FMD@FHR: Your access to cutting-edge technology parks
As part of the »Research Fab Microelectronics Germany« (FMD), Fraunhofer FHR invested about 6 million euros in cutting-edge technology in 2018. The funds were used for the development of competencies and activities around the innovation topic of microelectronics.
Within the scope of the FMD, the Federal Ministry of Research supports 13 research institutes with funding totaling 350 million euros. More than 2,000 scientists in the FMD make up the largest cross-site research and development association for micro and nanoelectronics in Europe.
This new type of cooperation combines the advantages of two strong decentralized research organizations – the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and the Leibniz Association – with the synergies of a centralized organization to form the world's most powerful provider for applied research, development, and innovation in the micro and nanoelectronics area. Thanks to the close links and the coherent approach, the FMD is able to provide wider and easier access to the next generation of technology, not only for large-scale industrial clients but also – and especially – for small and medium-sized business as well as start-ups.
To organize these competencies and resources, a cross-institute One-Stop-Shop was created in Berlin in 2018 for all inquiries and topics involving the FMD. But a lot has happened in 2018 at Fraunhofer FHR in Wachtberg as well, thanks to the FMD.
Rapid Prototyping & Additive Manufacturing
Providing the first clear demonstrators, directly producing and testing innovative component concepts, simplified spare parts supply, or replacing defective housing components: This is only a handful of examples where additive manufacturing is used these days.
For this reason, in 2018, Fraunhofer FHR expanded its additive manufacturing capacities with 3D printers. The application possibilities are manifold for the millimeter wave technology, because additively manufactured components allow a fast, economical adaptation of the developed radar systems. In particular, new materials often lack information about the material properties in the millimeter-wave range, so new materials are first characterized on the company's own measuring stations over a wide frequency range. After that, it is possible to completely produce, for example high frequency antennas, with a 3D printer. This procedure not only saves time and costs, the systems are also lighter thanks to the plastic parts – an important factor, especially for airborne systems. By mixing different materials or the structuring in the sub-wavelength range, homogenous and inhomogeneous materials with different refractive indices can be produced to create new types of antennas with more degrees of freedom.
In order to be able to better pursue these approaches in the best possible way, in addition to the further characterization of various printing materials, the purchase of three special printers is also planned for 2019. In addition to an extraordinarily large installation size of up to one cubic meter, the institute is planning selective laser sintering (SLS), 3D printing with plastic and metal powders, and the testing of a 5-axis metal printer.
Construction Technology & Heterointegration
In the heterointegration area, the FMD association produces components in the millimeter wave and terahertz range. By producing the printed circuit boards required for the radar systems in-house, it is possible to respond to special requirements immediately and to save time and costs in the long run. That is why different construction technology devices were acquired within the scope of the FMD, including the laser milling machine shown in figure 3. The laser operates at a wavelength of 355 nm and allows for the manufacturing of structures with a resolution of up to 20 µm. Additional acquisitions are planned for 2019.
Measuring Laboratory for High Frequency Radar Systems
The ability to assess the capacities of antennas, subsystems, and complete prototypes requires an anechoic chamber with a suitable measuring system consisting of network analyzers and the fitting high frequency modules. Within the scope of the FMD, Fraunhofer FHR invested in a measuring laboratory in the millimeter wave range. Figure 1 shows the interior view of the anechoic chamber with a measurement setup for antenna characterization. The transmitter is located behind the feedthroughs to the anechoic chamber. The receiver is positioned at a distance of up to 6 m and can be rotated at a 360° angle range with increments of less than 0.5°. For a quasi-monostatic measurement, instead of the receiver, an object could be mounted for which the radar cross section (RCS) is to be determined. In addition, radar systems can also be tested and characterized using reference objects.
The anechoic chamber allows for measurements of frequencies above 20 GHz under controlled environmental conditions. Interferences to the propagation of electromagnetic waves are minimized, thus allowing for the testing and evaluation of components.