Xjet's nano particle jetting technology solves the manufacturing and performance issues of passive beam steering for super-fast antenna applications.
Additive manufacturing company Xjet has reported that the University of Delaware (Udel) has installed an Xjet Carmel 1400 AM System for ceramic 3D printing to develop cutting-edge antenna technology called “Passive Beam Steering”, for amongst other applications, the 5G network.
The Carmel 1400, which uses nano particle jetting (NPJ) technology, solves a crucial problem in the roll-out of the 5G network. In comparison to 4G/3G, 5G signals deliver data of up to ten to 20 times faster, but are more sensitive to objects and inference and thus, requires way more antennas to overcome this issue. Existing antenna technology is also too expensive to enable the successful scaling up of the infrastructure required by 5G.
Mark Mirotznik, Professor of Electrical Engineering at Udel, says Udel's research team developed special software and algorithms to enable the design of small, lightweight, cost-effective 5G antennas. The issue facing the university was that no manufacturing process existed to produce the lens with the complex structure, small channels and the required material properties – until Udel discovered Xjet.
“Discovering Xjet NPJ was a real lightbulb moment for us. In one stroke, it solved our previous frustration in achieving both the material characteristics combined with the geometric properties essential for our solution,” Mirotznik notes. He explained that NPJ is the only process capable of producing the inner walls of each channel with the accuracy and smoothness required to retain wave direction – but in ceramic. Xjet’s ceramic is an isotropic, 100%-density ceramic with the right dielectric constant, which does not absorb and thus weaken signals. Quite literally, any tiny variation in tolerance could lead to wrong diversion of the signal.
Research conducted at the Youngstown State University (YSU), which uses the Xjet Carmel 1400 system, further supports the results of Udel with regards to density, isotropic properties, dielectric constant and the use of Xjet for the development of devices such as the 5G antenna.
“We carried out research to establish the nature and properties of Xjet-printed Zirconia. The crystal structure of the prints are nearly even; the dielectric constant is high while the loss tangent is low and are both similar to the value expected from a non-printed crystal. This high, dielectric constant with low loss opens the potential for 3D printing of a variety of microwave devices including antennas, lenses and filters. Two simple dielectric resonator antennas were demonstrated with the material, showing that the measured material properties can indeed be used to accurately design devices with electromagnetic simulation tools,” says Professor Eric MacDonald, Friedman Chair for Manufacturing, YSU.
“The Udel’s application of NPJ technology for antennas is truly pioneering. 5G is expected to bring about a true revolution in wireless technology, and with it the connectivity to support everything from autonomous vehicles and smart cities to long-distance surgery, live-streaming virtual reality and the prospect of a limitless Internet of Things,” says Xjet CEO Hanan Gothait.