Author Archives: Kelly Foster

The New TCA: Solutions for Avionics Installations Webinar Summary

Summary

With a long history of serving the aviation community, we understand our customers’ needs for reliability, quality, and delivery. As a result of that decades-long heritage, Times Microwave designed a complete system of cables, connectors, tools, and accessories that make installation easy and clean—the TCA product family. Carrie Obedzinski and Kevin Moyher, two leading industry experts, discuss the challenges and requirements of airframe installations. From reduced inventory and foreign object debris (FOD) to time and cost savings, customers around the world have tested and approved thousands of our TCA assemblies.

Watch the video or read the session notes below.

Session Notes

Times Microwave Systems’ engineering and manufacturing capabilities enable us to deliver RF products that meet the most demanding and unusual aviation requirements, including customized solutions and product design, installation, regulatory compliance, and performance improvement. Most importantly, with fully integrated manufacturing production, we have all the necessary assembly and testing capabilities in-house. We deliver RF interconnect solutions from conception through flight testing and production.

This webinar will detail some of the challenges and requirements of airframe installations and present some excellent solutions for making them easier, more efficient, and reliable.

We have been manufacturing our three most popular 50 Ohm aviation cables, spanning from the HF to the KA band, for many years. Times’ LMR®-FR, for example, is one of the most popular products for wireless applications. It is very easy to terminate in the field and comes with a complete line of connectors and tooling. Its fire-retardant FR jacket meets FAA flame test requirements. MaxGain® is our higher-frequency band cable; it’s an outstanding solution for KU and KA-SATCOM feeders. TCA, the focus of this webinar, is our high-performance cable used for higher temperature ranges up to 200°C.

There is some overlap between our avionics solutions because multiple products are suitable for certain applications. Times’ experienced engineering team members can help you determine which product to use based on your requirements such as flexibility or in-field assembly; or we can even create a new solution if needed, as we specialize in custom-engineered cable assemblies.

The TCA Product Line

We have been listening to our aviation customers—visiting them on site to understand what is important to their companies. Maintenance and safety are typically mentioned by installers, procurement and management alike.

Our aviation customers are also focused more than ever on minimizing waste, improving efficiencies, and reducing costs and inventories, including time savings in manufacturing processes and MRO aircraft installations. To satisfy these priorities, we have expanded our TCA product line to include a complete end-to-end RF interconnect solution for avionics, including cables, modular connectors, tooling and a pulling nose tool.

The TCA product line features Times’ lightweight, low-loss, high-temperature, highly flexible TCA cable, ideal for meeting avionics’ critical electrical and mechanical performance requirements for applications including satellite communications, collision avoidance, navigation, and more. TCA is great for routing cable through tight runs. It is an industry-standard construction and can satisfy an equivalent drop-in replacement on many specs. There are multiple shielding layers to reduce interference.

Connectors

The TCA flight-friendly modular connector system makes terminating the cable quick and easy while ensuring optimal electrical and mechanical performance. Modularized design enables the user to install the connectors with the configuration that best fits the final system.

The TCA connectors have 2-Nickel or bi-metal plating for excellent corrosion resistance and optimized VSWR performance. No braid trimming is needed during assembly, so this system helps reduce foreign object debris (FOD).

Once installed, there are many different standardized front ends to choose from. TCA’s modular concept also helps improve troubleshooting and repair—the user can take off the connector fronts and change them out, instead of completely removing the entire connector. Because the system uses the same intermediate heads, you can reduce inventory costs and risks, buying the parts you need for numerous connector configurations. They also meet IP 67 standards for moisture ingress.

Unique, All-in-one Prep Tools

  • Maintenance personnel and installers sometimes work with razor blades and knives while hanging upside down, trying to fit multiple connector assemblies and terminate them inside the aircraft. The TCA product line includes unique, all-in-one prep tools for simple, safe and repeatable cable termination including the ST-3520, ST-31156 and ST-3112. Users can also save time by pre-terminating the assemblies with the cable entry and using TCA’s reusable pulling eye to “fish” the assembly through the fuselage of an aircraft. This helps cut down on tooling, debris and installation damage.

