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January 18, 2022updated 19 Jan 2022 3:27pm

Small but mighty: How TSX attenuators benefit defence and space industries

Industry 4.0 is putting pressure on electronic manufacturers to deliver high performance with smaller equipment. For applications in the defence industry, from radios to drones and satellites, miniaturising components such as attenuators with broad frequency ranges is becoming critical for developing technology and meeting the challenging demands of defence and space customers.

The TSX series from Smiths Interconnect was developed with these demands in mind. These broadband attenuators provide excellent attenuation accuracy and flatness while maintaining significantly lower VSWR throughout the entire band. If a customer is using lower band, mid-band or high band, or they need a product that stretches a larger frequency range, this product can rise to that challenge.

Army Technology spoke with Smith Interconnect’s Dave Raymond, global product manager for board level devices and Tim Meehan, application engineer, about the development of the TSX series and what it offers the defence industry.

“Chip attenuators are electrical components used in amplifier circuits, receivers, up/down converters, phase-matched arrays, and switching applications to attenuate the power level of the pass-through signal, without significantly degrading the integrity of that signal. They come in different frequency band sizes, shapes and forms,” Raymond explains. “The defence market is looking for higher performing broadband and smaller products, so the TSX series develops a frequency range from DC to 50GHz in a small 0604 size that is surface mountable.

“Usually, an attenuator would be used for a lower frequency and when they had a higher frequency requirement, they would use a different attenuator. With TSX, you have one attenuator that will work on all customer applications instead of using three or four different types of attenuators, reducing the bill of materials and offering a more cost-effective solution.”

Higher frequency applications normally require wire bondable packages Unlike surface-mountable attenuators, these are expensive to install. Conversely, the TSX series is cost-effective, whilst still delivering a broader frequency range and an excellent power rating (one to three watts, depending on the value that the customer chooses), all in a small 0604 package size.

“This series offers excellent flatness and accuracy, with low VSWR (below 1.25),” Meehan explains. “We offer this series with attenuation values ranging from 1 to 10dB in 1dB increments, as well as 15 and 20dB.

“When we talk about flatness, a 1dB will be a 1dB attenuator from DC all the way up to the 50GHz. Whereas with traditional constructions and different types of materials, those attenuators that start off at 1dB – when you get up 12GHz or 15GHz – are going to change to a 2dB. It’s not flat.”

During the design process, Smiths Interconnect utilises industry-leading simulation tools. The company uses a total thin-film process which allows them to miniaturise the design. Other attenuator products are up to four or five times the size of a TSX attenuator, but still do not deliver the power of this package.

According to Meehan: “Our defence and space customers are looking for proven technology. The alumina thin film substrate processing has been around for over 40 years and is known to be capable of working in harsh environments.”

“The use of drones is really taking off in the defence market, and the TSX series is ideal for due to its compact size,” Raymond adds. “When we talk about radios, we talk about manpack radios that they use in the field, and for any type of communication for defence applications, the industry is looking to downsize; smaller, lightweight, and a lower cost of ownership. Now we’re getting requests for Leo satellites, which are small satellites that are very inexpensive to manufacture.”

Smiths Interconnect offers a broad portfolio of products and is a high-volume manufacturer, making it the ideal partner for connectivity needs. Building on more than 40 years of space heritage, Smiths products offer high reliability, from its standard products through to its high-end offerings.

To find out more about the TSX series and what Smiths Interconnect can do for your connectivity needs, download the brochure below.

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