Hughes Aircraft: Pioneering High-Reliability Microelectronic Assembly Equipment & Processes

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Hughes Aircraft: Pioneering High-Reliability Microelectronic Assembly Equipment & Processes


Hughes Aircraft is one of America’s great iconic companies and arguably the pioneer of the avionics, aerospace and defense industry we know today. As a former division subsidiary,Howard Hughes, Hughes Aircraft, Palomar Technologies Palomar Technologies is proud to be a former division of Hughes and continues to build upon the early equipment innovation.  

It is difficult to pinpoint a company that has contributed more to early military, avionics, and satellite communications than Hughes Aircraft. Here are some highlighted facts about Hughes Aircraft: 

  • Employed more than 100,000 engineers and scientists
  • California’s largest industrial employer at the height of the Cold War (80,000+)
  • Developed the first LASER, aircraft computer, ion-propulsion engine (for space travel)
  • Built radar systems that could locate the source of incoming mortar fire
  • Manufactured tactical radios that could communicate under extremely difficult conditions
  • Designed and built the first soft landing on the moon (Surveyor Lunar aircraft)
  • Developed the first geosynchronous communications satellite – Syncon. This paved the way for the Applications Technology Satellite that was the first geosynchronous weather satellite. The ATS-1 and ATS-3 were in orbit for 25 years (the world’s longest orbiting satellites!)
  • Developed guided missiles, as well as missile and weapons guidance 
  • Demonstrated tactical communications satellite for military communications
  • Established the global INTELSAT system covering the 3 ocean regions
  • Boeing Co.'s sprawling 1-million-square-foot satellite manufacturing facility and Raytheon Co.'s 1.7-million-square-foot electronics enclave (both in Los Angeles, CA), were once pieces of the Hughes defense empire

In an LA Times article from 2010, Malcolm R. Currie, Hughes' chief executive from 1988 to 1992, stated "...if you look close enough, you can see that the company's [Hughes Aircraft] fingerprints are on some of the great technological breakthroughs of the last 50 years. To me, that's the company's legacy."

A vast amount of Hughes’ revolutionary work served to set the foundation for our modern day high tech world. Today, much of the Hughes Aircraft technology has been improved upon by its owners at Raytheon, Boeing, DirecTV, Delphi Automotive, and many others.

Turning to advanced packaging and assembly technologies, it was Hughes who pioneered high-reliability microelectronic assembly equipment and processes. The foundation for automated wire and die bonders began with Hughes engineers in the 1950s in developing the concept for using welding technology for interconnection of electronic connections. Early on, Hughes was its own customer. Like some device manufacturers today who have specific processes for which there is no available equipment on the market, the satellite communications, military, and medical divisions at Hughes required a specific kind of automated high-reliability, high-accuracy, high-precision wire and die attach machine. So, they developed it themselves to build their devices. Because of the success and later commercial need for this kind of precision bonding equipment, the Hughes Aircraft Industrial Products Division in the late 1970s established the Assembly and Test Products group. Out of this group came Hughes’s early 2000 series automated wire and wedge bonders, and later the 3000 series large work area die bonders. Thousands of 2460 Au wire bonders and 2470 Au wedge bonders were sold around the world throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The first 3500 large work area die bonders came to market in the early 1990s. 

Palomar Technologies products, wire bonders, wedge bonders, die bonders, Hughes Aircraft

In 1995, Palomar Technologies was formed through a buyout of Hughes Aircraft’s Industrial Product Division. The patents, products, technologies, scientists and engineers from Hughes became Palomar Technologies. While technologies and materials have much improved upon since the Hughes’ days, many fundamental manufacturing, design and engineering methods are still employed today. The 8000i high-reliability deep access Au wire bonder, 3800 high-accuracy large work area die bonder and 6500 ultra-high-accuracy die bonder have long storied histories that are the result of decades of precision process expertise. Palomar’s Assembly Service division performs contract assembly work using the Palomar bonders and decades of precision process expertise to help customers get into precision assembly production without the upfront investment of capital equipment. The result is a turnkey solution with multiple paths forward. Technology is fundamentally about meeting the demand to solving challenging problems using history, knowledge, reason, and creativity.

