Story: How we added the Array synthesis tool in Antenna Magus (part1)

I’m currently reading a brilliant book called Sketching the User Experience (by Bill Buxton). It contains this quote: “The things we have to know before we do something, we learn by doing it.” This is certainly true of our experience designing the Array Synthesis Tool.

Sometime in early in 2009, we all sat around the table and decided that we would be including an array calculator in Magus, because people kept on asking us: Can Magus do arrays? So it seemed like a feature that a lot of people really needed.

But what does that mean? When people ask whether MagusĀ does arrays, what exactly is it supposed to do?

To find out, we interviewed people at the coffee machine, over lunch and more formally in the boardroom. We asked questions like: What are common arrays? Why would you want one? How could Magus help you? If we told you that Magus now included an array calculator, what do you think it would do? Where do you start when you design an array?

Everyone had different answers. Nobody could tell us what they wanted specifically, but at least we could form an idea of the kinds of things that engineers thought about when thinking of arrays.

Magus had always included some basic arrays as antennas like the LPDA, the Yagi, little 2-by-2 patch arrays and later on the slotted waveguide array and our beloved braairooster antenna. But of course, these antennas have specific shapes and parameters.

Array antennas in the Magus database

Array antennas in the Magus database

An array calculator, on the other hand, would have to allow you to specify (almost) any number of radiators in different layouts and then tell you what the overall performance is.

With our first design we started off with the following two premises:

  • anything is possible and
  • an array is a bunch of antennas

To design an array, therefore, you first need to know what your elemental antenna looks like. After that you can decide how many you want and how they should be laid out.

In many ways, arrays are just like antennas. Hence we thought it would be great to incorporate the array design workflow into the existing antenna design workflow, in other words: make arrays work just like antennas.

The user would design an elemental antenna, like a patch or a dipole. He could then choose to make an array of it, either by specifying the number of elements in the x- and y-directions or allowing Magus to tell him the number of elements needed, their positions and their excitations.

The first prototype (shown in the image below) was drawn up in Balsamiq and put in front of five users. In the next blog I will write on what the usability tests told us but have a look at the prototype so long and write down (or comment) what you thought about it. Click on the image below to enlarge.

Array tool: Prototype 1 (click to enlarge)

Array tool: Prototype 1 (click to enlarge)

Author: Carien Fouch

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