LDS technique shapes up for next-gen wireless antennae

In co-operation with the Institute of High Frequency Technology and Radio Systems (Institut für Hochfrequenztechnik und Funksysteme, HFT) at Leibniz University of Hannover, the LPKF Laser Direct Structuring (LDS) technique is currently being evaluated for suitability for next-generation wireless applications. Early indicators are that LDS technology is applicable for antennae in the millimeter-wave frequency band, e.g. 5G wireless technology or for automotive sensors.

By allowing electrical structures, such as antennae, to be applied to nearly any surface, device densities can be increased and frequency bands extended, says the company.

Prototypes have already shown that, with the proper layout, 3D antennae represent an alternative to conventional configurations, allowing for flexible antenna development.

With LDS, a laser beam structures a 3D part made of an LDS-doped plastic. The laser beam transfers the desired circuit layout onto the substrate while, at the same time, activating the additive. In a subsequent electroless metallisation step, copper layers are built up on the structures traversed by the laser beam. These layers can then be given various surface finishes.

LDS technology is already established as a preferred manufacturing technique for 3D antennae in the consumer goods sector. The antennae cover the frequency band up to 6GHz (e.g. for Bluetooth, LTE, or Wi-Fi), can be found in many of today’s smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices.

The higher the transmission frequency, the shorter the wavelength – and the greater the demands on the components. As next-generation wireless systems for consumer electronics and smart homes are also expected to see an extension of the operating frequency bands to include higher frequencies, one focus of the co-operation is on evaluation and optimisation of LDS production for applications in the millimeter-wave frequency band. The first prototypes of an antenna for use in millimeter-wave sensors operating at 24GHz were produced at HFT. Production of test antennae operating at 77GHz is currently underway.

Technical papers are expected to be published in late summer 2016.

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