Premium prices for mm-wave components – are they still justified?: Page 4 of 4

September 10, 2014 //By Andy Trusler, Luso Electronics
Traditionally waveguide components at frequencies above 26 GHz have been expected to carry a much higher price tag than the equivalent products at lower frequencies, sometimes by as much as a factor of three. Nowadays this price differential may be less justified, since technology advances have largely evened out the cost of many of the steps in both design and manufacture where the imbalance had previously been most pronounced.
Testing

An additional factor in the historic price structure was the high cost of purchasing and maintaining millimetre-wave test and measurement equipment. In recent years the price of vector network analyzers (VNA) that can test up to 40 GHz and above have dropped considerably, which means that in addition to the reduction in design and manufacturing costs outlined above, millimetre-wave components need no longer be significantly more expensive to test.

Conclusion

Considering all these factors, it is entirely reasonable for designers of microwave systems to ask, “Are millimetre-wave component prices too high?” The real cost differential is far less than that being maintained by many suppliers, simply because they continue to charge what the market has come to expect. A design engineer working on a new system should be able to confidently choose a millimetre-wave frequency to work at if that band gives the best technical performance without needing to worry whether costs of the waveguide components will make that choice unfeasible.

Additional considerations for a system designer who may be looking at purchasing a full antenna assembly and wishing to minimise total cost of ownership include the ease of upgrade from manual motion type to motorised, which is best achieved with a modular design, and whether the reflector size and centre frequency can readily be changed.

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