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The Concerto high-frequency electromagnetic design software from Cobham Technical Services is enabling San-tron to design a coaxial radio-frequency (RF) connector within three working days.

Around 70 per cent of Cobham’s business is producing custom parts and a key element in securing these orders is the ability to produce engineering samples rapidly.

Requests for custom parts are often driven by a need for improvements in cost or performance – or both.

By using the Concerto software, with its built-in automatic parameter optimisation program, San-tron is almost invariably able to find the best connector geometry in a single simulation-optimisation stage.

From there, the company typically fabricates a small number of prototypes, based on the optimised design but with minor mechanical variations.

The results of electrical tests on these allow San-tron to assess the effects of tolerances in manufacture and material properties.

The final design is then realised in finished samples for customer evaluation.

The complete design stage of this process is usually performed within just three working days.

This includes a full 3D simulation and multi-parameter optimisation exercise that takes between 30 minutes and a couple of hours, depending on the complexity of the product.

Concerto’s computation efficiency allows this to be performed on a standard office laptop.

Before this design process was introduced, San-tron employed analytic computer software to estimate the voltage standing wave ratio (VSWR) of a proposed connector design.

Designing a new connector using this approach typically necessitated three or four physical prototyping iterations.

This approach became impractical as San-tron’s business grew and as it became involved in higher-frequency applications.

San-tron designs several hundred connectors every year.

Many of these are mechanical variations on field-proven connectors in its standard range and do not require electrical changes.

However, the in-depth design and analysis of a new concept using Concerto is typically needed for two or more products each month.

One recent Concerto-aided design project involved a panel-mounting connector for operation up to 40GHz, following a customer request to lower the costs of an existing connector that it used.

Concerto’s ability to optimise a design helped Fred Hull, San-tron’s chief engineer, to prototype an idea that virtually reduced the bill of materials from five component parts to four, while still matching performance.

Hull said: ‘It would be extremely difficult and expensive to produce a high-frequency connector like this without design automation.

‘I would probably need to machine and test a dozen prototypes before I could lock in a reasonable performance optimum and that process would be far too slow and too expensive for today’s marketplace.

‘Concerto gives us the means to obtain the optimum geometry in a matter of a couple of hours,’ he added.

San-tron chose Concerto as its main design tool because of its excellent price-performance ratio.

The 2D variant of Concerto would have been suitable for most of the company’s coaxial connector design requirements, but San-tron wanted the more versatile 3D package so that it could also handle customer requests for products such as coax-to-stripline and right-angled adaptors.

Full 3D software tools can be very expensive, however, and after reviewing the electromagnetic EDA market, San-tron chose Cobham Technical Services’ Concerto ES package – with its finite-difference time domain solver – as it offers a low-cost entry point to full 3D electromagnetic design functionality that is suitable for smaller-scale design problems.

San-tron makes connectors and cable assemblies in a variety of standard configurations, from SMA through LC styles, and can manufacture and supply application-specific components.

Cobham Technical Services

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