TCA tools will trim the cable to a proper conductor and perfect exposure length for modular connector assembly. The tools are supplied with a snap cover to help maintain control of cable debris for cleanroom and airplane worksites. It’s another way to help reduce the likelihood of FOD.

The tools help ensure repeatable prep because all assemblers and installers use are using a standard tool and process to ensure consistency in both electrical and mechanical performance.

The TCA product line ultimately helps make the installers’ job easier, safer, quicker, and more effective with less tooling needed, less debris, and repeatable performance terminations.

Q&A

  • We have a question about the modular connections. You mentioned using Loctite. How would you disconnect that in the field?
  • I have concerns using a razor blade against the center conductor. Are there concerns about damaging the cable?

To learn the answers and hear the full detail provided in the webinar, register now!

medical rf system

The Challenges of High Power in RF Applications Webinar Summary

Summary

This presentation will tackle the nuances of high-power applications involving coaxial cable assemblies. Different types of power and their impact on cable integrity will be discussed along with case studies that show how coaxial design can make the difference between safe operation or potentially dangerous operating conditions.

Watch the video or read the session notes below.

Session Notes

How Different Types of Power Affect Coaxial Cable Performance

When it comes to high power issues related to coaxial cable assemblies, it’s important to understand how power is classified and how it is used in real-world settings:

  • High current: Found in industrial applications like semiconductors
  • High voltage: Found in energy storage of high power, fractional duty cycle applications
  • High power: Found in aerospace applications such as electronic warfare
High Current

Generally, current carrying capability is directly proportional to the crossed area of conductors. Therefore, the larger the conductor, the lower the resistance, the higher the current carrying capability. This drives the need for large cables and connectors.

Similar to a water pipe, more current can efficiently be produced through a larger conductor, which can be accomplished by simplifying the conductor design. A conductor with fewer piece parts and contact points provides a more robust design.

High current can also lead to sources of localized hotspots and weak spots in the design, and there are specific techniques and design features that can mitigate that issue.

High Voltage

High voltage power has arcs and flash-overs, essentially miniature versions of lightning bolts. Like lightning bolts—where huge amounts of charge are built up between the clouds and the surface of the Earth—voltage can increase between a generator and the ground to the point that it can no longer withstand the voltage and is released.

In this application, it is not so much about the size of the conductors but the capability to isolate and insulate one conductor from the other, or the cloud from the ground. This can be achieved by putting a high dielectric strength insulator between the conductors.

High Power

High power is thermal-related, continuous wave (CW) energy. The issue here isn’t voltage or current; it is the heat that is generated. When power is pumped into a cable assembly, some loss or inefficiencies occur. That lost power must be dissipated.

The issues are generally thermal and heat buildup, and the cable’s ability to transfer heat from its internal environment to the external environment. One mitigation technique is to increase the surface area of the component to radiate heat.

Conclusion

When failure modes happen, they can be dramatically catastrophic. Therefore, it is important to choose the right components, ensure that those components are designed to mate together, and that the cable and connector interface are designed to work together.

It is critical to use a connector that’s designed specifically for a cable and for a specific power application. They should also be installed and assembled by people who are experienced and understand the issues.

Q&A

Following are the questions that were asked by the audience:

  • What is the most important component when selecting an assembly for high power?
  • Does electrical performance change as cables get hot? What can we do to control or mitigate that?

To learn the answers and hear the full detail provided in the webinar, register now!

RF Interconnect Solutions for Complex Antenna Installations Webinar Summary

Summary

In this session, Dave provides an overview on how to design solutions for challenging airframe antenna applications. In addition, Dave discussed the nuances of working within the aviation space, and how Times Microwaves’ aircraft applications are designed to work in the challenging conditions that military-grade aircrafts endure on a daily basis. For example, the unique properties of a Times Microwave military/tactical-class feeder antenna lineup is designed to be equal parts durable and repairable for quick fixes on popular military aircraft like the C17.

