Thomas Edison invented the circuit breaker back in 1897, and not much has changed with this technology since then, says Russ Garcia, the CEO of Menlo Micro. That’s why the company, which spun off from GE Ventures in 2016, rose to the challenge of essentially reinventing the wheel.
But in this case, Menlo Micro is aiming to reinvent something that over forty other firms have failed to do so over the last two decades: innovate the most basic of all electronic components, the electric switch.
Following roughly twelve years of MEMS research at General Electric, Chris Keimel and Chris Giovanniello co-founded Menlo Micro with the goal of bringing to market a reliable “ideal switch.” Now the firm has raised $44 million in a Series B funding round led by 40 North Ventures alongside other major capital groups to support volume production of its Ideal Switch IP.
What Makes the “Ideal Switch?”
In an interview following the funding round, Garcia said, “This is a major milestone for Menlo Micro and the deployment of the Ideal Switch, which we firmly believe to be the most important technological innovation in the electronics industry since the transistor.”
Ideal Switch is said to eliminate the compromises of today’s electromechanical relays and solid-state switches, solving the challenge that companies have been trying to address for over four decades.
A Menlo Micro RF MEMS switch. Image used courtesy of Menlo Micro
Menlo Micro says the technology combines electromechanical and solid-state switches to enable a 99% or more reduction in key system-level metrics including performance, size, weight, power consumption, and cost to several industries including industrial IoT, consumer electronics, medical, telecommunications, and defense.
According to Menlo Micro, these reductions will bring significant improvements in the transition to 5G, reducing losses, improving efficiency, and supporting the deployment of new frequency bands. Additionally, they’ll also improve radio performance in communications networks and RF/microwave switching with applications in Wi-Fi, radio, satellite, and 5G cell networks.
Reinventing the Electronic Switch
“What we have done is reinvented the electronic switch,” added Garcia.
According to a Menlo Micro press release, a demo module has been produced with 200 V 10 A DC relays, multiple beams, and a 25 W 20 GHz switch with a smaller number of switches. With that, the company guarantees three billion cycles as a minimum that will be increased to “10, 20bn cycles” through the next year.
Animation of the Ideal Switch. Image used courtesy of Menlo Micro
“We have characterization models that the contact structures and the metals we use show most go to 20bn cycles. This really solves the compromise between solid-state and electromechanical as we use far less energy to run on than an IGBT.”
Enabling Volume Production and Accelerating Expansion
According to Chris Giovanniello, one of the co-founders and senior vice president at Menlo Micro, a majority of the funding will be used to enable high-volume, cost-effective production of more than 100,000 units per month by the end of the year, increasing to millions per month in 2021.
Giovanniello also said part of the $44 million in funding will be used to expand the company’s talent pool with opportunities immediately available for both design and reliability engineers, and to help the company accelerate its expansion into new markets over the next few years, including industrial IoT, home automation, electric vehicles, medical instrumentation, and quantum computing.
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