SpaceTechExpo Exhibitor Spotlight
In the latest Exhibitor Spotlight, Space Tech Expo spoke to Alan Anderson, General Manager at Dow-Key Microwave. We discussed the growing trend of creating smaller satellites, their brand-new surface-mount, PC board switch and Space Tech Expo.
Dow-Key Microwave (DKM), the largest US supplier of space qualified coaxial and waveguide switches since 1970. DKM designs, fabricates and test all integrated assemblies and individual switches in Ventura, CA. DKM operates under ISO 9001/AS9100 certification, and its an approved supplier for NASA and ESA.
Alan’s background is in mechanical engineering. He has worked in the aerospace industry for approximately 15 years, and prior to that worked in the aircraft industry. He has been working at Dow-Key Microwave for the past seven years, in manufacturing, quality, and now as General Manager.
Which customer or market demands were the biggest drivers of your company’s growth during the past three years?
We experienced a large increase in our backlog on space products. Those space products comprise high-power coax switches, waveguide switches and also some low-power coax switches.
Do you anticipate that those demands will continue to be your biggest growth drivers for the next three years, or are you anticipating new trends?
We are focusing our growth in areas adjacent to that. Recurring orders for high-power switches that we’ve enjoyed over the last three years have slowed down. Some of the government programs have also slowed down on their placement of government orders, so we are going after more commercial applications, small devices, lower power requirements, as well as more standardized commercial space products.
What are your areas of R&D focus, and what timeline do you anticipate for bringing your next new products to market? Can you tell us anything about those products?
Glad you asked! We have brand-new surface-mount, PC board switch that is being introduced into space applications – it’s our 509H. It is currently available and offers a frequency up to 8GHz, and we believe it is going to have a lot of other applications beyond the current installation that it has right now. Furthermore, in research and development are additional extensions of the 509H offering different frequencies. In addition to that, we have some other waveguide and coax switch developments that we are working on right now.
What new trends do you anticipate and what market demands do you see evolving/changing over the next five years?
Smaller satellites seem to be the trend, which takes away some of the requirements for redundancies. There are still going to be applications for switches, but those requirements are going to be smaller packages, and we are designing our products to align with those demands.
What would you say are the key challenges and opportunities currently faced by the industry?
Challenges continue to be lead times, and the cost of some of the high requirements on screening for our space applications. As we transition into some more commercialized products, the input from SpaceX and OneWeb – programs that are driving to a more commercial product – will challenge some of the constraints that the space industry has and suppliers have built up over the years.
What is your company’s approach to strategic partnerships or joint ventures, and what kinds of partnerships are you most open to exploring?
As a part of MPG, we have filter companies that are in the same industry as us, participating in space applications, and we are looking to partner more with our MPG sister companies to maximize the opportunities that we have available to us. For those areas in which we do not have components or other key parts of the RF chain, we are interested in partnering with other suppliers to add on to the offerings that MPG currently has.
What products will you be featuring at the show this year and what response are you expecting?
We will be exhibiting our 509H miniature mechanical switch. It is our key design item currently and we expect to get a lot of interest and opportunities from it.
Why are you exhibiting and what connections do you hope to make there?
Dow-Key is exhibiting because it gives us the ability to market our products and services, including showcasing that we are a key, relevant supplier in the design and manufacturing industry. We hope to continue networking with current partners. And for those prospective partners interested in learning more about Dow-Key, this is a key time to stop by and visit.