Watch the video or read the session notes below.

Session Notes

A typical aircraft antenna installation involves a two-port antenna with a TNC female and an N female, a double plate matching the arc of the aircraft, and two cable assemblies. Once mated, the antenna is attached to the aircraft, and the two connectors attach to the antenna. However, this is 1960s technology. Let’s see what we can do about that.

There are standard technical considerations in terms of maintenance and access with an antenna mount located on an aircraft:

  • The environmental seal, especially on lower antennas
  • Mating life (and potential disconnections)
  • Electrical performance over vibration

To address these concerns more effectively, let’s discuss a blind mating of the same antenna. This involves identical double plate and cable assemblies, but the N and the TNC connectors are replaced with blind mate versions. This eliminates the coupling nut and the lock wire scheme in favor of a captive spring column.

The alignment sleeves are attached to the antenna, one N and one TNC. Once these are mated, it turns into a blind mate-able surface. This stainless-steel alignment sleeve has turn rings, one that seals the threads from the outside in, and another that seals to an interface. To make this mount, the receiver sleeve is put up and then mounted to the doubler plate itself, and based upon the location and the height of the antenna, the zero position of the receiver sleeve is determined. Each of these receiver sleeves has a C-clip on it to hold it in place and the base connector threads directly onto it.

Environmental Sealing and Mating Life

Anytime there is a male, female TNC or a male female, as the connectors mount, they typically wear out at well under 500 mates. Additionally, after 500 mates and de-mates, a lot of metal debris has been generated that has likely filled that interface, resulting in potential electrical issues.

With the blind mate solution, as the nose cone is closed, the four alignment sleeves engage into a bracket that has a slight rotation on it. The springs engage as the nose cone is tightened in place. This type of antenna junction has been tested for wear and tear, resulting in 5,000+ mates with no failures.

Vibration and Electrical Performance

This example details an F35-C carrier landing condition with a significantly high vibration profile. On the right-hand nose door, there is a microwave landing system and an integrated carrier landing system. Each antenna contains a connector. In a normal test environment, a Band Aid connector such as a TMA can be attached. This is a three or four prong mated connector that enables antenna testing, antenna patterns, etc.

However, these landing system antennas are located on the inside of the nose door on a low observable aircraft. To find an airport or a ship, that nose door has to be opened—and this happens at up to 300 knots, which is equivalent to about a Class Five hurricane in the internal cavity. The problem with mounting a typical right-angle connector to one of these antennas in that kind of a vibration profile is that they tend to break.

Instead of continuing to mount the antenna the same way, we came up with the idea of using a multiport connector instead. Once the antenna has mated, it gets an environmental seal that engages the amount necessary for tolerancing. However, no motion is generated as a function of the vibration profile—it’s basically all neutralized at the bracket. The result is a very high performing RF interface at 300 knots in the carrier landing environment.

Q&A

Following are the questions that were asked by the audience:

  • Can any antenna be made into a blind mate antenna?
  • What if I want to put a gasket under my own antenna? Does the blind mate allow for that additional thickness?
  • Are blind mate connectors recommended for high PIM requirements?
  • Is most cable compatible with a blind mate?
  • Could a blind mate be used with a Mil-Tec line or a Phase Track line?
  • How much height is added to the blind mate or how much does a blind mate system add to the antenna?
  • What about other applications, for example, or LRU boxes?
  • Is there an application in space launch?
  • Can you speak to tolerances of vibration levels?
  • Are there drawings available of designs that have been done?

To learn the answers and hear the full detail provided in the webinar, register now!

webinar-space

RF in Space: 5 Steps to Find the Best Interconnect Supplier Webinar Summary

Summary

Searching and qualifying an RF interconnect supplier for space applications can be a lengthy and costly process. Some suppliers offer standard qualifications and documentation for basic products in hopes of simplifying this process. But nothing is standard, or easy, in space. In this session, Maria explains the 5 steps for evaluating an RF partner’s capability to handle the custom designs, special testing and qualifications required in space.

