API's Antennas & Antenna Assemblies are used for everything from down-hole drilling to ocean buoys, from thoroughbred & sport dog racing monitoring to wearable antennas for secure military communications. Jaymie Murray, Marketing Communications Specialist, recently spoke to API's Antenna Design Manager, Mark Schreiner, about his role at API and how companies and the military utilize our antennas.
Jaymie Murray (JM): What is your role here at API and what does that entail?
Mark Schreiner (MS): I am a Product Design Manager at our State College, PA facility, one of our RF Solutions Division locations. My primary focus is on antenna design which involves creating new designs and working with customers to fulfill their needs for custom solutions, and then eventually transferring those new products into production.
I have also been involved in transferring the power amplifier products from the design center into our production facility as a New Product Introduction (NPI) engineer. In that role I have trained some of our technicians and assemblers on the power amplifier products and worked as a liaison between the design center and the production facility.
JM: What products do you work with?
MS: Antenna products are my primary focus. Most of these are fairly small and would function in the UHF to lower microwave frequencies with a mix of military and commercial applications. Additionally, in the roll of an NPI engineer, the power amplifiers I have been working with generally operate in the 10 MHz - 6 GHz range and up to about 150 Watts of output power. Many of these are used for military programs.
JM: Why are these products great?
MS: We do a lot of antennas for asset tracking via GPS position reporting and satellite short burst data uplink technologies. In today's need to "know where everything is right now" culture our antenna products are helping with that. Typical applications might be for tracking heavy equipment rentals to both know where the asset is located as well as being able to get a notice when scheduled maintenance may be required, to locations of distribution trucks for nationwide merchandise stores. Another interesting application for this would be a remote fuel tank that is getting low on fuel. The customer knows where it is, but rather than sending somebody to check on the level of fuel, the transponder can send a short data burst through a satellite to let an office know that the fuel level is running low and to send somebody out to refill the tank. That is just a smart way to do business!
We also have had some very challenging antenna designs where the challenge is more in surviving the environment that the antenna assembly is being used, such as oil well drilling. In this example, where extreme heat, pressure, vibration, abrasion and chemical environments are present, the antenna assembly combined with an RFID tag simply has to survive the environments (from over 15,000 feet below the surface of the earth or ocean) so that when it comes back out of the ground (or water), sometimes after over a month of continuous duty, the RFID tag can still be read by the reader for tracking how long the equipment was in use, useful for billing of leased drill pipes, and knowing how close to the end of life the drill pipes and equipment are so they can be taken out of service before they fail (which could cause environmental issues, drilling downtime, etc.).
The power amplifier products are often quite interesting as well. From amplifiers that are placed on UAV's (drones) to extend their operational communications range to amplifiers that are used as in jamming systems as a protective umbrella with ground forces to jam signals that may be sent remotely to set off IEDs, there are lots of good uses for our amplifier products. I really like the fact that the products we build and test are helping our armed forces and hopefully saving lives of the good guys who are fighting the war on terror!
JM: Why should customers buy them?
MS: Many of the products we design and manufacture are most likely not typically available off the shelf from other sources. Many of our products are custom designed to specific requirements. Our engineering, marketing and production teams can work with our customers to define new products that meet or exceed our customer's expectations. Our catalog products should be viewed as ideas of the type of things we can do, but we can do so much more! Those standard products should be viewed as building blocks or a starting point of a custom design to solve the customer's goals.
JM: How do our awesome products set us apart from our competitors?
MS: Since our products are custom designed for a customer, they should feel confident that the product is the exact jigsaw puzzle piece they were looking for to finish off their project rather than trying to use a generic piece to try to get their system working correctly. While we have many standard products we can usually adjust the designs to meet specific needs. Many companies that have the same products do not have the engineering resources to redesign a product if required or are able to provide technical resources to help the customer meet their design objectives.
Learn more about API's Antennas & Antenna Assemblies.