3D Printing for 5G Networks: The ULTRAWAVE Project

Mobile Overtakes Desktop

2017 saw that desktop devices were overtaken by mobile data usage for the first time ever. The proliferation of autonomous vehicles, IoT, cloud technologies, 4K streaming, and a host of other applications put a massive burden on the existing mobile network infrastructure, precipitating the move toward a global 5G network.

The Ultrawave project was launched in the same year as part of the EU-backed H2020 initiative to tackle this growing demand.

New Demands and New Solutions

Simply put, we live in a more connected world, and to transmit huge volumes of data we require an increasingly robust capability.

Millions of people live in city environments which are densely populated, streaming movies, music, video calling, and online gaming, all from mobile devices on-the-go. This new status quo called for the investigation and creation of a cellular network infrastructure which was significantly improved, and so the Ultrawave concept was born.

5G Spectrum Usage

The more data a network has to transmit, the shorter the wavelength it must use. This is because short wavelengths can carry lots of data. Wavelength is inversely proportional to frequency, so the shorter the wavelength, the higher the frequency.

5G applications usually utilize frequencies between 30 GHz and 300 GHz, which have wavelengths between 1 – 10 mm, so it is referred to as utilizing the millimeter band or “mmWaves”.

mmWaves can support a wireless data rate of tens of gigabits per second, as higher frequencies/shorter wavelengths can transmit more data and at higher speeds. Using these specific wavelengths is key to the network’s ability to transmit 4K streams and other data-intensive applications.

Ultrawave – Beyond 100 GHz

The Ultrawave project is looking to attain not tens of gigabits per second, but to hit the threshold of 100 gigabits of data per second. The project aims to do this, “by proposing, for the first time, the exploitation of the whole millimeter wave spectrum beyond 100 GHz” [Ultrawave].

Corresponding to wavelengths of 1 – 3 mm, this extends up to 300 GHz. Yet, the catch is that smaller wavelengths are a lot more vulnerable to attenuation (such as due to obstacles or distances), and so a way of strengthening their signals must be formulated.

How to Do This

The Ultrawave project brief specified the utilization of millimeter-wave Traveling Wave Tubes (TWT). These TWTs are coil structures designed to amplify radio frequency signals which fall within the microwave range (300 MHz – 300 GHz). TWTs are vital for boosting signal strength.

The Goethe-Universität Berlin, headed by Professor Viktor Krozer, was the lead institution of phase 2 of the Ultrawave project. They performed finite element modeling (FEM) analysis of waveguide shapes and their influence upon signal strength.

The waves expand into 3D space without waveguides in TWTs and so the signal amplitude is lost. This is an investigation into unique technology, and creating these microscale waveguide structures is extremely difficult, needing an equally unique solution.

The team at Goethe-Universität approached Exaddon with the aim of 3D printing the tiny waveguides which were to be utilized within TWTs, as per the specifications that were calculated by Prof. Krozer and his team.

The tiny waveguides were printed out of pure copper, measuring around 120 µm in diameter, by utilizing Exaddon’s unique CERES µAM print system, matching the design specification proposed by the Goethe team exactly.

5G Networks and Beyond: The ULTRAWAVE Project

Image Credit: Exaddon and Goethe University 

A New Age of Manufacturing

Creating these waveguides is a vital step in developing the cutting-edge TWT technology needed to bring the Ultrawave project to life. The successful manufacture and implementation of these waveguides will enable the realization of a game-changing data transportation infrastructure – one which is in ever growing demand in the modern world.

At the heart of all this is Exaddon’s globally unique microscale AM technology, and a motivated collaboration with the Goethe-Universität to push the boundaries of high frequency technology.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Exaddon AG.

For more information on this source, please visit Exaddon

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