Watch the video or read the session notes below.

Session Notes

Designing a crucial interconnect system that will perform well and withstand the extraordinary environmental and technical conditions of space, reliably and consistently over long periods of time, is not like designing just any RF interconnect system. The conditions encountered in space are unique and require special, highly customized solutions to prevent failure.

Custom designs, special testing and qualifications, and new product development for space applications require experience and commitment. “Standard” RF systems are not good enough in space. It’s important to thoroughly evaluate the capabilities of an RF supplier to ensure a positive outcome.

 

5 Steps to Find the Best RF interconnect Supplier

 

To ensure the best possible performance for these special applications, as expediently and cost-effectively as possible, consider your RF partner’s:

  1. Qualifications and heritage
    Many suppliers offer a good list of standard qualifications, but in space, your requirements may be unique. Look for partners that have experience in space, and in other areas such as military and defense.
  2. Dedicated technical experts
    Always ask to speak with technical experts. The complexity of space applications requires an effective partnership; choose a supplier that will work collaboratively as an extension of your design team. You’re not looking for a standard solution, so it’s important that your RF supplier’s technical team asks questions and listens to understand your unique needs. Don’t work with a supplier that’s committed to selling you the same product they’re selling everyone else. Your supplier should help you understand the electrical and mechanical trade-offs particular to your application, as well.
  3. Breadth of products
    A provider that offers a broad range of products is simply better equipped to sell you the right system for your application. You want to be able to select the right material, choose from multiple cable constructions, various connector designs (low power, high power, etc.) and assembly techniques, all from the same supplier. Plenty of technical standards must be met for products to be deployed in space, such as using only acceptable materials or mil-spec cable constructions. There is, however, no standard for how to apply these materials to construct an RF solution that is reliable time after time. That is where your supplier’s expertise and access to a full range of product options are needed.
  4. Manufacturing execution
    Ideally your supplier has all the technology and products you need and understands how to put them together into a final product. The next qualification to consider is the supplier’s manufacturing operations. Does the company have robust facilities and processes to support execution? Cleanroom manufacturing capabilities are key. Traceability is also important for managing all the piece parts that make the complicated assemblies. What quality standards does the supplier follow? What about extended services?
  5. Agility
    Be sure to choose an RF partner that is strong enough, financially and operationally, to deliver and survive through turbulent times. The last year has proven just how important it is to always remain agile and adaptable, in business and in life. Bad things sometimes happen. Can your supplier adjust quickly? The right partner will flex with you to deliver the value you need, every time.

All five selection criteria are tied to crucial performance capabilities, so consider their importance when evaluating potential RF suppliers. Choose wisely and enjoy a successful outcome that lasts.

To hear the full detail provided in the webinar, register now!

 

RF Applications: The Big Picture Webinar Summary

Summary

In this session, Dave provides an overview of Times Microwave’s expertise in designing coaxial cable solutions for a wide range of applications. Starting with the company’s deep experience in supporting electronic warfare systems, Dave explores how the company has adapted to enhance its capabilities to meet the changing needs of industries that demand more power and precision from cabling and measurement solutions. The webinar also examines how the Times Microwave approach is helping to solve challenges that would be nearly impossible to address without a flexible, scalable coaxial cable application ready for deployment.

Watch the video or read the session notes below.

Session Notes

There are five common RF use cases that require coaxial cables and connectors, and each type has its individual characteristics and challenges.

Communication

A traditional place for coaxial cables has been in wireless communications, including mobile/telecom, two-way radio, public mobile radio/land mobile radio, satellite communications and military communications. The challenge with these types of voice-based applications is the signal to noise ratio. This is critical as any degradation of the signal will cause information to be lost.

