Mini-Circuits’ facility in Deer Park, Long Island has been the company’s largest shipping and logistics hub and home to a branch of the Sales team since 1994 when Mini-Circuits acquired it. Incidentally, late Founder and CEO, Harvey Kaylie had worked in the same building early in his career while working as an engineer for Airborne Instruments Laboratory. In that way, the Deer Park location has always been symbolic of how far Mini-Circuits has come since Kaylie started it from his kitchen table in 1968. For most of the 28 years the Deer Park office has operated under the Mini-Circuits banner, the building’s second floor was used for storage, but plans to expand the company’s high frequency design capability starting in 2019 would bring about a more exciting vision for the space.
Expansion of Mini-Circuits product line higher into the millimeter-wave frequency range has become a key part of the company’s investment strategy. As high-frequency applications proliferate with the advent of 5G and eventually 6G wireless standards, the ability to innovate components at higher and higher frequency becomes essential to meeting market needs and driving growth. But that’s an undertaking easier said than done. Beyond the sophisticated (and costly) equipment and design tools required to even get started, there are only so many professionals in the world with the specific skills required to design and build the kind of products Mini-Circuits needs to compete at the forefront of the high-frequency market.
“We needed a facility where we could attract the best talent,” says Mini-Circuits President, Ted Heil. “Long Island has a strong ecosystem of RF and microwave companies dating back to World War II, and that made Deer Park a clear target for our new location because of the talent-rich environment.”
The road from vision to reality turned out to be longer than expected when the project sailed right into the storm of COVID-19 soon after its inception. William Keri, a project manager working in the President’s Office managed the extensive renovation of the facility’s second floor from start to finish.
According to Keri, “We were supposed to kick off major construction going into 2020, but everything became slower and more difficult – getting permits from the town, getting contractors, engineers and architects to the site for meetings, rising construction material costs. These are all complications when you’re trying to plan a construction project.”
Despite the unfavorable environment, the project pushed ahead, tapping the skills of Mini-Circuits’ own Facilities team to accelerate construction when contractor availability threatened to stall progress. After two-and-a-half years of persistence and maneuvering around obstacle after obstacle, the certificate of occupancy for the new space was issued in May, and a ribbon cutting ceremony and celebration was held June 7 to mark the official completion of the Deer Park Technology Center.
When asked about his favorite feature of the space, Keri was especially fond of the windows, which were added to the structure specifically for this project. “There’s a great sunset and sunrise here every day,” he said.
The 10,000 square-foot, open-concept floorplan also features extra-large workstations for team members, common meeting space and a fully-stocked kitchen and lunch area, and that’s before getting into the extensive technical capabilities of the lab.
Director of Engineering, Michael Ciardullo, who leads the Deer Park engineering team said, “This is a big accomplishment for Mini-Circuits and the team here is very excited to be part of it. With the completion of this lab, we have full capability for design, testing and microelectronic assembly, which really takes us to the next level in terms of high-frequency products.”
A 3,500-square-foot class 100k cleanroom environment occupies the center of the space, enclosed behind quarter-inch glass walls. Members enter the cleanroom through an airlock and must be outfitted with full-length ESD-safe lab coats, gloves and protective head- and foot-coverings to prevent contamination with dust or other foreign objects. The HVAC system is designed with a special air handler and filter to eliminate contaminants from the air in the controlled area – not easy equipment to come by amidst the pandemic when demand for air filtration exploded, says Keri.
Looking into the cleanroom environment at the Deer Park Technology Center.
The lab is equipped with a full suite of state-of-the-art test equipment as well as a micro-assembly production line, allowing small-run production of the amplifiers and other parts designed at the center. “We have the equipment for bare die epoxy attachment as well as both ball and wedge wirebonding,” says Ciardullo. “We have not only the process development capability for these assembly techniques, but also the process verification and QA procedures to support them.”
The new team at Deer Park has already put the tools at their disposal to good use with several exciting product releases including amplifiers that have extended the range of the product line to 95 GHz as well as switches, variable attenuators, power detectors and other connectorized components in the millimeter-wave range.
“There was a time when it seemed like 40 GHz was the end of the world for us,” says Heil. “But as we recruited the team, we realized we could push the envelope further than we ever dreamed. Now we’re approaching 110 GHz, and that gives us new relevance two generations down the road on the wireless front.”
As impressive as the facility is, the talent that calls it home is the driving force behind the innovations coming out of the lab. Ciardullo has recruited an impressive cohort of team members, some transferring from other parts of the company and others joining Mini-Circuits for the first time, and they’re quickly establishing themselves as a powerhouse in the high-frequency realm.
The Deer Park Engineering team reviews a new design.
Vice President of Engineering, Joe Merenda comments, “This was a big investment and a necessary tool to properly address the high-frequency market, but it’s the people that make it a Mini-Circuits facility. The team we have here is wonderful. It’s the exact combination of talent and character we want for our organization.”
Merenda was quick to add that it takes more than engineers to make an operation like the Deer Park Technology Center successful. The team also consists of dedicated project managers and program managers, test technicians, assembly and kitting operators. “It’s mindboggling when you think about the resources that went into making this happen,” he says.
Several members of Harvey Kaylie’s family attended the ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening of the new facility with the team. Standing outside the pristine glass of the cleanroom enclosure, Chairwoman of the Board and Harvey Kaylie’s daughter, Alicia Kaylie Yacoby remarked, “This is what it’s all about. Mini-Circuits’ philosophy is about always moving forward and continuing to improve, and I see this as a key milestone on that journey. If HK were here today, I know he would be giving a big thumbs up. He’d be so full of pride.”
The new facility features full capabilities for design, test and production of high frequency products to 110 GHz and beyond.