About Rack and Stack Systems

I started this business after retiring from FEI Microwave, formerly TRW Microwave, formerly Aertech (the FSCM/CAGE number 21847 stayed the same).  The name comes from the  the Rack and Stack form factor of the great majority of the automated systems that I designed and built.

Education

Foothill College     AA     1962
San Jose State     BSEE   1964
San Jose State    MSEE    1965 specializing in both Computer science and microwave electronics (project on Tunnel Diodes)

History

Prior to starting Rack and Stack Systems one of many hats I wore working in the microwave electronics industry was automated test system integrator.  Starting with the HP 80 series desktop calculators (called that to facilitate sales to government contractors that had stiffer rules for buying "computers").  These systems took a while to sell to management because the manual method was for an operator to sit in front of a Tektronix 575 Curve Tracer and look through a microscope at a manual probe tip touching one of hundreds of diodes.  The test time was very fast for a single station.  But there were a number of stations that each diode needed to go through.  By combining a source of DC voltage and DC current with DC current and voltage measuring capability the total test time could be reduced.  By adding coaxial switching and an HP LCR meter the time could be reduced by quite a bit.

Other versions of these systems were built using HP 9816 computers and HP Rocky Mountain Basic (called Basic version 2 and 3 at that time).  We also got a system working that allowed probing beam lead diodes after they had been etched apart but while they were still held on a glass slide with wax.  The ink used to mark the bad diodes must survive the de-waxing operation in order for someone to throw them away.  This testing only made economic sense if there was a special requirement for a very tight specification.  For production parts the test cost at this stage was higher then the cost to test later and throw away packaged parts.

At another company I had been proceeded by someone who was a good "C" programmer but did know microwave engineering.  He had built a system at considerable cost to test microwave detectors.  It turns out that the VSWR (Voltage Standing Wave Ratio) of his test system was so high that the error caused by the detector interacting with his test system made the data almost worthless.  This system caused a lot of problems and poisoned management on automated test systems.  I took me a while before they would let me build more systems.

Rack and Stack Systems was started in 1993 as a consulting firm specializing in test automation.  The programing languages supported were HP Rocky Mountain Basic for Workstations, HP IBasic for Windows, TansEra HT Basic and LabVIEW.  Most of the jobs so far have been cases where the customer has the hardware and is doing some testing already either manually or by means of obsolete computers.

I purchased the developers version of LabVIEW from National Instruments and after going through the tutorial took their LabVIEW class.  After about a year of writing drivers for a Wiltron scalar microwave network analyzer and communicating with the driver developers at NI, I became a Certified Instrument Driver Developer.  I also joined the National Instruments Alliance Program.

Experience

Over 30 years experience building systems for Semiconductor, Component, and Subsystem test at DC through Microwave frequencies qualifies us to provide cost effective test solutions.  The last three years have been devoted to using the LabVIEW graphical programming language by National Instruments.  Rack and Stack Systems is both an Alliance member and a Certified Instrument Driver Developer. Extensive experience with RF & microwave instruments, semiconductor back equipment, LCR meters, and impedance analyzers.

In addition I have many years experience designing diode and transistor based microwave components.  At first this was done using a slotted line and Smith Charts.  Later we used the HP 8410A network analyzer system and software that I wrote using the new S-Parameters.

References

Excellent references from very satisfied customers available upon request.

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