Research Duo Uses Simulation and PLA to Make Lightweight 3D Printed Antenna Prototype
While most 3D printed antennas are made with metal, two researchers from Turkey’s Yasar University recently completed a study about using PLA material to make a 3D printed conical corrugated horn antenna, which is used to feed reflector antennas in direct broadcast satellite (DBS) systems. The paper, titled “The Prototype of a Wideband Ku-Band Conical Corrugated Horn Antenna with 3-D Printing Technology,” discusses the researchers’ design, production, and verification of a prototype antenna fabricated with FDM 3D printing and nickel conductive aerosol painting.
Typically, conical corrugated horn antennas are used in dual or circular polarization applications, like satellite communication, and are made up of four main sections: input (feed) waveguide, transition, corrugated profile (mode converter), and the antenna aperture; however, this prototype only has three.
The interior surface slots and teeth in this type of antenna work as a feed for reflectors in remote sensing systems and satellites, due to its “directivity and gain as well as low cross-polarization level, low side and back lobe levels and good return loss value.”
Because they are made up of complex geometric shapes, you need a highly precise manufacturing process to make these. CNC and CCM machines are used most often, but they’re expensive and take a long time, which is why some people choose to use FDM 3D printing.
This antenna was specifically designed to operate within wideband between 10.5 and 18.5 GHz, so it can cover both the general RX band (10.5-12.75 GHz) and TX band (17.3-18.4 GHz) in DBS communications and the TX/RX bands of 10.7-12.75 GHz and 13.75-14.5 GHz in telecommand and telemetry satellite applications. Simulations within CST Microwave Studio 2017 were used to optimize these dimensions, first using Perfect Electric Conductor (PEC) material to make the process faster, and then with dielectric PLA and the nickel conductive aerosol paint coating.
An Ultimaker 2+ was used to manufacture the antenna prototype out of PLA, which is easier, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly to print than ABS. A 0.4 mm nozzle was used to apply 0.2 mm layers, with 50% infill, at 50 mm/second, which took about 23 hours.
The performances – directivity, radiation patterns, realized gain, and return loss – of the antenna were measured. Additionally, the researchers compared the cost, production cost, and weight of the antenna when made with 3D printed PLA and nickel, and one made out of aluminum with CNC-based milling.
Not surprisingly, the research shows that the 3D printed prototype takes less time and money to make, and is also more lightweight.
Co-authors of the paper are M. E. Carkaci & M. Secmen.
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March 29, 2019 at 01:21AM