This is the first blog post in a new series where we talk to SIMULIA employees about current projects they are working on and developments they see in the simulation world. Recently, we talked to Marc Rütschlin, a Senior Portfolio Specialist at SIMULIA, about the future of the antenna market and how the 3DEXPERIENCE platform will facilitate multiphysics based design.
Who are you and what is your role at SIMULIA?
My name is Marc Rütschlin, and I work as a Senior Portfolio Technical Specialist, focusing on Microwave & Radio Frequency (RF) applications, including antennas. What this means practically is that I work on developing new streamlined workflow solutions for antenna engineers so that they can more easily take advantage of the range of tools that we offer in CST Studio Suite® and on the Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCE platform. I consult with our various research and development teams and create technical marketing material and presentations that enable staff in technical support and sales roles to provide the best advice and solutions to customers.
What developments are you most excited about in antennas?
Wireless connectivity is on the rise. The immediate implication is that antennas are being integrated invisibly in a wide range of devices where they were not previously needed. The challenge of integration is interesting: the antennas have to be designed to function well for each specific device in specific scenarios and environments with minimal impact on the shape, size and aesthetic of the devices. While off-the-shelf antenna modules will continue to have an important role to play, customized high-performance antenna designs manufactured as part of the device with advanced techniques, such as additive manufacturing or injection molding, will increasingly be seen, especially in the high-end market.
As our world becomes more connected, higher data rates will be required to support the volume of transmitted data. Data links at millimeter-wave frequencies as part of the upcoming 5G standards will make this possible. The smaller physical size of antennas and arrays at higher frequencies means that they will be seen in many new applications areas, as agile, responsive beamforming becomes feasible both for base stations and user terminals. This will be a critical enabling technology for future wireless applications.
Of course, the shorter wavelengths present challenges in terms of manufacturing tolerances and integration into devices. What used to be an electrically thin plastic cover now becomes an electrically thick radome which may substantially affect the antenna performance. Close communication between various design teams developing a product will become crucial to achieving a competitive solution.
How is EM simulation playing a role in those developments?
Dedicated antenna design tools like Antenna Magus are an excellent resource for antenna engineers to quickly find and explore various design candidates and come up with novel solutions. Behind the scenes, electromagnetic (EM) simulation is being used, but in a very accessible and fast way, invisible to the user. This is precisely what is required early in the design cycle, where the engineer’s ability to respond rapidly and creatively to changing system requirements can have a significant impact on the overall product and design success.
Antennas are being integrated into large complex devices and working in complex systems. As a result, hybrid methods, which allow different regions of a single model to be simulated with different numerical methods and mesh types, are becoming more important. In particular, combining volumetric methods like the time domain approach, which can accurately simulate highly complex geometries and materials, with surface-based methods like MLFMM, gives the design engineer options for high accuracy performance assessment and virtual certification of full devices and systems which they have not had previously.
Efficient array design requires a multiscale multi-stage approach. When you go from synthesis to unit-cell to full array design, you have to use the optimal tool at each stage if the design cycle time is to be minimized. Doing this efficiently allows design and optimization of arrays to achieve better, purpose-specific designs than ever before. Virtually integrating the array within its housing and environment reduces the amount of costly physical prototyping and measurement required to develop confidence in a solution.
Where do you think EM simulation can provide a benefit where it hasn’t been adopted widely yet?
Though used in industry for 20-30 years now, simulation is in its infancy. The design of a modern device is a multi-disciplinary process, requiring consideration of electromagnetic effects, mechanical considerations, thermal performance, aesthetics and many other intricate details. Simultaneously taking all of these areas into account when developing and optimizing a product design is not done much at all yet. Product development teams focusing on different disciplines still work more or less independently, laboriously exchanging models and information once their part of the design has evolved. This is not an efficient approach. It is slow and prone to errors when teams end up working with outdated data. What is required is a platform for the efficient exchange of data, so that all teams are always working with the current model and information and are always aware of changes to the design so that they can evaluate and give up-to-date feedback to other teams.
I believe that the 3DEXPERIENCE platform of Dassault Systèmes and the integration of CST Studio Suite electromagnetic simulation technology on that platform is a huge step toward improving communication between teams. Soon this will also facilitate true multiphysics based design: if you have up to date information, a single model and access to the right combination of tools, you can collaboratively design experiments to simultaneously optimize antennas for mechanical, thermal and yes, even electromagnetic performance.