In an effort to advance radar technology and enable its new applications for the U.S. naval forces, scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory, U.S. have developed and tested 3D printed antennas and arrays.
The newly developed 3D printed components make them attractive for a few features. Firstly, these are lightweight and their rapid production make them an attractive alternative to traditional manufacturing of antennas for radar technology. On top of this, traditional manufacturing of antennas for radar technology requires expensive materials and specialized equipment.
“In fact, 3D printing is useful in many ways. It allows to produce rapid prototypes and attain multiple design iterations very quickly and minimal cost,” said one of the research associates. Furthermore, the lightweight of 3D printed components also allow to take the technology for new applications, wherein heavy weight of solid metal parts was a restriction.
Meanwhile, radar systems perform critical functions for naval operations. For example, parts of antennas and arrays – which are multiple antennas connected to work together as one – may break unexpectedly or wear out to require replacement. Conventionally, broken or worn out parts are either ordered or machined intricately out of metal, which, sometimes may take several weeks to produce.
On the other hand, using 3D printing, components for radar technology such as cylindrical array can be produced within hours that take several days using traditional methods. Importantly, cylindrical arrays produced using 3D provide a 360-degree visibility.
Besides production, 3D printing has other benefits too. The relatively low cost of 3D printing materials enables researchers to check multiple versions of components at minimal overhead. The improved prototypes can then be produced in machines using traditional methods.