Exhibitor Spotlight: Ross Bannatyne, Director of Marketing, VORAGO Technologies.
Ahead of exhibiting at Space Tech Expo 2018, we spoke to Ross Bannatyne, Director of Marketing at VORAGO Technologies about upcoming industry trends, the greatest challenges the space industry is currently facing and networking at the upcoming show.
Ross has spent over 25 years in the semiconductor industry based in Silicon Glen (Scotland), Silicon Valley, and Silicon Hills (Austin). In this time, Ross has worked in a variety of engineering, marketing, and management roles. Ross has published a popular textbook on programming microprocessors and an automotive electronics systems book. During the course of his career, Ross has helped create dozens of successful integrated circuits that have combined sales in the hundreds of millions. He is now leveraging that knowledge of commercial electronics to make chips for aerospace that are better, faster, and cheaper.
Which customer or market demands were the biggest drivers of your company's growth during the past three years?
The growth in ‘new space’ has been very timely for VORAGO. There is a demand within this customer group to increase the likelihood of mission success by using strategic components that are radiation hardened, but affordable. VORAGO take a different approach to hardening chips by leveraging commercial manufacturing and IP. We can turn around state-of-the-art designs quicker and more cost-effectively than has been achieved in the past. This model is perfect for new space.
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?
The growth will continue as the expectation for mission success of low-cost small satellites increases. A few years ago, folks accepted that many small satellites would fail because they were being created inexpensively. Now there is a lot of focus on how to best allocate the dollars in the budget to strategically spend a bit more on the components that can significantly reduce risk of failure. Fortunately for VORAGO, many developers are arriving at the conclusion that spending less than $1,000 on a rock-solid radiation hardened microcontroller is a good trade-off.
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?
We have been working hard on our next-generation microcontroller that uses a more powerful processor and is more highly integrated than our current products. The chip uses our HARDSIL technology that enables us to harden the chips against the effects of space radiation, but at the same time manufacture them in commercial wafer foundries. This means we can create space-grade chips more inexpensively than conventional approaches (that typically require boutique manufacturing or inefficient design techniques).
What new trends do you anticipate and what market demands do you see evolving/changing over the next five years?
Traditional trends in aerospace and semiconductors have actually been quite similar in nature. A reduction in size, power consumption, and cost have been driving factors in both industries. All systems now rely on an ever-increasing amount of software to be developed. In order to develop and qualify new systems quickly in the future, it will be necessary to re-use as much of this software as possible. We also see more and more functionality being squeezed into the standard CubeSat form factors – this means that electronics and connectors must be miniaturized as much as possible and don’t forget power-consumption optimization!
What would you say are the key challenges and opportunities currently faced by the industry?
From an electronics perspective, we are arriving at an equilibrium between the conventional space approach and the new space approach. The conventional approach was for designers to select electronic components from a pool of expensive legacy devices that were created using specialist means. The new space approach was to throw caution to the wind a bit and use commercial off-the-shelf chips. I believe in leveraging the best of the commercial approach (the high-quality, low-cost manufacturing and state-of-the-art IP) and keeping with the parts of the conventional recipe that have proved effective for aerospace for many years (low variability, traceability, proper testing and qualification, etc.). Getting this balance right with optimized electronics will reduce project budgets and optimize mission assurance.
What is your company's approach to strategic partnerships or joint ventures, and what kinds of partnerships are you most open to exploring?
We have partnered successfully with many companies and agencies on different types of projects. We have worked on many successful small business innovation research projects and are currently engaged in projects with both the Department of Defence and NASA. We have licensed our HARDSIL technology to other semiconductor vendors who have created space-grade products based upon it and we have created system-level designs using radiation-hardened solutions. One of the biggest opportunities that we see for partnering is to improve security of supply for developers who are currently using chips that are becoming difficult to source (because they have been obsoleted for whatever reason). VORAGO can either redesign a rad-hard substitute chip or port the existing rad-hard design to a commercial fab to be manufactured using HARDSIL.
What products will you be featuring at the show this year and what response are you expecting?
We are featuring our radiation-hardened integrated circuits, technology, and solutions for space. This is our first year at Space Tech Expo, so we are very excited to be here. I’m also honored to have a speaking slot on Wednesday, May 23 at the Open Tech Forum. I will present the session ‘Cost-effective component solutions to radiation harden low-budget smallsats’ at 10:05am. We hope that we will open up minds to new ideas and new technologies that may help people solve their problems..
Why are you exhibiting and what connections do you hope to make there?
We enjoy meeting our existing customers and hope to meet new customers by exhibiting. Almost everything useful that we learn comes from a direct face-to-face customer conversation. We’re looking forward to spending quality time talking to the interesting folks that attend the exhibits. I’m also looking forward to the conference to listen to the speakers and learn more about industry trends and the challenges that are being faced.
VORAGO Technologies will be exhibiting at Space Tech Expo 2018 at Booth 4016.