Electronics 3D printing, half 4: 3D printing antennas the way forward for communication? – 3DPrint.com
It’s ironic that something designed and manufactured to receive and send information has been talked about as disproportionately as the antenna is in 3D printing. Millions of 3D printed antennas have been made. It’s one of our greatest success stories in 3D printing, but this application is rarely discussed. 3D printed antennas are a very important part of some countries’ communication, espionage, security and defense instruments. In these cases too, it probably makes a lot of sense that there are many whispers but few press releases.
Again, this article can only generalize about these applications. We can’t discuss most of the cool things in 3D printing. This has always been the problem, but even the publicly released information hasn’t gotten the reception it deserves in this case. You will likely be surprised to see, for example, that the mobile phone currently in your hand may have a 3D printed antenna. While I usually try to pour water on hype flames, now I’m trying to put a sung application in the spotlight.
Lite-On is a large contract manufacturing and engineering organization. For many years Optomec’s aerosol jet systems have been used to 3D print antennas, including cell phones. It’s also one of the biggest customization cases in the world as these antennas are printed differently depending on the region or network. Optomec was able to discuss this case study in 2016 and publish a whitepaper in 2017, but … grilling. It was also announced that the phones, skillfully mounted on their purpose-built movement stages (shown below), were made for major brands. By the way, Lite-On is one of the 200 largest Apple suppliers.
In this type of five or six axis 3D printing and jet solution, we are printing on a contoured object or moving the object frequently while the head remains more or less stationary. In some cases we can just create a plane and then 2D print a part on a motion system. The ability of this system to add material to an existing part is key to the success of antenna 3D printing. Optimize reception; RF signal in that particular part, case, or case; or material consumption; The ability to place an antenna in a specific location and take up less space makes this a very valuable application. It also makes it a solution that fits into the existing supply chain rather than a standalone box with problems that promise magic and live outside the supply chain.
NScrypt’s multi-head tool exchange system can also 3D print electronics and antennas. The above and below parts of nScrypt show examples of antennas printed on cellphone cases and tablets. nScrypt can do this in a number of ways through inkjet, aerosoljet, or microdispensing over a range of viscosities, materials, and target materials. The US Air Force uses nScrypt to make tunable radio frequency filters. With these the antenna can switch between different frequencies if they are congested or not available. This article deepens the comparison of 3D printed high frequency filters with conventional filters. NASA also uses the company for high temperature tracks for use on Venus.
The Israeli company PV Nanocell is working on highly productive applications in circuit printing. The company is committed to bringing the price of printed circuits down while researching 3D printed LIDAR and RADAR parts and powering the Internet of Things.
Two US companies worked together to develop a radar and antenna array for HALE (Long Endurance) drones at high altitude.
“Optisys has developed a single array that combines multiple horns, waveguide combiners, mounting structures, and thermal features. The Optisys array reduces the parts required for the aperture by 94% and reduces enough space and weight required for the radar system to allow the radar to integrate into HALE platforms that previously could not support radar sensors. The low-loss 3D aluminum array also enables an additional reduction in system power requirements to improve the life of the mission. “
Another Israeli company, NanoDimension, targets the defense community in part through the ability of its Dragonfly system to print antennas. The company recently unveiled an antenna for US (military) communications giant Harris Corp. The RF amplifier was found to work fine. It is rare for such a part to be mentioned publicly.
Another Israeli company, XJet, is now able to 3D print 5G ceramic antennas to connect our world.
The Israeli company Nanofabrica uses its Tera 250 system to manufacture tiny metal and ceramic antennas. When I was in Israel the phone reception was fine so I have no idea why so many Israeli companies are working on 3D printed antennas – but it’s great to see.
The French space agency Anywaves spin-off also uses ceramic 3D printing, but this time for space RF antennas. These are 3D printed using 3DCeram technology.
The Swiss start-up Swissto12 has raised over 18 million US dollars for 3D-printed antenna components for space.
Over the years we have reported many stories of Ka, Ku and many other ribbons of 3D printed RF and other antennas worldwide. It is a rapidly developing space for communication. It’s clear that 3D-printed antennas are a great way to receive data and send it to satellites. With so many new communication options like Starlink and so many options for navigation, internet services, and location services, this could be a very exciting field.
Since our industry can also 3D print antennas for millions of cellphones, this could be a serious application too. But what I’m most happy about is the IoT connectivity. In my eyes it is also the least safe. However, if we have to attach sensors, batteries, and antennas to many things in order to let them communicate with the world, the 3D printed antennas could be the device that connects our future.