How a Custom Antenna Can Take Your Design to the Next Level

Published on August 28, 2019

How a Custom Antenna Can Take Your Design to the Next Level

Just about everything is going wireless these days, as the Internet of Things continues to gain steam. This has been the trend for some time in consumer electronics, like lighting that you can control with a smartphone or appliances that connect over Wi-Fi. And it’s not enough that new devices arrive with wireless – increasingly, devices are being retrofitted for connectivity by their manufacturers. This means something that is already fully designed now has a new need for an antenna and wireless hardware enclosure. These devices are all different, shaped differently and constructed differently, and their unique demands mean that often a one-size-fits-all antenna may not meet the application’s requirements.

This means more than not, a manufacturer might need a custom antenna (or a modified antenna from an existing design) to solve that product’s unique needs. These include considerations around performance, range, regulatory compliance, power, gain, frequency, cost, and much more. Each are very important to the end device, and in the case of retrofitting wireless, there may also be pre-existing constraints to these based on the device itself.  

The following are the four main reasons selecting a custom antenna can take your design to the next level.

Calibrated for High Performance in Your Unique Enclosure

The physical space in which your antenna sits has a significant impact on antenna performance, and many materials can even be responsible for fully blocking signal incoming and outgoing from the device. Most off-the-shelf antennas take into consideration aspects of the intending mounting environment. Laird’s FlexPIFA and mFlexPIFA antennas, for example, are designed for tight fitting interior enclosures; the mFlexPIFA is even designed to mount on metal in such applications. But to be completely certain your device is achieving peak performance, a custom antenna is the only way to measure and design against resistance factors and achieve superior wireless signal. Antennas can be built and tuned to your enclosure’s characteristics, eliminating the need to place an external antenna.

Remove Excess Materials for a Lower Cost Solution

Because your antenna is designed to do what you need, and not what you don’t, a custom antenna can be carefully pared down to just providing what is needed for your product. A general purpose antenna might include several features or components which cover most applications but which are unnecessary for your device. Efficiencies here are important, especially on high-volume production where tiny amounts in a bill of materials result in much larger costs over the life of production.

Many Wireless Bands in One Antenna

Many IoT applications require an antenna to support a very broad range of frequencies. Where a simple LoRaWAN radio may only require a narrow piece of the 915MHz range, a cellular antenna can be communicating in a large range of frequencies and may require a very versatile antenna. Our CMD Series antennas support frequencies from 498 MHz up to 4200 MHz for this reason. Other protocols, like joule-band Wi-Fi, also benefit from a custom antenna that supports a unique set of frequencies ranges. And to make matters more complex, many new IoT applications are leveraging multiple wireless protocols at once to service different aspects of their operation. A device may gather data over LoRaWAN and Bluetooth and then send it out over 5GHz Wi-Fi. All of those frequency ranges are separate and can be supported by a shared multi-band antenna, which is more efficient than including an antenna for each.

Ruggedized for Custom Mechanical Requirements

Many IoT devices need to hold up to a rigorous set of environmental and mechanical demands, and an off-the-shelf antenna may not be up to the task. Some are mounted outdoors where they’re vulnerable to sun exposure and rainfall. Some are likely to be exposed to heavy vibrations or electrostatic discharge. Temperature, wind, corrosion, and more can affect a device if it is mounted outdoors or in a volatile industrial environment. A custom antenna designed specifically to mitigate those circumstances has a higher success rate, which makes for higher reliability, less repairs, and greater longevity in your product.

A custom antenna for your device can be the difference between an average product and one that thrills your customers. To learn more about Laird Connectivity’s custom antennas, visit our custom antennas page.