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Additive Manufacturing for Radio Frequency Antennas, Waveguides, and Connectors on Flexible Substrates



OBJECTIVE: Characterize additive manufactured Radio Frequency (RF) antennas and wave guides to determine their signal loss relative to additively printed conductors and to determine the effects of voids within the materials on RF performance.

DESCRIPTION: This topic seeks to characterize the RF performance of additively manufactured antennas and wave guides with additively printed conductors on various flexible substrate types.As part of this characterization effort, RF performance effects of void densities and sizes within the materials will be established.To develop consistently capable RF additive printed electronics, characterization of various material sets are needed.Flexible electronics usage in RF applications can be very beneficial to both government and commercial applications, since they may be lightweight, lower cost, and provide comparable performance.The antenna and wave guide performance will vary with the frequency range for which it was designed, power handling requirements, the material types, and voids induced in the production process.Currently, the capabilities of various printed material and substrate combinations are not well defined.Also, the voids induced by the different deposition methods will have an effect on RF performance, but these effects are not well understood in relation to void density and size.To characterize the additive materials used for the antennas and waveguides, the printed conductors, and various flexible substrates, the government desires multiple test coupons to be manufactured for each of the following RF bands: L, S, C, X, and Ku.The proposer should develop a nondestructive process to establish void sizes and densities within the antennas, waveguides, and conductors.Each of the samples should then be characterized for RF signal performance for the bands stated above at 1W, 25W, and 50W.Environmental tests consisting of thermal cycling, vibration, and flexure should be conducted at -40°C, 25°C, and 125°C on the samples and compared to the baseline results.

PHASE I: Down select material types to be used for the antennas and waveguides, conductors, and flexible substrates.Establish material set combinations to be used for the characterization efforts and sample sizes needed for each material set.Design test coupons for antennas and waveguides at L, S, C, X, and Ku RF band center frequencies.Develop a nondestructive process to establish void sizes and densities for each material set.Develop a test plan for baseline characterizations and environmental tests, as well as acceptable changes in performance.Perform verification of the nondestructive void measurement process and the characterization plan for a representative test coupon.

PHASE II: Produce test coupons in quantities established in Phase I.Determine void sizes and densities in the material sets test coupons.Conduct a characterization test plan on all test coupons at -40°C, 25°C, and 125°C with power levels of 1W, 25W, and 50W.Produce a report summarizing test results.

PHASE III: Construct/Print additive manufactured Radio Frequency (RF) antenna(s) and wave guides on flexible substrate(s) for missile defense applications based on Phase II characterization and environmental test results to verify optimum material set performance for the program application.

KEYWORDS: Radio Frequency, Additive, Flexible Substrate


1.“Volumetric 3D-printed antennas, manufactured via selective polymer metallization” “Printable Materials for the Realization of High Performance RF Components: Challenges and Opportunities”.

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