Antenna Industry is Being Revolutionized Through the Simulation of Metal 3-D Printed Antennas

Recent advances in 3-D printing with metal have advanced to the point where antennas and RF components can be consistently fabricated with excellent performance in the millimeter wave frequencies. Optisys is a startup based in Utah that is focused on using the most advanced simulation tools to design antennas and radio-frequency (RF) components that could not have been fabricated a few years ago. The use of 3-D printing an antenna creates orders of magnitude reduction in size, weight, and lead time. These savings are enabled through a key partnership with the ANSYS Startup Program.

E-Field inside a compact hybrid HE11 horn.

A New Way to Design

Traditional RF engineering design involved a slow process of (1) hand calculation, (2) prototyping, (3) testing, and (4) manual tuning, followed by multiple iterations of steps 1 through 4 until the design met requirements. This process could take a year or more to reach a final design. The overall time to market was long and the antennas that were designed required a significant amount of tuning during each antenna build to pass functional testing.

In the last decade, both the design and fabrication have seen orders of magnitude improvement in accuracy and speed. Simulation software has improved to the point where the measurements of the first prototype match the simulations with stunning accuracy. Added to this, metal 3-D printing takes the model geometry from the simulation and puts a physical prototype on your desk within a couple days.

From Many, One

Optisys wanted to design an antenna that displays the true potential of modern fabrication methods. We designed the X-band SATCOM Integrated Tracking Array (XSITA) antenna by integrating the following components together into a single part:
1. Radiating element array
2. Circular polarizer with dual polarization (RHCP and LHCP)
3. Corporate feed network for each polarization
4. Dual-axis monopulse tracking comparator for each polarization
5. Elevation mechanical axis rocking arm with printed gears

 

 

The XSITA is an antenna in which over 100 different parts were distilled into a single printed antenna. Even the mechanical features for mounting and pointing the antenna in elevation are included in the part.

Using ANSYS HFSS, the full array can be designed in a tightly integrated single unit and verified for performance of the simultaneous monopulse patterns. Partnership with ANSYS in the Startup Program is a key enabler for Optisys to design the next generation of cutting edge antennas and RF components.