TYPICAL LEAD TIMES
3D printing allows for quick lead times for our RF products. We can typically design a part and have a functional prototype in 6 - 8 weeks. Changing the design or adding features are very easy and we can re-print the product in a couple days. For example, changing the interface type (waveguide, coaxial, etc) or location, or modifying mounting features to accommodate a design change.
The surface finish of 3D metal printed waveguide has higher roughness than a polished metal surface. This leads to slightly more loss per length, which is partially overcome by the significantly reduced total length. This means that by letting us design multiple antenna components into a single part, we can reduce the total loss of all the parts combined, resulting in less loss at the system level compared to standard manufacturing practices.
Another major reason for lower loss on our systems is the removal of seams on the internal walls of waveguides in a typical CNC-machined waveguide part. These seams actually add a significant contribution to the loss of the part.
Surfaces that need to be polished can be tooled to create a smooth finish.
Here is a good article.
Our 3D printing process can maintain the tight tolerances necessary for operation of low-loss RF components up to 110 GHz, with high part-to-part precision. This allows for high consistency from one printed part to the next. We will design, test, and verify the RF performance of the 3D printed parts we fabricate so that you know every system will work.
We can 3D print any standard RF components for your system. Including: Diplexers, Filters, Phase shifters, Waveguides, Tees, Combiners, Couplers, Polarizers, Feeds, etc. It is better to design a combined system of these pieces without creating unnecessary seams that effect RF performance.
MATERIAL PROPERTIES 3D printed metal will have virtually the same properties as a solid piece of the same material for RF performance. Structurally, they have been tested in rigorous vibration environments and can be designed to withstand them as well as any other metal.
A 3D printed object is not porous, it is a solid. It can be tooled to a smooth finish if needed.
We can print in multiple metals including: Aluminium, titanium, stainless steel, hardened tool steel, and cobalt chrome. We prefer to use aluminium on most of the antenna products because it is light weight, corrosion resistant, and has good strength for shock and vibration.
The Coefficient of Thermal Expansion (CTE) will also be the same as with wrought metals resulting in better stability over temperature than plastic RF components.
BEST USES FOR 3D METAL PRINTING
Increasing system performance.
Integrating multiple parts.
Reduce touch labor for assembly and rework.
Great for high mix/low volume products like custom antennas.
No tooling needed for design iterations.
Great for qualification or MVP (Minimum Viable Product) validation.
Design flexibility allows for shapes that are impossible with another process.
Parts that are not available because of DMS (diminished vendor sourcing).
Reducing inventory costs by only printing what is needed.
Thermal dissipation designed into objects (Forced convection, natural convection, conduction, and radiation).
Designing parts specifically for 3D printing currently is best from 1 GHz to 110 GHz.
One key advantage of 3D metal printing is "SWaP" (Size, Weight, and Power) reduction. We will design your system to greatly reduce the number of components, connections, waveguide length, and weight of the system. We can print virtually any internal or external geometries without needing to cut the product into multiple parts. For example, we designed a four port monopulse comparator in a single printed component which weighed 12 ounces. A representative part made from machining/braising/casting would weigh 2 to 7 pounds and require 10 to 20 waveguide pieces. This link is an example of a brazed monopulse comparator.
COST SAVINGS with 3D METAL PRINTING
Reduce non-recurring costs
Less engineering time with highly customized designs.
Reduce time by implementing Design For Manufacturability/Assembly (DFMA) into the product.
Reduce recurring costs
Reduce part count reduces assembly and rework.
Easy to add features to existing design.
Lower testing, maintenance, and service for fewer parts.
Design for ease of assembly.
Reduce extremely expensive processes such as EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining).
Lower inventory costs.
Weight reduction lowers the systems costs, the system can use smaller components.