Here at 3D Rapid Print, one of the fastest growing 3D Printing companies in the Thames Valley, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.
On February 11th 2021, the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) of Washington, D.C. spoke of how it was creating and testing 3D printed antennas and arrays to help the U.S. Navy, mainly in improving radar technology. NRL proclaimed that antenna and array parts usually have to be either ordered or machined out of metal, which in some cases makes a part take weeks to produce. In contrast, they boasted that 3D printed radar parts could be made within a matter of hours, enabling multiple versions of parts to be tested at much less overhead.
Along with her colleagues, NRL electrical engineer Anna Stumme is investigating 3D printing’s potential use in applications that are constrained by weight and size, such as unmanned aerial vehicles and small ships. After being 3D printed, the part undergoes a process called electroplating, during which a thin coat of metal is applied to it. NRL contended that this gives the device a conductive surface so that it can radiate as intended, and that this can’t be done with the plastic that many of NRL’s 3D printed prototypes are made of. The result is a prototype with a variety of measurable physical attributes including surface roughness; NRL argued that this is a major factor in antenna elements’ functionality, as it can cause scattering losses, make them less efficient.
Later this year, Stumme and her colleagues intend to unveil their new prototype cylindrical array apertures and explore integrating cylindrical arrays into the masts of smaller vessels. (NRL failed to make clear what “smaller” was being measured relative to.)
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Disclaimer: Featured image of “SC radar antenna aboard USS Long Island (AVG-1), 13 March 1942 (80-G-413462)” is a work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, it is in the public domain in the United States.