Therefore, factors that must be considered in determining the optimal coaxial cables and connectors include low loss, shielding so that signals from outside can’t interfere, and reliability with 99.999% up time. This has been a traditional application for Times Microwave LMR® cables. The product line up has evolved to include additional options to meet the needs of 5G and Low-PIM such as SPP™, TFT, small cell cables and more. We also have TCOM cables for deploying emergency cell sites.

Vision

In this case, RF is used as a way of viewing the world, most often in places where the eyes cannot see. The classic example is radar. Essentially, vision applications use RF signals to locate and identify potential threats, landscape features, and more. This type of system is typically found in military airframe electronic warfare systems, ground radar, anti-missile defense, guidance systems, aviation collision avoidance and similar applications.

Times Microwave has a long legacy creating optimized solutions for military airframe electronic warfare systems and many other related technologies. The common challenge is the multiple antennas and location sensors that all come back to a common point. Vision systems work by looking at the differences.

So, what’s the challenge when it comes to the cabling? One, these systems are in difficult places— extreme and highly variable conditions in terms of elevation, temperature, and more—and the signals need to travel at consistent speed independent of these elements.

This is critical as unaccounted-for variations could mean a system is “looking” in the wrong place. Additionally, if any phase or amplitude errors are being introduced into the multi-antenna system, it will cause a problem. Therefore, amplitude and phase stability across temperature and between cables is a key challenge in finding the right coaxial cable and connector solution for vision applications.

Data Systems

Sensors and other data systems are a big investment area now. These are systems that are essentially designed to get feedback needed to understand what is going on in a particular environment.  An example is measuring the water content in soil to optimize field irrigation.

What is the challenge with sensors? They are typically used in extreme environments or locations that are difficult to access. For example, it is very difficult to do soil samples every morning on a 100-acre cornfield, so sensors are used. They are also useful in contaminated areas, or nuclear applications where it is not safe. This means that once the cable is installed, it might not be easily accessible for replacement.

Additionally, even though the process typically involves a quick measurement from a sensor connected to an antenna, reliability is key. If a critical system dependent on a sensor does not work, things can quickly go haywire.

Data systems require coaxial cable solutions that can withstand the rigors of these important applications. Times Microwave engineers are skilled in looking at this intriguing world and figuring out how to architect the best interconnect solutions to meet its challenges.

Test and Measurement

Test and measurement applications are used to test RF equipment during the design and production stages. An example of this is a program testing electronic warfare systems before they go into F-35 aircraft to ensure they can identify potential threats with the utmost reliability.

This environment requires unique coaxial cables and connector solutions— repeatability, reliability, and reproducibility are critical to make sure the cable itself is not introducing uncertainty to the test. This includes ensuring amplitude (low loss) and phase stability. Flexure is also key as these systems (and cables) are connected and disconnected often and are used repeatedly, so the connectors must be able to withstand extensive handling.

This use case also fits nicely with Times’ unique capabilities and products. Test and measurement requirements often demand a special type of cable—for example, one that needs to be flexed or bundled with another type of cable into a multi-pin type of connector—and Times will tailor a custom solution for the application.

High Power

These applications vary a bit from those previously mentioned because RF is used to transmit power in this case (such as activating a magnet or gas) rather than a signal. RF is used in these instances because cables are easier to install than pipes or other options. Examples include lasers, deposition equipment, physics test equipment, microwave ablation, industrial microwave ovens and MRI machines.

Therefore, key system parameters include flexibility and low loss. Power also generates heat, so the cable jacket temperature needs to be optimized for a particular power level. Materials and constructions are important to prevent overheating and to ensure ease of installation.

What Makes Times Microwave Unique?

