Catching up with... HSIO Technologies President James Rathburn

Dan Beaulieu | 11-05-2018

I love innovative companies and keeping up with what they are doing. One of the most creative and innovative companies in our industry is HSIO Technologies, founded by entrepreneur and inventor James Rathburn. Based in Maple Grove, Minnesota, this company stays at the cutting edge of the electronics industry’s technology. Leveraging extensive interconnect device knowledge with proven semiconductor fabrication, printed circuit fabrication, and microelectronic assembly processes enables them to quickly develop cost-effective, high-performance interconnect solutions across a wide variety of form factors. I checked in with Jim recently to see what he and his team are up to and learned how they are using liquid crystal polymers and other materials to focus on increasing high-speed and high-density PCBs for uses in all markets.

Dan Beaulieu: Jim, for the readers who might not be familiar with HSIO, tell us a little bit about it.

James Rathburn: I founded the company in 2010 and launched it with an investment from partners from a previous company called Gryphics Inc., which we sold in 2007. The previous company produced high-performance test sockets for the semiconductor industry. The customer base was reaching a point where the signal integrity of the system PCB and package substrate were defeating the performance of the high-speed sockets. The plan was to create an integrated technology that would include high-speed printed circuits with low-loss connectors, to mate them. We started HSIO by going to our customer base and asking, “If you could have new technology developed, what would that be?” The common theme was that they needed finer lines and spaces. They also said that vias were killing their signals. So, from that came our charter at HSIO which was to come up with a new way to look at fabricating printed circuits with finer lines and spaces and signal integrity as the focus.

Beaulieu: What are some of the ways you are meeting those challenges, with respect to technology at HSIO?

Rathburn: We are in the process of commercializing a printed circuit technology we have developed utilizing liquid crystal polymer technology. The technology is not limited to LCP, and we can utilize conventional materials, but LCP is the focus for high-speed and highdensity. We developed the technology in our Minnesota and Arizona operations and have established a manufacturing relationship with Benchmark Electronics to scale production and support engineering and application development. Benchmark is launching full production with the RF High-Speed Design Center of Innovation, circuit fab, micro-electronics assembly, SMT assembly and test—all within the same process flow, all focused on next generation highspeed and RF technology needs. We are very proud to be part of this effort, which has never been done this way in the EMS industry. We work directly with the Lark RF Technology subsidiary of Benchmark, and Daniel Everitt, Benchmark’s VP and GM of Lark, will be presenting at the upcoming EDICon conference in October.

Beaulieu: Why did you choose to go in this direction?

Rathburn: The original development plan was to create a circuit-plus-socket technology family with tuned performance for the semiconductor test customer. Historically, the chip producer tests the device to make sure it will function properly in the final system. Typically, the signal integrity requirements for test have been much more stringent than actual system use to make sure everything in the system works together. As system performance and complexity has evolved, in many cases it is no longer good enough to test outside of the actual usage model. This development has evolved further to the point where many end systems need to have the performance previously needed only at test. Our technology can provide the best performance in both test and commercial markets. In the end, the purpose of the technology is to provide a new way of designing and fabricating high-performance printed circuits with high-density.

To read the full version of this article which originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.