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(Image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Microsemi Buys Surface Acoustic Wave Filter Manufacturer

Last year, Microsemi sold its custom electronics and RF businesses for $300 million to Mercury Systems, which sells parts for satellites and missile guidance systems. Now it is restocking its defense business with parts that sort signals by frequency.

On Thursday, the Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based company said that it had acquired Photon Corporation, which designs custom surface acoustic wave filters – more commonly known as SAW filters – for applications like military radar and jam-resistant satellite communications.

These parts complement Microsemi's existing business in diodes, transistors, and power amplifiers for the aerospace and defense markets. Microsemi also sells mixed-signal and programmable chips hardened against radiation for satellite applications to many of the same contractors that buy from Photon, which is named after a unit of vibration energy.

Rick Goerner, Microsemi’s executive vice president of worldwide marketing and sales, announced the deal in an email to customers viewed by Microwaves & RF. Phonon, which is based in Simsbury, Conn., also builds modules using own delay lines, correlators, and oscillators.

Among the company's products are band pass filters, which sell for up to a dollar in cell phones, a hundred in wireless infrastructure, and a thousand in military applications like those of Phonon's customers. Phonon estimates that space and defense customers account for 3% of all SAW filter sales, which total around $2 billion per year.  

It also sells so-called dispersive filters, which change the delay uniformly across the pass band. That effect can be used to increase the range of military radars, for instance, or improve the resolution of military surveillance receivers. These parts typically cost up to ten thousand dollars.

Around 85% of Phonon's sales are custom modules that contain at least one of its components. To design and fabricate these parts used in waveform generators for radar and demodulators for military communications, costs up to a hundred thousand dollars, Phonon says on its website.

Founded in 1982, Phonon is privately held. But the company reported that its revenue was around $15 million in 2009, the same year that it started a major expansion of its manufacturing plant. Thomas Martin, Phonon's president and founder, said at the time that the company aimed to double its revenues by 2014.

Microsemi did not say how much it paid in the deal.

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