Catching Up with HSIO’s James Rathburn


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I have interviewed James Rathburn a number of times in the past few years and he always has something new to say. One of the industry’s leading technology inventors, Jim is always finding himself on the cutting edge of our technology. The recent acquisition of the former HEI operation in Tempe, Arizona exemplifies the path his company, HSIO, is taking towards a goal of being the industry’s true technology leader.

I caught up with Jim recently to talk about his company, the acquisition, and where they're going from here.

Dan Beaulieu: Jim, good talking with you again. Last year we talked about your new LCP PCB technology and now we are here to discuss the recent acquisition.

Jim Rathburn: Thank you, Dan. During our last interview, we discussed our LCP circuit technology developments as we were in the process of absorbing test socket products acquired in the previous R&D Interconnect Solutions asset acquisition and establishing production availability of our high-performance interconnect products. I am proud to say that HSIO is staged to be the industry leader with performance-tuned circuits and socket products with fine geometries and production support infrastructure for our chosen market segments.

Beaulieu: Let’s go over a little history before we talk about this new purchase. What is your background?

Rathburn: My background is mechanical engineering with a focus on product development and manufacturing experience. I was fortunate to enter the electrical interconnect world with focus on high-performance, system-level design as an onsite supplier with IBM. I subsequently held positions with Johnstech International, founder of Gryphics, Inc., Cascade Microtech [who acquired Gryphics], and I’m the founder and President of HSIO.

Beaulieu: When did you start HSIO and what is the purpose and mission of the company?

Rathburn: The purpose of HSIO was to create unique technology to provide high-speed performance at every point in the signal path. Previous experience with the connector and socket industry revealed that no matter how good the connector or socket was electrically, the package substrate and PCB connecting components for the entire system were emerging bottle necks and degrading performance. HSIO was established to provide technology to enable signal integrity at very fine geometries from silicon, all the way to the outside world. We have created underlying IP as well as developed the manufacturing capability and refined design rules to enable real-world production of very high performance not available with conventional methods.

Beaulieu: How have things been going with the LCP technology since we last talked?

Rathburn:  We believe LCP technology is the future of circuit design and manufacturing for high performance and density. We have developed the manufacturing processes and design rules with great success, and are in the process of enabling production. The Tempe acquisition was largely due to excellent results with LCP validation conducted during the transaction process, with soon to be implemented production capability. Historically, LCP has been viewed as expensive and difficult to process but our unique approach to manufacturing has demonstrated excellent capability and we will invest significant resources and capital to enable cost effective production with performance and impedance tuned geometry not available with conventional circuit production.

We have taken advantage of the low dielectric constant, low-loss near hermetic implantable nature of LCP and figured out ways to create high aspect ratio traces with full metal vias completely surrounded with common dielectric constant material in a multi-layer format that provides 1–2% impedance tuning and geometries down to 12 micron. Our unique approach to manufacturing for circuits leverages conventional processes, but overcomes the historical challenges of working with LCP vs. polyimide based circuit fabrication and we apply those principles to flex, rigid-flex, and rigid PCB or package substrate applications as well.

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