Site: Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd
Central Research Laboratories
3-4 Hikaridai, Seika, Soraku, Kyoto, 619-0237
Date Visited: 31 May 1999
WTEC Attendees: D. Friday (report author), M. Iskander, L. Katehi, H. Morishita
Hosts: Dr. Osamu Yamazaki, Director, Central Research
Dr. Tomoki Uwano, General Manager, Central Research Laboratories
The following three participants in the Kyoto meeting are from the
Matsushita, Osaka site,
Device Engineering Development Center, 1006 Kadoma, Kadoma City, Osaka, 571-8501, Japan:
Dr. Eng. Toshio Ishizaki, Senior Staff
Engineer, Communication Devices Group
Koichi Ogawa, Manager, Communication Devices Group
Hiroaki Kosugi, Manager, Communications Devices Group
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. is a large, 80-year-old corporation with a diverse range of products and a complex domestic and international network of subsidiaries. The corporate headquarters is located in Osaka, and the company and its brand names are generally known outside of Japan as Panasonic, National, Technics, and Quasar. Sales in 1998 totaled $70 billion. Matsushita's research programs are equally diverse and the wireless communications programs of the Central Research Laboratory near Kyoto are just one component of a more expansive program. The company?s forward looking corporate research and development programs are located in four divisions, the Corporate Research Division, the Corporate Development Division, the Corporate Semiconductor Development Division, and the Corporate Production Engineering Division. The WTEC panel visited the Matsushita Central Research Laboratories?(CRL), one of three laboratories under the Corporate Research Division. Another Corporate Research and Development branch, focused on wireless technology, is the Matsushita Research Institute Tokyo (MRIT), Inc. MRIT, which is under Matsushita Engineering Limited (MEI), was also visited by WTEC and its work is described in a separate site report. The Tokyo Communications Systems Laboratory,?referred to during the CRL visit, is assumed to be either MRIT or a part of MRIT. Lighting research, multimedia, optical data storage, document technology, and automotive electronics were some of the other activities. The WTEC panel was fortunate to be hosted by Dr. Yamazaki, the Director, and Dr. Uwano, the General Manager of the Central Research Laboratories.
Matsushita added value to the panel's visit and accommodated its limited time schedule by having three senior managers from the Communications Devices Group of the Device Engineering Development Center in Osaka, a branch of the Corporate Development Division, travel to the CRL site, to participate in the WTEC meeting. Their participation was appreciated and provided much relevant information.
Professor Katehi presented a very brief overview of the WTEC Panel, its objectives, the process by which the final report would be developed and reviewed, and the fact that the final report would be made available to Matsushita and all of the hosts. The Matsushita presentations began with a brief overview by Dr. Yamazaki in which he described the corporate structure and its research component. The Matsushita Corporation employs a total of about 20,000 engineers. Corporate sales worldwide total about $70 billion. The total Corporate Research and Development investment each year is approximately $700 million, and 3000 people are on the staff. Of these, approximately 2000 are engineers of whom about 200 are in the Corporate Research Division. Some of the research is carried out under joint industry-government cooperation. No information was provided on the nature of this cooperation. The Central Research Laboratory consisted of 50 people. Matsushita also has more than 10 information technology research laboratories overseas.
The hosts presented a vision of a highly competitive company, operating in a rapidly evolving wireless technology world, where the horizon is close and the main challenges are to identify and achieve the key technological advances necessary to manufacture and market competitive wireless products a few years in the future. This view was essentially consistent with all of the European and Japanese sites visited and with the presentations of the U.S.-based companies.
Dr. Uwano then provided an overview of current technical challenges and programs and the lab's vision of the main current issues in wireless technology. The main challenges are in two areas of mobile wireless technology: compact base stations and smaller card-sized handsets.
The compact base station challenges were classified into three areas: microcell stations, multicarrier power amplifiers, and optical fiber network links. The most important underlying base-station hardware issues that Matsushita CRL was addressing were performance improvements and cost reductions for antennas, low-distortion power amplifiers, notch filters, RF-optical modules, GaAs FETs, and SiC devices.
