Interview with Anthony Turvey, Director of High Speed IC Design at ElevATE
Interviewer: How did you end up in the ATE industry?
Anthony: “Probably like many people, I never had any actual plans to work in this industry. In graduate school I studied solid-state physics and device engineering, concentrating on photonic devices such as blue LEDs and semiconductor lasers. I thought I was going to run off and do device engineering or some type of photonics work. But my long standing interests in analog electronics grew stronger during these university years.
My research was supported by the Boston University Center for Space Physics where many of their space based experiments required sophisticated optical sensors and associated data acquisition electronics which was embedded into research sounding rockets and a university satellite. I was being exposed to precision analog electronics and instrumentation for something that seemed incredibly interesting.
Post-graduation, I joined Analog Devices. Given my affinity to instrumentation, analog design, and its tie to semiconductor devices when integrated on a monolithic die, it seemed a natural fit for me. Initially two job options were open. One of those opportunities was working with CMOS technology and motor drivers to control appliances like washing machines. That offer didn’t appeal much at all, to be honest.
The second opportunity was developing high speed Pin Electronics (PE) for ATE which was something quite unfamiliar to me at the time. Being intrigued by the high speed and instrumentation nature of that opportunity, it felt right. So, I ended up choosing the ATE path. And I never left that path.”
Interviewer: “Have you worked with CMOS during your studies or professional experiences?”
Anthony: “Yes, of course. Part of my graduate research was designing buried channel CCD imagers for these space based experiments I described. And the data acquisition was all done with integrated CMOS circuits that I developed. When I joined Analog Devices and started working on PE designs for ATE, we used mainly complementary bipolar processes. BiCMOS processes, combining bipolar and CMOS, weren’t commonly available at that time, which was very limiting. Using high-power bipolar stages for logic was very fast but not at all suited for scalable digital content not to mention IP reuse. Introducing CMOS capability together with bipolar technology was transformative, allowing us to finally integrate DACs, calibration algorithms, and all sorts of digital content that was previously prohibitive. Going forward, it’s important to recognize that today’s semiconductor industry is overwhelmingly driven by advances in CMOS process technology, so I believe it is very important for those of us in the ATE industry to leverage that progress and find ways to develop ATE solutions within that ever advancing CMOS.”
Interviewer: “So, bipolar has its place, especially for high-speed tasks, but CMOS is more prevalent because of scalability and research behind it?”
Anthony: “Yes, absolutely. Bipolar and silicon-germanium bipolar are incredibly valuable for high-speed requirements. And frankly, I personally find designing with it a lot more comfortable and fun. But the extensive R&D and progress being made with CMOS technology cannot be ignored or wished away. It’s vital that we learn to evolve with it. There are clear benefits to CMOS such as availability, scalability, as well as effective incorporation and reuse of complex IP.”
Interviewer: “What are the challenges of creating a high-speed CMOS product?”
Anthony: “The push for speed often means lower voltage. As devices get faster, voltages drop. That’s fundamental. And there is less mainstream demand in the broader industry for a mix of high speed and high voltage on any particular wafer process. But in ATE, we have unique challenges. Clients sometimes want instruments that cover a variety of technologies, from high-speed, low voltage to slower speed but high voltage. In the context of PE, by ‘high voltage’ I mean voltages like 3.3V or 5V, which comprise many legacy products that will be with us for many years still and those products need test coverage.”
Interviewer: “So, it’s about balancing the mainstream process technology offerings of the industry with the unique needs of your specific field.”
Anthony: “Exactly. While we need to embrace and leverage mainstream industry process technology trends, our job is also to continue serving the diverse requirements of our ATE customers. So, we need to find process technology advantages whereever we can and put them to work. As an ATE semiconductor manufacturer, our emphasis lies in establishing and maintaining a market presence through meeting these unique customer needs while at the same time offering solutions with high-density and low power within process technology offerings that are available to us. CMOS process technology, with all its many advantages and disadvantages, does allow us to effectively compete in a market where low power, low cost, and high channel density are incredibly valuable to our customers.”
Working with Young Engineers at ElevATE
Anthony: “At ElevATE, I especially enjoy the dynamic of working with the young engineers. In a smaller company, the impact of that is immediate and clear. Larger companies offer such opportunities for sure, and I’ve been blessed to have had many of those opportunities. But the individuals’ contribution can often get lost.
