Modern radar and communications manufacturers are under pressure to reduce weight and lower costs. Integrated microwave assemblies now offer smaller platforms to accomplish functions that used to necessitate large assembly and subassembly sizes. Phased array radar antennas, particularly actively scanning phased array radar, can require hundreds to thousands of transmit/receive (T/R ) modules to meet mission performance criteria. These T/R modules leverage duplexers, or circulators, to enable the antenna to be shared between the transmit. This is done by switching between the receive path and the transmit path during the transmitted pulse and back to the receive path during the echo pulse. Circulators offer this switching while still isolating transmit and receive paths. A reduction in size and cost of circulator components would also amount to desirable effects in a phased array overall cost and size.
With 5G being the next major phase of mobile telecommunications and massive MIMO already being applied improved coverage, current base stations will potentially be outfitted with a massive amount of antennas. These installations will require optimal efficiency in the size, weight, power, and cost (SWAP-C) microwave and millimeter wave circuitry, especially as phased-array antennas are considered the likely choice for implementing millimeter-wave systems. Circulators are also an enabling technology for full-duplex radios, low probability of intercept (LPI) radar, and many satellite communications. With radar entering the commercial and industrial space, there are more applications that require easily-integrated components. According to Research and Markets, the X-band radar market is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.1% from 2016 to 2021 – making X-band radar one of the most rapid upwards trending application in the entire radar market for marine, air surveillance, space, and various defense and military applications.
To conclude, the market is rocketing towards automated assembly and will drive component manufacturers towards surface mount tape-and-reel packaging of their devices.