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A Costa Rican plant for advanced component manufacturing

The electronic system development supply chain that has become increasingly diverse and global, with components provided from various regions around the world. This comes with several challenges including variability in supply and demand, geopolitical tensions and unforeseen events that may lead to delays, increased costs and supply chain inefficiencies. The rapid pace of technological innovation may also reduce the lifespan of electronic products, requiring constant evolution. Regardless of the source of electronic parts and components, the only way to ensure reliability and safety of electronic products is by meeting and exceeding quality standards – a feat that not every manufacturer can guarantee.

Figure 1. The facility has over 33,700 square feet of manufacturing space with over 150 employees to maintain their presence and customer focus. Source: Smiths Interconnect
Figure 1. The facility has over 33,700 square feet of manufacturing space with over 150 employees to maintain their presence and customer focus.

Why Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is the fifth largest Central American country with a population of almost five million. Traditionally, the country’s major exports have been agriculture goods, such as coffee, sugar cane, pineapples and bananas; however, since the 1990s, manufacturing has made major in-roads into their economy. Specifically, numerous companies have established facilities for manufacturing electronics, aerospace systems and medical devices in Costa Rica. These products are shipped throughout the Americas and all over the world.

Several factors have led to Costa Rica’s growing manufacturing sector. These include a highly educated and trained workforce, with one of the highest literacy rates in the Americas. This is enabled by the country’s commitment to primary and secondary education, and the establishment of numerous public and private universities. Costa Rica therefore has high availability of skilled engineers, technicians, assemblers and operators within their manufacturing facilities.

Costa Rica has a stable political and economic environment where the government has consistently provided a favorable import and export climate. In fact, the government has obtained numerous preferential trade agreements with its trading partners that include a large majority of the country’s foreign trade. This has led to a low cost of doing business, lower taxes and tariffs and lower cost of operations, which results in lower prices and higher profit margins for manufacturers.

More recently, the Chips and Science Act of 2022 is an attempt by the US Government to source critical semiconductor products domestically and in friendly regions that are in close proximity to the US. Since Costa Rica hosts the region’s only Intel semiconductor assembly and test plant, electronics manufacturers in Costa Rica may enjoy a significant economic advantage.

Finally, Costa Rica is geographically located between North and South America, and has ports on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. This ensures direct connectivity and a global reach by truck, rail, ship or air to large markets in North and South America, Europe and Asia. This ensures availability of goods and services with uninterrupted supply chains.

The plant and its people

The Smiths Interconnect Costa Rica manufacturing facility is located near the capital city and major population center of San Jose. This enables Smiths to draw upon a large skilled workforce that is trained in nearby schools and universities.

Smiths also provides goods and services to numerous local companies that have nearby facilities for manufacturing of electronics systems and components, aerospace systems and medical devices. This centralized location is close to the International Airport and East and West Coast shipping ports, providing easy access to receive raw materials and ship finished products.

The Smiths facility has over 33,700 square feet of manufacturing space with over 150 full-time employees. Manufacturing operations have been recently upgraded by conversion from manual to semi-automated operations using the latest robotic technology. These robots are used for many purposes including assembly, testing, soldering and inspection. Robotic technology has many advantages including increased productivity, faster throughput, lower costs, higher quality and improved safety; all of which benefit customers and development partners.

Figure 2. A hi-reliability burn area where parts are subject to simulated life conditions under power. Source: Smiths Interconnect
Figure 2. A hi-reliability burn area where parts are subject to simulated life conditions under power.

Smiths’ facility offers several different specialties such as high reliability testing and manufacturing services, thin and thick film wafer processing, plating, tape and reel, J-STD solder assembly and automation. The facility and its manufacturing processes have been certified to AS 9100D and ISO 9001:2015 for quality, ISO 45001:2018 for safety and ISO 14001:2015 for environmental assurance.

A number of high-profile programs use Smiths’ Costa Rica components. For example, the Frontier Mars Rover uses the Thermopad, the Indian Chandrayaan-3s Moon Lander has both the Thermopad and LabFlex T cables and the F-35 Lightning military aircraft features radar system attenuators.

Products and capabilities

The Smiths Interconnect Costa Rica plant is known for a producing a wide range of electronic components and is working towards the implementation of a semiconductor manufacturing and assembly capability. Current products include the following.

Figure 3. Smiths Interconnect operator verifying the results of a screen print. Source: Smiths Interconnect
Figure 3. Smiths Interconnect operator verifying the results of a screen print. 

Resistive components

These include resistors, terminations and attenuators. They have the highest power-to-size ratio resistive products utilizing CVD Diamond, which is the best thermal conductor on Earth.


Smiths’ terminators designed are integrated into isolators to stand alone components. Loads, terminations and attenuators conjure images of assemblies used in applications with impressive RF power levels.

Fixed and temperature variable attenuators

The Thermopad is a great example of an attenuator that is a completely passive, easy to implement solution for gain compensation designed specifically for demanding, high reliability applications.

Coaxial attenuators

Smith Interconnect is the world leader in fixed attenuators from DC through Q band. These are available in a low power chip package and a 0.250 sq high power BeO package. The input power ratings range from 0.1 W to 120 W. The attenuation values range from 0 dB to 20 dB with 30 dB available on some devices. The terminals are made with thick or thin film material.

Signal distribution devices

Power dividers, samplers and crossovers come in a wide variety of products to support signal distribution applications up to 50 GHz. They are surface-mountable for ease of installation, have a small footprint and are RoHS compliant.

Semi-rigid and flexible cable assemblies

These cables are space qualified and available with a copper or aluminum jacket, with different platings and four different diameters (.047 inches, .085 inches, .141 inches and .250 inches). High frequency RF cable assemblies are available with a wide variety of flexible and semi-rigid cable types with space orbit qualifications and are well-suited for satellite payloads (GEO/MEO and LEO constellations), deep space probes, ground antenna networks and space robotic systems.

Space grade cable assemblies

Assembles like the SpaceNXT QT series offer improved phase stability over a wide range of temperatures found in space environments while meeting all NASA/ESA outgassing specifications. It is equipped with ETFE radiation resistant jacket materials. This combination enables customers enjoy the benefits of lower cost of ownership while improving system performance.

Smiths Interconnect

Smiths Interconnect is a worldwide leading provider of technically differentiated electronic products and components in the aerospace and defense industries. Our products provide exceptional performance whenever a technologically advanced, high-quality solution is required to ensure reliability and safety. Smiths’ in-house capabilities encompass design, development, manufacturing and testing to anticipate market needs, respond quickly and accurately to customers and provide the most reliable connectivity solutions.

Question or Comment?

The Costa Rica plant has been operating for over 25 years but is only one of many presences worldwide.

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