Additive Manufacturing of Radio Frequency Systems

SI2 Technologies, Inc. is leveraging its experience with RF design and additive manufacturing (AM) to design, 3D-print, and range-test novel phased array antennas and related systems. Our team is developing printed, high-efficiency phased arrays operating at DoD-relevant frequencies. These electronically-steerable phased arrays have no moving parts (increasing long-term reliability) and can survive the failure of individual array elements with manageable performance degradation. Conventional methods of manufacturing arrays with complex architectures can be costly, whereas SI2’s additively manufactured arrays are well-suited for size-, weight-, power-, and cost-constrained applications. In the past, the integration of multiple material classes (e.g., dielectrics and electrical conductors) into a single AM build has been a challenge due to materials and processing incompatibilities. We detail how to overcome these challenges by 1) utilizing a 3D printer that can print FDM filaments, print conductive pastes, and mill surfaces and 2) optimizing the chemistries between dissimilar materials. We will include trade studies to identify the best printing technique or combination of techniques to meet the DoD’s phased array performance goals. This approach minimizes production costs, array volume, and thermal management issues, and maximizes array efficiency. We will detail the considerable experience with printed electronics, phased array antenna design, and phased array antenna fabrication and testing. Commercial applications for these arrays include low cost antennas and arrays for weather monitoring, air traffic control, maritime vessel traffic control, and vehicle speed detection for law enforcement. An overview of AM phased array work will be presented.

Learning Objectives:

  • Describe how to build a 3D printed array using multiple techniques.
  • Describe how the printing process affects the performance of the array.
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