Upgrading Chamber to a mmWave Antenna TestbedPOSTED ON May 25, 2022 BY TMYTEK
With the development of 5G millimeter-wave and satellite communication, the testing requirements of the mmWave antenna array are increasing every day. However, since the antenna array requires beamforming verification by controlling the channel’ s phase and gain, it is different from the traditional antenna measurement.
TMYTEK proposes a cost-effective mmWave antenna testbed upgrade solution so customers can continue to leverage their existing test system but for mmWave measurement. With TMYTEK's software and hardware integration solution, it can simplify the overall mmWave antenna array measurement procedure without upgrading the whole system.
Figure 1 below is a general traditional antenna testbed for non-mmWave frequency. Usually, it uses SG (signal generator), SA (signal analyzer) or VNA(vector network analyzer) for antenna measurement, and the transmitter only has a single RF port for input. In this architecture, there are two major problems when testing mmWave antenna arrays. First, mmWave antenna arrays are verified by tuning the phase and the gain for each element, but equipment such as VNA and SG do not have these functions. Second, mmWave antenna array requires multiple transmitting RF sources to feed in the elements at the same time, unlike traditional antenna measurements where a single RF port can satisfy the test requirements.Figure 1. Traditional Antenna Testbed
TMYTEK created a solution, the BBox One 5G, to address the two problems mentioned above. The 16 independent RF channels of BBox One 5G empower users with the capability of multi-channel phase and amplitude control to fulfill the testing requirements of a mmWave antenna. It can support up to 4X4 mmWave antenna array measurement, as shown in Figure 2 below.Figure 2. BBox One 5G
This solution helps you upgrade your current testbed into a mmWave measurable system. TMYTEK also designed the calibration procedure to automatically align all channels’ gain and phase to ensure verification precision. We will reveal more in the following sections.
As shown in figure 3 below, we integrated the BBox One 5G with the turntable and RF port so that the original RF signal is divided into 16 channels, and it can control all channels’ gain and phase independently. We connect each element from the mmWave antenna array to the BBox One 5G channel separately by the RF cables.Figure 3. Upgrade Hardware Solution – Test Chamber System (left) and DUT + BBox One 5G (right)
TMYTEK also provides a simple Windows GUI for quick verification and a complete API for the needs of automated integration testing. The Windows GUI is shown in Figure 4 below, with a simple and intuitive graphical user interface, and built-in beamformer algorithm, users can quickly control the beam angle and take measurements by simply dragging the icon.Figure 4. TMXLAB Kit Windows GUI
In addition to the GUI, a complete API along with sample code is available on GitHub for advanced users who want to automate the testing further. We support the Windows driver is available now, while the Linux driver will roll out later this year as a free download for customers. The website link is as follows.
Currently, we have placed the following five computer language examples on the official website, namely LabVIEW, C#, C++, Python, MATLAB, as shown in Figure 5 below.Figure 5. Compatible APIs
To meet the needs of customers for antenna testing, TMYTEK provides a variety of customized fixtures to choose from. Figure 6 below provides a reference for past TMYTEK success stories.Figure 6. TMYTEK Customized Fixtures
We will share in detail two of our success stories where customers utilized our BBox One 5G to upgrade their existing laboratory to measure and test 5G mmWave antennas, and published their research findings.
Case 1: SHU mmWave Patch Antenna Research
As shown in Figure 7 below, this is the TMYTEK upgraded antenna chamber of Shanghai University. The test instruments consist of a high-frequency signal analyzer (SA), a high-frequency signal generator (SG), and a horn antenna. The professor hopes to design a 2x4 array broadband 5G mmWave antenna. However, with the existing system setup, it is not possible to verify the beam- forming results of the designed array antenna and this is where TMYTEK can help.
TMYTEK provides customers with an upgraded antenna array test solution, which allows them to measure the beamforming capability of the designed mmWave antenna array utilizing the existing measurement system.Figure 7. SHU Chamber Environment
Case 2: XDU mmWave Antenna Design for Mobile Terminals
As shown in Figure 8 below, this is the TMYTEK upgraded antenna chamber of XIDIAN University. The professor hopes to design a 1X4 dual-polarized multi-frequency antenna for 5G mobile termi- nals. For this antenna measurement, it is necessary to purchase a network analyzer with more than 9 ports to test the beamforming effect from each independent port.
Since the multi-port network analyzers on the market are quite expensive, with the suggestion from TMYTEK, a much more cost-effective solution is presented. The experiment utilizes the existing network analyzer with an added BBox One 5G to expand the test equipment ports. This solution solved and accomplished a cost-effective and quick upgraded multi-port antenna mea- surement system.Figure 8. XDU Chamber Environment
TMYTEK believes that this antenna measurement upgrade solution is quite competitive in terms of upgrade cost and construction time. With the commercialization of satellite communication and 5G mmWave, the demand for mmWave antenna measurement will increase greatly. Therefore, most of the existing antenna measurement chambers will require upgrades, which will be a huge business opportunity.
TMYTEK is providing a total solution that includes software and hardware integration with a selection of customized fixtures. This is a complete customized upgrade solution service suitable for various existing antenna measurement chambers.
TMYTEK github API resource
Case Study 1 : SHU mmWave Patch Antenna Research
Case Study 2 : XDU mmWave Antenna Design for mobile terminals