The main compact handset challenges were identified as smaller and lower-profile RF components, higher performance built-in antennas, component and handset designs for integrated electromagnetic compatibility, and the one-chip RF-inclusive IC. The specific hardware challenges engineers were addressing were lower power consumption, higher performance electronics, innovative new concepts for small antennas, HBT, high dielectric-constant ceramics, and improved SiGe device technology. Handsets have been steadily reducing in volume from 600 ml in 1986 to near 50 ml today. The component sizes have been reducing likewise, primarily the power amplifiers, antenna-duplexers, synthesizers, VCOs, TCXOs, etc. A chart presented, using volume as a measure of progress, showed the current size-limits of these components to be approximately 0.1 ml. Matsushita is focusing on innovation and continuous incremental advances in design and fabrication to push these technologies, reduce size and cost, and maintain its competitive position.
Dr. Eng. Toshio Ishizaki, from the Communications Devices Group, described in detail a concept for filter design that Matsushita is using, the laminated planar filter. The filter consists of a 9-layer planar complex geometry of alternating conductive and dielectric planes, having a sharper roll-off on the low end (or high end) than conventional filters, a reasonable rejection ratio (up to >40 dB), flexibility in design for various applications, and, most important, a significant reduction in volume. The Q is approximately 200. Researchers developed the necessary asymmetric elliptic function theory and techniques for laminating the ceramics and have implemented several filter designs. The stated size reduction was to one twentieth of a conventional filter, or approximately 4.5 x 3.2 x 2.0 mm. Matsushita researchers also told the WTEC panel that their next objective was to use this laminated planar technology to develop the world's smallest dielectric duplexer. Their target volume here is 0.08 cc. The immediate application that Matsushita has for this technology is for laminated, band rejection, dual-band, and balanced input-output filters, from 800 MHz to 5 GHz, for super compact IMT2000 and GSM dual-mode phones. A typical portable phone will have a total of 6 IF and bandpass filters as well as the duplexer.
Researchers also continue to work on performance improvements and cost reductions for GaAs MMICs and modules for both base and mobile applications. With regard to the mobile wireless stated previously, Matsushita is developing super-linear GaAs, MOS power amplifiers for W-CDMA base stations. The underlying principle is a feed-forward linearization control design that effects cancellation of the nonlinear distortion. Matsushita's experimental data showed a 15 to 20 dB improvement in the height of a multi-carrier, 64-code W-CDMA spectral plateau.
Koichi Ogawa, also from the Communications Devices Group, described in detail some antenna and RF-circuit programs. He described a stacked switched-beam mm-wave sector antenna where each layer consisted of two back-to-back antennas each with a 60 degree beamwidth. Three such layers, appropriately aligned and semiconductor switched, provide 360º coverage. The 7 dBi inherent gain is reduced to approximately 4 dB, because of a 3 dB PIN diode loss and a 0.5 dB loss for the cylinder. The design prevents shadowing between the separate beams and, likely, frequency reuse.
He also described a GaAs 25 GHz 2 stage DRO oscillator based on a dielectric constant of 32. The present goal is to achieve a Q of 50 - 60,000 for cellular frequencies, but not millimeter wave bands for now. He said new materials are needed to achieve these goals.
He briefly described a 50 GHz antenna intended for mobile TV and video transmissions. It has a 40 cm case, uses MMIC technology, and has a gain of 42 dBi. The signal can reach 20 km with clear skies. Earlier related work at Matsushita was on the Strategic Defense Initiative (the so-called U.S. Star Wars?program). This work was stopped and it is now restarting, but is directed toward Multimedia Mobile Access (MMAC).
