Affordable 3D Printed Phased Arrays
Navy STTR FY2014A - Topic N14A-T021
ONR - Steve Sullivan - steven.sullivan@navy.mil
Opens: March 5, 2014 - Closes: April 9, 2014 6:00am EST

N14A-T021 TITLE: Affordable 3D Printed Phased Arrays

TECHNOLOGY AREAS: Information Systems, Materials/Processes, Electronics

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PMW-170, Integrated Topside INP (Innovative Naval Prototype), SATVUL FNC

OBJECTIVE: To develop a low cost phased array technology enabled by 3D direct digital fabrication.

DESCRIPTION: The potential promise of 3D printing to manufacture a phased array antenna can dramatically reduce cost and enhance the mechanical, electrical and radio frequency (RF) performance through high precision dense integration. Current ink-jet printed techniques have been used to produce 2-dimentional antenna structures applicable for conformal surfaces and notably supporting the radio frequency identification (RFID) revolution. The ability to move to 3D printing offers novel interconnections, packaging, and embedded circuits supporting phase shifters, delay lines, filters and shaped RF characteristics. The intent is to build a multifunction 3D layer composed of low power functions such as phase shifting or true time delay, gain control, switching, low power amplification, filtering, interconnectivity, thermal management, and mechanical packaging.

The Navy will only fund proposals that are innovative, address R&D and involve a level of technical risk commensurate with desired cost/performance.

PHASE I: Develop initial concept design with tradeoffs, and model key elements. Include the 3D printing technology approach. Part of the design concept identifies instantiations of a single module, at the simplest level Rx-only, Tx-only, and Tx/Rx. Address inclusion method for non-printable large signal gain high power components. Identify critical design parameters associated with: S-parameter estimation, thermal performance estimation, packaging, losses and testability. Provide design for a single array element, a fabrication strategy and estimated cost/element, and testing approach of a steerable multi-element array.

PHASE II: Fabricate and characterize a prototype single element. Include design and simulated performance. Compare measured results to design goals and objectives. Define interfaces and integration to other components such as high power Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuits MMICs. Demonstrate a baseline performance and compare against simulated performance to assure repeatable quality control in both design and process. An objective is to develop a 2x2 array with beam forming demonstrated (C-, X-, or the Ku- band).

PHASE III: Produce a steerable array. Identify interfaces between 3D printed array and MMIC components. Address potential for integrating high power MMICs. Test and measure array performance under a variety of environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity, salt water spray, shock and vibration. Identify a strategy for scaling the array size and conformal instantiation. Address mounting, tuning and calibration to allow a possible limited operational demonstration on a platform. An objective is to develop a 4x4 array with both beam forming and steering demonstrated (C-, X- or the Ku- band).

Phase III outcome must also include a clear way-ahead approach and strategy to scale up manufacturing, which enables larger array sizes, varying shapes, and potentially conformal topologies for the Integrated Topside Innovative Naval Prototype program or the SATVUL Future Naval Capability. This could include tradeoffs of sub-array size with combining to achieve total array size/shape flexibility while maintaining low cost affordability.

PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL/DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: Successful development of 3-D printing RF devices directly benefits commercial wireless industry. Unforeseen benefits include micro-controllers, robotics, healthcare, smart devices, and transportation.

REFERENCES:
1. H. Subbaraman, et al., "Inkjet-Printed Two-Dimensional Phased Array Antenna on a Flexible Substrate", IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters., Vol.12, 2013.

2. L. Yang, et al., "A Novel Conformal RFID-enabled module utilizing ink-jet-printed antennas and carbon nanotubes for gas-detection applications", IEEE Antennas and Wireless Propagation Letters, Vol. 8, pp 653-656, Jan. 2009.

3. S. Kim, et al, "No Battery Required", IEEE Microwave Magazine, Vol. 14 No. 5, pp 66-77, July/Aug 2013.

KEYWORDS: Antenna; Phased Array; 3-D printing; Beam forming, Beam steering; 3D direct digital fabrication

** TOPIC AUTHOR **
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