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PANEL ANTENNA CONSTRUCTION


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Panel antennas are well suited for UHF project where a wide bandwidth is required with a wide beamwidth.
Most of the antennas on mobile phone towers are panel antennas. Panel antennas could easily be mistaken for
being a complex piece of equipment, but the truth is they are actually quite simple in design and construction.
The most common design is an array of dipoles all phased together. Hence the name "phased array". You will
find many examples of phased arrays around that do not have a panel cover. TV antennas are some of the best
examples. UHF TV phased arrays usually look like four bow ties one on top of the other. You will also see VHF
phased array TV antennas, especially where there is a big hill behind the antenna. Phased arrays have an
excellent F/B Ratio (Front to Back Ratio) and so eliminate a lot of ghosting from reflected signals. This is a very
desirable quality in high speed data transmissions like 802.11b to reduce multipath errors. commercial radio &
TV stations also use phased arrays because of their wide beamwidth. You see will some excellent examples on
the top of TV towers.

CONSTRUCTION
The design I have chosen for this project is nice and simple and with you new found skills of circuit board
design, you should find this antenna very easy to build. For the basic design start with a blank piece of double
sided circuit board cut to a size of 65mm x 130mm. Then take 300mm long strip of electrical tape cut to 5mm
wide and wrap it around the board length ways so that the tape lines up in the center on both sides. Then cut four
lengths of eletrical tape 150mm long and 10mm wide and place them 30mm apart so they form the four elements
of the array. Make sure in both cases that the tape lines up as close as possible on both sides of the board. When
your done you will then need to cut the tape and remove one half element alternately on each side. The result
should look like this design on both sides of the board.

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http://cheatthezone.tripod.com/wireless/phased.html

It is now ready to be etched. When you have finished you then need to dril a small hole through the center of the
board for the coax to be soldered to. Lightly countersink the hole on one side to remove a little bit of the track to
stop the core of the coax shorting out. Solder the coax to the board so that the core is soldered to one side and
the shield to the other side. It doesn't matter what sort of coax you use in this case though it should be 50 ohms
impedance. I find the absolute best coax is semi-rigid because it is small, there is no messy braid, it is relatively
low loss at high frequencies and it solders to the board very easily.

You will now need to mount your antenna onto a backplane. Jaycar sell a sheet of aluminium that is perfect for
the job, but you could also use another blank piece of circuit board. The dimensions should be roughly 10%
bigger than your elements. The backplane reflector should be mounted 30mm behind the elements. Nylon screws
and standoffs are the best thing to use for small scale, but you could use metal standoffs and screws provided
that they support the driven board well away from the elements. An earth piece of metal near them will de-tune
them.

The next thing to do is protect the antenna so that it can be used outdoors. There are several things you can do.
The easiest is to 'tin' the copper tracks. This involves coating them with solder using either a spray or just your
soldering iron. This has the effect of coating the copper with lead. Copper corodes much faster than lead.
You might choose to simply coat the copper board with clear or coloured contact. This will certainly keep the
water out and stop corrosion. You can also buy spray on lacquer from Jaycar, it gives your board a professional
glossy look. The most expensive option is put it in a box. The plastic jiffy boxes from DSE and Jaycar are good
for the job and some even have aluminium lids that you can use as a backplane. I found a large jiffy box at a ham
radio field day which is big enough for the antenna and my Access Point.

Finally you might care to do some true experimentation and work with some different designs of phased array.
Some examples are "Double Diamonds", "Quads", "Bow Ties", "Collins H" to name a few.

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You can also phase and stack the arrays for more gain. An example is putting two panel antennas side by side
and using a splitter. This may sound difficult to do, but if you build two arrays onto one circuit board, then all
you need to do is add some extra tracks to phase it all together. Building combiners and dividers onto antenna
circuit boards is not that much harder and will save you a few dollars on additional connectors.

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