• Satellite Evolution Group

3D-printed antennas ushering in new capabilities for National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO)

In the pursuit of seeing further and more accurately into the depths of the big beyond, the NRAO has turned to the unique and ground-breaking capabilities of Optisys, a worldwide leader in the design and production of metal 3D-printed antennas and RF systems.

Optisys design OMT for NRAO RF astronomy applications

Optisys’ design capability allows for the smallest SWaP RF products, which further decreases the losses, and increases the stability, of the antennas used in such apparatus. These are highly favourable attributes in radio astronomy, especially when the antenna is required to be operated at cryogenic temperatures. The unique nature of Optisys technology, being so highly integrated, and not requiring plating of any kind to provide excellent performance, means it is the perfect candidate to be the basis of the next generation of increased range and higher-accuracy, land and space-based radio telescopes.

A series of trials pitting Optisys' capabilities against other traditionally and non-traditionally produced antennas identified Optisys as the clear winner in SWaP, performance, stability, and other areas. These trials led to a new partnership between Optisys and NRAO.

Tony Beasley, Director of NRAO said, “Understanding the Universe requires us to push the limits of science, technology, and knowledge. CDL has been at the forefront of this effort in radio astronomy for decades, and with the help of Optisys, will continue to lead the industry in innovative solutions.”

The SLM500 is a high-volume quad-laser 3D-printing system capable of printing parts for electromagnetic devices. Optisys is using the SLM500 to print 3D parts for use by NRAO in radio astronomy applications

Both the NRAO and Optisys are extremely excited about the potential of where Optisys’ design capability will assist in shedding light into our Universe’s birth and inner workings. Traditionally designed and manufactured RF solutions have a restriction in their capability that limits the scope of information that can be detected by a single telescope. Optisys’ advanced antenna capability is expected to expand that scope, leading to a richer and more defined dataset.

“Science requirements are always pushing the limits of technology, so we need to invest in innovative technologies with the potential to break through current performance barriers,” said Bert Hawkins, Director of NRAO’s Central Development Laboratory (CDL). “3D-printed electromagnetic devices can have all sorts of shapes, structures, and designs that would be impossible to make with traditional machining techniques. NRAO’s new partnership with Optisys has the potential to lead to the development of devices with the ability to outperform those currently used in radio astronomy.”

“All areas of RF applications are benefiting from Optisys’ advanced capability,” commented Janos Opra, Optisys CEO. “Whether it be communication, radar, directed energy or radio astronomy, we are incredibly excited about our involvement in all RF industries. Our partnership with the NRAO is not only good for Optisys, the NRAO or the RF industry, but will provide insight and knowledge for the sustained benefit of all humankind.”

A white paper, describing the testing conducted will be published later this year.