Harris and ICAMR Work to Boost Innovative Manufacturing
By Mike Weatherspoon and TomWells
Everyone is pretty connected these days, with home networks hosting mobile phones, computers, tablets and even refrigerators and washing machines.
But imagine you need to connect a few more devices at once – like 50 billion. That’s one of the lofty goals of the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research, or ICAMR, located in Kissimmee.
Harris Corporation was the first industry partner to join the consortium and is sponsoring ICAMR’s first research project. It is a natural partnership that plays into Harris’ dedication of generating innovative technology in many forms.
ICAMR’s goal is to develop new ways of manufacturing high-tech materials and equipment to allow companies like Harris to go even further with its advanced technology. According to industry analysts, nearly 23 billion devices are connected today, and Cisco predicts that number to double by 2020 – just four years from now. ICAMR’s initial target of high-growth technologies will focus on those many devices being connected by sensors at the beginning of the next decade.
The project Harris is backing focuses on developing a roadmap for 3-D circuits that can interconnect one million signals – far above today’s capabilities – using traditional semiconductor manufacturing processes. This could lead to advanced miniaturization abilities and smaller, lighter sensors and computing modules with higher memory bandwidth and higher resolution. Think of all the computing power we carry around in our pockets these days and multiply it.
In addition to financial support, Harris is supporting ICAMR on the technology side with closely aligned research goals. Harris technology development is looking to a future where interconnected devices with thousands of signals are at the heart of next-generation sensors, field-programmable gate arrays and other things that drive computing ability. These could be the electronic brains of the next great Harris product.
ICAMR is a unique partnership that bridges Harris with universities – the University of Central Florida, Florida International University, the University of South Florida and the University of Florida – and regional groups including the Florida High Tech Corridor and the Orlando Economic Development Commission. Osceola County hosts the effort, which also includes the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, and IMEC, the Belgian inter-university microelectronics center that researches nanoelectronics and digital technology.
Established in 2014, ICAMR focuses on the novel materials that are needed to advance device performance and produce next-generation electronics on silicon wafers for sensors and other high-tech products, like emitters, modulators, energy and communications systems. While very technical, these items are all around us in the electronic devices we use every day.
ICAMR has identified many opportunities for research based on the idea that the next big market explosion will involve semiconductor-based technology. Namely, smart sensors. Very soon, these advanced devices will be dominant in consumer products, according to the consortium, and fuel growth and technology advances across the industrial spectrum.
Think of the “Internet of things,” the concept that everyday items will one day all be connected online. The only way to achieve the potential for this is to outfit everything with smart sensors, and they have to be smarter than they are today.
In addition to consumer products – those refrigerators and washing machines – the applications for smart sensor technology will apply to agriculture, biomedicine, environmental sciences, energy production, communications, health care, transportation and nanotechnology.
And then there is Harris’ sector, aerospace and defense.
In Brevard County, Harris designs and produces some of the most advanced platforms and components that end up in space. Harris is the world leader in a technology called hosted payloads, which is a system that allows a satellite that is already produced for one purpose to add a second (or third) capability; an extraterrestrial multitasker. Items that go into space have unique requirements. They have to be strong and powerful, yet light and small. In a hosted payload, they have to be even lighter and smaller in most cases. Sensors that are smaller and more powerful would fit right into this type of technology.
These needs abound in aerospace, whether for spacecraft, fighter jets or radio antennas.
Harris has a long legacy of innovation, including a history in Central Florida that goes back to the dawn of the space age. We are excited to continue this tradition with ICAMR and look forward to billions of more connections in the future.
Mike Weatherspoon is senior technologist in the Microelectronics Core Technology Center and Tom Wells is university research manager, both in Harris’s Space and Intelligence Systems business segment in Palm Bay.