Many young engineers haven’t been exposed to areas like ATE or integrated instrumentation design. As they learn how and why we design and measure things, their understanding deepens. They begin to abstract ideas into higher level concepts and move on to other interesting ideas. They begin to predict the next steps in their tasks and they become more efficient. They also begin to learn from one another, and the team gains critical mass to self sustain and compound this sort of growth. Of course, this drives productivity and that’s a good thing. But it also sparks creativity and innovation, not just in design but also in test and measurement, workflows, and building efficiency in all parts of a complex organization. And it makes a small company like ElevATE a fun place to work.
For me, it’s no longer just about designing chips. It’s about guiding people and building an efficient and productive organization. And watching the young engineers grow, develop, and find satisfaction in their work. ElevATE offers that opportunity in a way I haven’t experienced elsewhere.”
Interviewer: “What Projects are you working on now?”
Anthony: “I am currently working on a project called Rainier which is an eight channel high speed pin electronics solution, emphasizing power efficiency and high channel density. While we trail industry leaders in ATE like Analog Devices, I do believe Rainier fills a unique market gap due to its excellent power efficiency, high channel density, and competitive price.
We’re close to finalizing Rainier’s production mask set, and the product is set for a 2024 release. This product pushes the envelope with efficiency (cost, power, channel density) all while providing a very compelling 1.6Gbps integrated ATE PE solution.
In terms of future direction, my primary focus lies in high-speed PE. Following Rainier, we aim to increase both speed and channel density, keeping in mind our goal to achieve state-of-the-art power efficiency and cost. We recognize market demand for higher performance tiers from 2.5Gbps, 4.0Gbps, to possibly even 6.4Gbps. And there is much to do in the areas of UCIe and the MIPI PHY standards which are ever evolving and have become ubiquitous in all sorts of electronic products. As we explore these tiers and evolving physical interface standards, our goal remains to provide unique value, complementary to that of our competitors, especially in areas that may currently be underserved. High density and very low power test channels will remain crucial for our customers, and that’s where we have the ability to provide exceptional value and augment a healthy diversity in the ATE market.”
Interviewer: “Can you share more about your background, interests, and hobbies?”
Anthony: “I am originally from the Reno-Tahoe area but pursued my undergraduate and graduate studies at Boston University. After college, I served as a commissioned officer in the Army for four years during the time of the Persian Gulf War. At a fairly young age I was given a tremendous amount of responsibility to oversee the personal and professional well being of over 120 soldiers. This period ingrained in me many indelible lessons about responsibility, trust, leadership, and teamwork, and I feel this has had a profound influence on me which informs many of my leadership decisions today.
I eventually returned to New England and spent twenty years at Analog Devices, followed by a few years of independent contracting. Recently, however, I moved back to the Reno-Tahoe area, where my family resides, and this affords me the opportunity to spend time with family after being on the east coast for over thirty years. It is only a short hop from Reno to San Diego where most of ElevATE’s engineering is headquartered. Living in Reno Tahoe and working in San Diego gives me the chance to spend a great deal of time outside in the beautiful areas of the Sierra where I hike, ski, and snowshoe. I’ve probably spent more time skiing in the last couple years than in all the rest of my previous years combined. It’s a great arrangement for me.
I also have an insatiable appetite for learning new things, especially about the various technologies that are changing the world we live in at such a breathtaking rate of change. I think that’s probably what has driven me most throughout my career. But as I occasionally wander away from analog electronics, I keep coming back. There’s something about it that seems to really touch closely on the way the world around us works, and I enjoy it profoundly.
I believe that’s also why I have an affinity for instrumentation. Instruments are tools that allow us to understand and see with better eyes the world around us. Whether it’s probing upper atmospheric weather at the edge of space or understanding the intricacies of a new semiconductor device, it’s all about learning something deeper about the mysteries of this world we live in.
What truly excites me recently is mentoring and developing this younger generation of engineers. I see ElevATE as their platform, their future. My role is to guide them, helping them understand the nuanced instrumentation market that we call ATE and ensuring both their success and the company’s success. It is incredibly satisfying to see the results of that effort continue to grow and compound into what has become a very competent and agile ATE engineering organization.
Looking forward, I really am excited about the investment ElevATE is making and the direction of product development. The emphasis on power efficiency and high-density solutions is precisely what the market wants. But beyond that, it’s the culture and the team that I find most fulfilling. Helping to shape and guide the next generation of engineers, ensuring they have the skills, the passion, and the vision to take on the ATE challenges of the future, that’s what has been getting me up in the morning.
In closing, I think it’s important to always seek balance. For me, that balance is to be found with family, with learning, with collaborative teamwork in the professional environment, and the occasional outdoor adventure in the Sierra Nevada mountains around Lake Tahoe. It’s about constantly studying, learning, growing, and striving to make positive a difference, not only in my personal life, but also in the world of instrumentation and in the lives of the people I work with.”