Hiroaki Kosugi, from the Communications Devices Group, and Dr. Ishizaki described some of their RF-circuit technology programs. They are exploring a very broad range of possible technologies in pursuit of the ultra-small, low-cost, high-performance one-chip RF-IC including GaAs MMICs, SiGe, Bi-CMOS, CMOS, GaN, SiC, and flip-chip. They are targeting 0.05 cc volumes for power amps, VCOs etc. They see linearity for Class A/B amplifiers as an important issue. They summarized RF design as a filter problem, and the 1 to 5 GHz band as the largest market area. Problems with GaAs remain: the yield is not great, there are environmental issues, and costs. Researchers see GaN on Si Carbon for high power as a promising technology. There are problems with non-uniformity, however, that have to be addressed. SiGe is looking promising for low-power ICs.
Although base stations are an important part of the Matsushita market niche and the company's research and development programs, there are no programs in High Temperature Superconductor (HTS) filter technology for base station applications. Matsushita formerly had an HTS program for base station filters but a corporate decision canceled it. Reasons for this decision included reliability concerns, the emergence of competing technologies that are closing in on HTS performance gains, inadequate models, inter-modulation problems, and cost. However, Matsushita personnel are watching the evolution of HTS technology and are prepared to restart the HTS-base station program if, at some time in the future, performance and reliability issues warrant doing so.
When asked about their plans for LMDS, Matsushita personnel said that they saw little future in Japan for LMDS technology since the country is so well wired. However this was somewhat in contrast to a communication network architecture slide shown (with fixed high-bandwidth wireless channels), and some of the mm-wave hardware projects that indicated that broadband wireless access (both fixed and mobile) is clearly going to be a component of future high-bandwidth communication links. It may be that they interpreted the LMDS question in a very narrow sense and with broad application or were implying there would be less use for it in Japan than in Matsushita's overseas markets.
While research directed toward future technologies remains critically important, choosing a winner?among possible future technologies is becoming more difficult. The rate of evolution of technologies, markets, and ideas is such that it may no longer be reasonable to think in terms of 10 or 15 year plans, except for very general goals. In fact five years may be pushing limits for planning of current programs in directed research, development, and manufacturing. Two to three years in the future appears more realistic. This was the message from Matsushita, as well as other sites visited.
With respect to wireless technology, the technical hurdles to make everything smaller, less costly, more versatile, and better (in performance) are the prime challenges for Matsushita. SiGe and GaN and advanced Si technologies seem promising. Matsushita is not betting on HTS for base stations. Improved materials present a very critical issue for all aspects of wireless technology. New advanced materials are needed, such as high dielectric constant ceramics with low losses and no temperature dependence, for example. Low dielectric constant films for passivation layers, low cost-effective shielding materials for EMC, and frequency agile materials for tuning are other materials requirements. Packaging materials are also critical to cost and performance. Matsushita personnel concluded with the assertion that they would rather have low distortion devices than software radio. High speed A-to-D is costly, and computation and software reconfigurability cost in power consumption. They said that the future is in semiconductor technology, whichever system technology or technologies survive. Improvements in filters, packaging, and interconnect technology are also important challenges. Piezo-ceramic materials and electro-optical devices are two technologies they are exploring for potential new directions and technology leaps. Diversity in systems and components is also a competitiveness criterion that they target. They see high-quality adaptive antennas and RF circuits, both for mobile and fixed applications as a future requirement. On-demand bandwidth changes and multiple antennas in handsets, laptops, and base stations for spatial and frequency diversity are also a part of this vision. They also talked about potential handset diversity requirements and adaptive network architectures that could at the extreme include terrestrial as well as LEO, MEO, and HEO satellite links. They don't see a strong need for Bluetooth technology for LANs in houses. They briefly mentioned the need for better propagation models for new environments (such as indoor and urban) and for higher frequencies in these environments.
In summary, the Matsushita CRL focus is on RF and antenna hardware aspects of wireless technology, and primary research is directed toward incremental and innovative advances in RF circuits, materials, devices, antennas, fabrication, and semiconductor technologies.