Learn more about our wire and die attach capabilities:

8000i Wire Bonder 
Data Sheet

8000i wire bonder, ball bumper, i2Gi

3800 Die Bonder 
Data Sheet

3800 Die Bonder Data Sheet

6500 Die Bonder 
Data Sheet

 6500 Die Bonder Data Sheet

Assembly Services 
Data Sheet 

Assembly Services data sheet


Hughes Aircraft Remembered (April 2005 issue of, Bruce Elbert, President, Application Technology Strategy, LLC, Raytheon Company and Hughes Electronics' Defense Business to Merge, Creating a $21 Billion Enterprise, Advanced Integrated Technologies, Inc.

Richard Hueners
Director of Sales and Marketing
Palomar Technologies, Inc. 


I like this article. I worked at Hughes Microelectronics in those early days and certainly concur with the statements regarding the development of the automated gold ball bonders. My experience at Hughes was one of the steps in my career in electronics packaging. I later became President of IMAPS and more recently was involved with the NASA Electronics Parts and Packaging Program. Today, I consult in the mitigation of counterfeit electronic parts (somewhat packaging-related), but this is article is indeed a great tribute and brings back memories. 
Phil Zulueta
Posted @ Tuesday, October 08, 2013 10:36 AM by Phil Zulueta
I also worked for Huges during that time. My assignments took me to most divisions of the company at one time or another. I visited Malibu, El Segundo, Fullerton, and Carlsbad. I was able to see a number of the 'firsts' by Huges, and I can think of several more one might include here. In fact, one could probably fill a book. Much of what is today's modern technology had it's start at Huges. As a young engineer there, I really did not grasp how significant what I was seeing really was. Looking back, it was quite an experience!
Posted @ Tuesday, October 08, 2013 4:28 PM by Jerry Carter
We supplied Hughes microelectronics facilities with de-lid and high-temp rework stations. What impressed me were Hughes employee morale, their willingness to innovate, and especially the respect and affection old-timers still had for founder "Uncle Howard" Hughes. He built a special company.
Posted @ Wednesday, October 09, 2013 6:17 AM by Ken Towl
Phil, Jerry, Ken,  
Thanks for your feedback on this blog posting. Hughes Aircraft is the single largest factor of the Palomar's technological, engineering, operational foundation today. Because of your support and the outpouring of interest in this blog, we intend to further share the incredible contributions by Hughes Aircraft in the coming months. Please stay tuned for a series tributes to iconic Hughes engineers and their contributions to modern advanced microelectronics.
Posted @ Thursday, October 10, 2013 2:48 AM by Rich Hueners
It is an achievement that will never be forgotten. The company has contributed a lot in history. It wouldn't be the same without their creative inventions and ideas.
Posted @ Friday, November 08, 2013 7:19 PM by Donald Anderson
Overall Hughes was a great place to work. They had great benefits, the work was fun and the pay was good. I learned a lot about digital module test over the years. I was treated well and enjoyed my co-workers. Hardest part of the job was paperwork. Best part of job was the work and the people.
Posted @ Friday, December 27, 2013 12:21 AM by Air Charter Service New York
Accomplishments not mentioned were the world's first large screen full-color high definition (HD) display, which was built at the Industrial Products Division, circa 1986. This display, labeled the "Model 2000", had a bright 2000 lumen full-color image on a 10-foot wide screen at 900 by 1600 pixel resolution at 60 Hz. It was decades ahead of any existing commercial technology-! The technological heart of this genre of display was the Hughes proprietary crystal light-valve developed at Hughes Research Lab. (Malibu) by Bill Bleha and his team.
Posted @ Thursday, January 09, 2014 10:06 AM by Gene Cross
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