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

Posted by Janine Hueners on Tue, Oct 01, 2013 @ 07:10 AM

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. 

Topics: 3800 die bonder, wire bonders, die bonders, 8000i Wire Bonder, 3500 Die Bonder, 6500 die bonder, large area bonder, high precision die attach, Hughes Aircraft