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Understanding Custom RF Amplifiers: Making a Plan and Finding the Right Supplier

The importance of using the right RF amplifiers cannot be understated, as achieving a higher power signal for long-range applications without signal or data degradation is non-negotiable.

 

With these long-range applications being ultra-critical, a customized RF amplifier is often required to suit a specific set of long-distance radio system criteria.

 

Previously, we discussed practical steps to beginning the design of a custom RF amplifier. In this series of posts, we will shine a light on the steps in acquiring the perfect custom amplifier for you, and it all starts with the planning phase. Here is what you need to know and who you should work with.

 

What Does Your RF Amplifier Need?

 

Though it may seem obvious, figuring out what features your RF amplifier will need is the first step. As always, the more information you have on hand, the more thorough your amplifier supplier can be for you at this stage. The variety of custom requirements RF amplifiers may need to meet is wide ranging and can make it difficult for a standard off the shelf product to fulfill. However, here are three pieces of information you want ready for design.

 

The first thing you need to know is the specific function of your RF amplifier. What is the application and environment of your RF amplifier? Using your RF amplifier in Lower Earth Orbit (LEO) will be vastly different than a RF amplifier in an unmanned aircraft. What are the weather conditions it will be facing? A RF amplifier being used out in the field for the military may need to be built for MIL-STD shock. That is not the same circumstance as an amplifier targeted for use within a stable and protected laboratory. Understanding its use will help you narrow down your options.

 

The second thing you need to know is what the RF amplifier will require in regards to specifications. Will it operate in the UHF band, L band, S band, or must it be ultra wideband? What are the requirements for input DC Power and output RF power? Do you have any size, weight or power (SWaP) constraints? Identifying these factors is key because that may act as constraints and affect functionality and design.

 

The third thing you need to know is ensuring that any special features your RF amplifier will need are identified. When it comes to applications, do you need High Data Rate Video Downlink or is a MANET/MESH Radio Network more of a priority? For the amplifier type, do you need a bi-directional amplifier or do you need a transmit power amplifier?

 

There are an extensive amount of features and specifications, which are detailed in our tech brief linked at the end of this post. Here are just a few criteria a RF amplifiers might need:

 

  • Band of operation
  • Power in Watts or dBm
  • Number of Channels &ndash With the recent pervasiveness of MIMO radios it's important that a single amplifier can be used to amplify multiple chains of RF

 

Ordering a custom RF amplifier is the best option because they can be constructed to fit all of your requirements, yet developing a plan for your RF amplifier can take time and resources. The good news is an experienced custom amplifier supplier can help.

 

Finding the Right RF Amplifier Supplier

 

Creating a custom RF amplifier is an investment, and it is crucial you get the most return on that investment. This makes finding a partner you can trust to be your custom RF amplifier supplier imperative. There are a few important factors to take into consideration.

 

Look for a partner that will work with you to create a RF amplifier that best achieves all your targeted goals. Any supplier can ask for a list of requirements and give you a quote, but the right partner will work with you to understand the bigger picture and ultimately add value to a larger system.

 

The right partner should have the right experience in your field of interest and can communicate that to you. Sending your system into space requires a reliable RF amplifier, meaning a partner with space heritage is a must. Have they supplied amplifiers specifically for use within UxV, unmanned systems? Suppliers within that industry have experience with establishing, diagnosing, and improving the ISR Data Links of an unmanned vehicle. They will be able to understand your requirements and best address them because your specific environment has its own set of challenges to overcome.

 

Another example of what a good partner should be able to demonstrate is providing examples of frequently meeting design requests that can range from balancing power output, DC power input, and efficiency to size and weight challenges. Are their connectorized RF and microwave power amplifiers built for easy integration and reliable operation? Do they provide the best protection and performance in even the harshest system conditions? A partner that is AS-9100 certified or creates RF amplifiers meeting MIL-STD-810 or MIL-STD-461 requirements shows a dedication to detail and quality.

 

Key planning, as well as finding the right partner are crucial to bringing your custom RF amplifier one step closer to a reality. Keep an eye out for our next installment where we talk about the importance of the design process.

 

Summary

 

It takes years of expertise to push the boundaries of linearizing RF Solid State Power Amplifiers (SSPAs) while maintaining a price structure that allows RF amplifier solutions to meet cost targets. So, due diligence is crucial.

 

We've written a tech brief to help guide your team through the custom development process to ensure your team meets your cost, schedule, and performance needs.

 

“Key Considerations for a Successful Custom RF Amplifier Design”

 

Please feel free to contact us with any questions.

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