Antennas are the “ears” and “eyes” of many electronic systems for a wide range of applications, from automotive to test systems. As electronic systems continue to advance and become more complex in terms of signal processing, antennas of many shapes and sizes must deal with an ever-expanding collection of waveforms. Performance testing an antenna in a qualified test laboratory can reveal a great deal about its capabilities and limitations, and designers rarely (if ever) regret such testing, which allows them to incorporate what they have learned about an antenna into a product design process.
Yet, for various reasons—and often owing to about 10 different excuses—antennas are not tested as part of a design cycle. This holds true even though the cost of such testing is a relatively minor investment (about $450 at a test facility such as Antenna Test Lab Co.) which can provide invaluable insights into an antenna’s capabilities, and how to best put them to work in a new electronic design. Testing is also relatively quick, since swept-frequency efficiency and gain patterns can be generated for any type of antenna in a few days.
With the growing reliance on wireless communications systems, antennas are essential for keeping system users “connected,” although antennas are also often one of the more taken-for-granted components in a wireless communications system. Even so, many design engineers ignore the importance of real-world antenna performance for a number of reasons or excuses.