• Trade-offs of Antenna Fabrication Techniques

      Ryken, Marv; Microwave Subsystems, Inc. (International Foundation for Telemetering, 2014-10)
      This paper addresses the future military munitions' system requirements for antennas in terms of the existing versus new fabrication technology. The antenna requirements of the future smart munitions will be GPS for precision guidance and TM for system performance testing. The environmental requirements remain the same; large temperature operating range with operation at high temperatures and high shock capable. As usual, the munitions are getting smaller, frequency bandwidth is getting larger, and the cost of the antennas must be minimized in production quantities. In particular this paper compares the existing antenna fabrication technology of Teflon based dielectric printed circuits versus multilayer alumina in the green state, a technology that has been perfected for fabricating microwave integrated circuits (MIC's). The trade-offs that will be addressed are temperature, shock, cost, tunability, loss, size, dielectric constant, and frequency bandwidth. There has been a significant effort to miniaturize the GPS and TM antenna using higher dielectric constant materials. The most popular direction of this effort has been to use ceramic impregnated Teflon. The ultimate temperature performance is the material with a dielectric constant around 2 since this material exhibits a very low coefficient of change with temperature. Materials are available with nominal dielectric constants of 6 and 10 to reduce the size of the antenna but the coefficient of change with temperature is very large and leaves these materials marginal for military temperature ranges. There have also been two other problems with Teflon based printed circuit boards, forming and bonding the boards in a 3D shape and homogeneity of the dielectric constant in the board and after bonding. These problems usually make tuning a requirement and drive the cost of antenna fabrication up. There has been a revolution in MIC's. The circuits are now being made with multiple layers of ceramic (alumina) with interlayer conductive connections and a nominal dielectric constant of 10. The layers are formed in the green state and fired at high temperature and the resulting alumina substrate has a very low coefficient of change with temperature and low loss. Since this procedure is now beyond development, the cost is low and the volume capability is high. Another significant point is that the part can be any shape since the substrate is done in the green state (formable) and then fired.