Coaxial cable technology is being used in places you’ve likely never thought of before. Times Microwave applies its deep knowledge of this technology and dedicated engineers to create coaxial cable solutions for many different applications—whether the application is communications, vision, data systems, test and measurement, high power, or anything else. Bring us your tough challenges and I promise with almost 99.999% certainty that Times Microwave will be able to come up with a solution that meets your needs.

reliable-solutions

Reliable Solutions for Test and Measurement Webinar Summary

Summary

In this session, John explains how Times Microwave Systems’ test cables are used in test and measurement applications, and how the company’s core products are suited for various uses. He also explains how higher frequency ranges and the rise of 5G are driving development of more advanced cabling products, with more robust features and higher levels of customization now possible. Finally, the session drills deeper into popular products like Clarity™, Silverline®, Silverline®-Extra Flex, and Silverline®-VNA and how they are being used in the testing world today.

Watch the video or read the session notes below.

Session Notes

Test leads are used in essentially every manufacturing space related to electronics, avionics, test equipment, semiconductors, and more.

RF testing requires unique coaxial cable and connector solutions. The cable assemblies must be durable enough to withstand extensive handling and continuous movement from frequent connecting and disconnecting, while maintaining precise repeatability of measurement and reliable electrical performance. It is critical that the cable, cable assembly and connector do not introduce any problems.

New technologies such as 5G have introduced more testing challenges. The increased speed of 5G is achieved in part by using higher-frequency radio waves. Unlike previous cellular technology generations that were focused on a specific frequency band, 5G operates across a much larger frequency range. For example, 5G can range from 450 MHz to 3.9 GHz, and up to 20-52.6 GHz millimeter-wave bands for high-speed operations. It also encompasses unlicensed frequency bands, such as the 6 GHz band.

Rapidly advancing technologies are also increasing the complexity of test setups, requiring more test leads and connection points than ever before. This makes it necessary to revisit how connection points and test leads are built as well as the different types of connectors available—while ensuring that the latest test assemblies work in concert with the changes made by test equipment manufacturers.

Another key aspect is related to the need to constantly move the cables around. Movement introduces phase change, which can impact measurement accuracy. Robust cabling is therefore critical to keep phase as stable as possible.

Additionally, when testing technologies such as 5G, the source and receiver might be running at two different frequencies at once. A phase-stable assembly will help ensure that harmonics are not introduced back into the system.

Times Microwave SilverLine® and Clarity™ Solutions

SilverLine test cables are cost-effective, durable, high-performance cable assemblies designed for use in a broad range of test and interconnect applications. The PTFE dielectric cable features stainless steel connectors and a molded strain relief system, providing long life and excellent phase stability in applications where the cables are repeatedly flexed and mated/unmated. Because Silverline tolerates a very wide temperature range – up to 125 degrees Celsius, it can also be used outside of a test bench.

SilverLine-ExtraFlex was designed for testing delicate components such as exposed RF circuits with edge launch connectors. It uses Times’ proprietary TF-4 dielectric, exhibiting a very linear phase change from 0ºC to +30ºC. It also uses the injection-molded strain relief system for extremely good isolation, and the same robust, proven connector attachment system as SilverLine.

Silverline-VNA cables are designed for the highest frequencies presently available, 70 GHz through 110 GHz. Their construction method is different than the others, as there is no unarmored option, to keep phase stability in check.

Times Microwave’s Clarity line includes highly stable RF cables with flex in a very robust package for accurate measurement. It features excellent phase stability, extremely low loss, an ergonomic molded boot and a large connector selection. Utilizing the flexible TF4 dielectric allows for accurate S parameter measurements and even when movement occurs in the production environment, the proven solutions cover a wide frequency range from 18 GHz to 50 GHz.

It is also important to use a very flexible cable material that can be moved around on a test bench, either in R&D or in a production environment. Testing often moves from module to module. With high frequencies, this could require recalibration every time a module or cable is moved. However, using a cable that can bend and flex will greatly reduce the amount of recalibration required while maintaining stability. Where Clarity really shines is its ability to connect and disconnect without having to do different calibrations in between.

Q&A

Following are some of the questions that were asked by the audience:

  • What is the mating cycle for your test leads?
  • What is the difference between an LMR and a test cable?
  • What are the common failing mechanisms for test leads and where do they fail?

To learn the answers and hear the full detail provided in the webinar, register now!