Original Post Date: Friday, November 7, 2014

We’ve recently completed a case study using TruePlanning for Microcircuits to examine the cost impacts of using newer technologies.  Recently, radar T/R module designers have begun substituting Gallium Nitride (GaN) substrates in place of Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) substrates in their designs.  GaN chips can handle significantly more power than GaAs chips, which enables significant performance benefits, while reducing the size/number of chips needed in each module.  But, are the newer GaN chips affordable?

The IC fabrication process for GaAs circuits is very similar to GaN circuits.  There are, however, some important differences between these two technologies that can have significant cost impacts, such as wafer material costs and yield.  Here is an example T/R module breakdown:

The two GaAs chips in this example that are likely to be replaced by GaN are the TX Power and RF Driver Amp chips, due to their high power requirements.  All other chips will remain the same.  Let’s take a look at their specs:

The full specs and cost estimate are available in the TruePlanning estimate file, for use in TruePlanning 14.1 or later.  Swapping out GaAs in favor of GaN and making the changes above, the model estimates a 12.7% increase in production cost for a lot of 30,000 modules.

This is certainly a feasible alternative, especially when considering the performance improvements with GaN.  For more detail, or to tailor this case study to match your own designs, check out the case study for yourself here.  In the meantime, PRICE will continue our research and modernization of our Microcircuits models, and we’ll be posting more case studies in the near future.