November 19, 2015
The North American millimeter wave (mm-wave) technology market is expected to grow from $96.1 million in 2014 to $782.9 million by 2020, according to an analyst forecast published earlier this year. One main reason is that higher frequencies are finding more applications in many emerging and consumer-driven environments. For example, E-band frequencies are being eyed for 5G applications, driver assistance technology, mobile backhaul and to connect personal communications.
These applications have more in common than their frequency range, however. Whether it is for higher bandwidth to accommodate 5G applications, collision avoidance radar in connected cars, or to wirelessly stream Blu-ray video from a player to a big-screen 4K television, all of these E-band uses are in highly competitive environments. In other words, price can ultimately determine success or failure.
Selecting the proper test solution for use during manufacturing can help relieve the pain point known as manufacturing expense. In this post, we will provide an overview of how to lower cost-of-test while also improving throughput for more efficient production lines.
A Better Way to Test
Vector Network Analyzers (VNAs) have long been the instrument of choice to verify the performance of passive components. VNAs continue to be seen as the best tool to test cables, antennas, etc. that are used in E-band applications. In the manufacturing environment, it is important to take a very close look at your test options.
Inherently, broadband VNA systems have been used to test passive components on the production floor. While these full-featured test instruments are fine for the lab, they are not as well suited for manufacturing environments for two key reasons:
Test Costs – Broadband systems have at their center a high-end VNA that has testing capabilities that are required during development but unnecessary during manufacturing. Cost is further raised by the need for an external test set that interfaces to frequency extender modules to create the mm-wave VNA that can test E-band devices.
Complexity – The aforementioned configuration is time-consuming and difficult to setup, using valuable time that can be better spent on actually testing components so they can be shipped to customers. External modules also result in additional calibration time, and there may be accuracy and repeatability issues in such a configuration. Additionally, the broadband configuration occupies more space and is not conducive to a high-throughput production line.
A more streamlined, compact, and efficient VNA (figure 1) is now available that eliminates these two hurdles to make production of E-band passive components more cost- and time-efficient. This new generation of VNAs is well suited because the instruments deliver on exactly what engineers need:
Performance – S-parameter measurements can be made on antennas, cables, and other passive components with a high degree of confidence. That is because the VNAs have the necessary specifications, such as dynamic range and leveled output power, to make accurate measurements.
Simplicity – The design has small tethered source/receiver modules that are connected to the base VNA by one-meter cables that are already attached to the instrument, making it easier to set up in any environment. By eliminating the complex configuration, errors related to incorrect connections are no longer a worry. Additionally, the design occupies much less space than a broadband system.
Architecture for the Next Generation of Test
These benefits are achieved through the integration of a new VNA architecture (figure 2) that was developed to meet the performance and speed needs of testing the next-generation of high-frequency devices and systems. The VNAs integrate Nonlinear Transmission Line (NLTL) to create a number of benefits, including an extended operating frequency and reduced instrument cost. These VNAs also have enhanced accuracy, minimized measurement uncertainty, improved dynamic range, and wider RF bandwidth.
To learn more about this innovative modern VNA architecture and how it can help in passive component testing, download a free white paper.