Model for Innovation in High-Speed and RF systems

Benchmark Phoenix is a unique site that utilizes a greenfield approach to electronics development that is dedicated to bringing cutting-edge, high-reliability electronics from idea to reality. Our vision is to work alongside our customers' experts to build innovative technology that no one thought was possible. This kind of collaboration, in conjunction with the state-of-the-industry design, fabrication, assembly and test capabilities on-site, fosters new solutions to size, weight, and power trade-offs, as well as RF performance up to 110 GHz.

Our culture emphasizes taking on the toughest technology challenges. When a customer tells us a specific design challenge is insurmountable, or a design can't be built, the entire team gets motivated to prove them wrong. There's a kind of optimistic defiance here. We are confident in our abilities, and know what it takes to succeed.

To achieve these lofty goals, Benchmark Phoenix integrates design engineering, Very High-Density Interconnect (VDHI) circuit fabrication, microelectronics assembly, surface mount technology (SMT) assembly, system integration, functional test, and aftermarket services. Together, this creates a one-partner solution for aerospace, defense, next-gen telecommunications, high-performance computing, and complex industrial products.

Benchmark Phoenix is home to Benchmark Lark Technology's RF and High Speed Design Center of Innovation. This center offers expert engineering and advanced manufacturing processes that expand design options for high-speed and RF design challenges, such as circuit boards featuring 25 micron lines and spaces with advanced circuit topologies including blind and buried vias. At the Phoenix facility, we have developed the ability to design and produce Very High-Density Interconnect (VDHI) circuit boards using a wide-range of advanced substrates, including RF-friendly materials such as Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP), and many others as well. These capabilities enable dramatic results, including RF systems that perform up to 110 GHz and 3-Dimensional Heterogeneous Integrated (3DHI) circuit boards for the most demanding aerospace and defense applications. Benchmark Lark also brings 30+ years' experience in the development and manufacturing of cutting-edge RF technologies and advanced RF component designs that Benchmark customers integrate into their products.

How Do We Do It?

The equipment in the facility is state-of-the-industry, but a few key pieces, like the automated plating line, laser direct imager, and the double-sided "lights out" SMT line, are particularly unique. This combination cannot be found anywhere else in North America.

The SMT line design is unique to Benchmark Phoenix, incorporating factory 4.0 smart automation, Automated Optical Inspection, two-sided assembly, and several other technologies that allow for lights-out production of very complex PCBs.

Phoenix one partner solution

Even with some of the industry's best equipment, our people are our most valuable resource. Anyone can buy good machines, but finding and cultivating talent requires commitment. Site leadership believes that being flexible is essential when employees are giving their all. There are training programs with local community colleges to make more technical positions available to those who start in logistics roles. We work with Arizona State University and Grand Canyon University on student projects and internships, always cultivating the next generation of engineering talent in Arizona. We have hired many of these talented young engineers.

To successfully integrate engineering and manufacturing, the site uses a unique matrixed organizational structure. Jon Opalski is the General Manager of the microelectronics and circuit fabrication operation, and Bill Smith is the General Manager of the SMT and final assembly operation. Daniel Everitt, VP of Benchmark Lark Technology, and his team work with customers early in the design process to identify solutions. The Chief Technology Officer and VP of Global Operations share ownership of the site due to its emphasis on cutting-edge technology and high-reliability electronics that demand operational excellence.

The Proof is in the Results

Although Benchmark Phoenix is new, we have already worked with several customers to design and build innovative products. We helped one innovative aerospace company to address challenges in building sophisticated new satellites and built critical sub-systems. We collaborated with several defense companies to solve high-frequency RF and SWaP-C challenges using VDHI circuit boards with features such as one mil lines and traces, very complex topologies, and board constructions up to 32 layers thick. We have also designed and fabricated RF bandpass filters for 5G millimeter wave frequencies (around 28 GHz) for telecommunications leaders.micro-e inspection

Today's grand opening of Benchmark Phoenix is an important day for all us, marking the transition from vision to reality of this unique facility. Implementation of this vision is two years in the making, and we couldn't be prouder of the result. We look forward to sharing it with our customers now and in the future!

Want to learn how Benchmark Phoenix can help you innovate and get to market faster? Contact us today!

Manufacturing Defense NextGen Telco Commercial Aerospace Benchmark Lark Technology

about the author

Jon Opalski & Bill Smith

Jon Opalski is the General Manager of the Benchmark Lark Technology, RF, and High-Speed Design Center of Innovation at Benchmark Phoenix. Before joining Benchmark, Jon spent his career overseeing both engineering and operations in numerous RF and Microwave Technology companies in both the Aerospace & Defense and Commercial Wireless Sectors. Jon holds a BSEE from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Bill Smith is the General Manager of the Benchmark Phoenix location. Before joining Benchmark, Bill spent the majority of his career managing and directing operations for a variety of industry-leading electronics, manufacturing, and logistics organizations. Bill holds a BA in Business Administration from the University of Florida.