Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Reflection Bridge with Type-N connectors

I always try to avoid using "between-series" adapters - there are so many out there with questionable quality. Sometimes these adapters are just the "necessary evil". In an attempt to reduce the need for adapters, I built 3 different reflection bridges for my N2PK VNA - BNC, SMA and Type-N.
From a mechanical point of view, mating a bridge directly onto 2 fixed distance ports presents a challenge - the connectors must be aligned perfectly. These are precision connectors and even the smallest misalignment will cause stress to the pin/receptacle, uneven wear and possibly damage. Using Type-N flange connectors on the reflection bridge will form too rigid junction and they are difficult to install with such great precision. On the other hand I prefer somewhat rigid connection and don't want to use flexible coax as it introduces phase instability when bent or twisted. A few tenths of the millimeter lateral "play" in the connectors will be enough to take care of small misalignment.
To build the Type-N bridge I used a pair of male Type-N connectors (solder type, Digikey p/n ACX1132-ND) on ~3 cm pieces of semi-rigid coax (RG-402 - solid copper tube shield, not the hand-conformable type). The coax is inserted in a brass tube (very slightly larger than the diameter of the coax, 2.1 cm length, K&S Engineering 3/16 x .014 Stock #129) that goes thru the wall of the aluminum enclosure and it is soldered inside to a brass plate. A second, larger diameter brass tube (2 cm length, K&S Engineering 7/32 Stcok #130) goes over the small diameter tube but does not go thru the wall. The small diameter tube provides stress-relief on pull action, as one end of the RG-402 is soldered to it. The larger diameter brass tube goes over the solder collar in the base of the male Type-N connector and it is compressed between the enclosure and connector, providing stress-relief on push action.
The whole assembly might be a little over-engineered but it is very sturdy and gives me the few tenths of millimeter lateral flexibility at the connector end without being too flexible. It, also protects the RG-402 from accidental permanent bending and damage.

The small diameter brass tube goes thru the wall and together with the protruding copper shield of the RG-402 coax is soldered to a brass plate and the PCB's ground plane. It is critical that the holes in the aluminum enclosure are just big enough for the small diameter brass tube to be inserted with no "play"as the flexibility needs to come from the exposed length of the brass tube. An SMA connector is installed for the DDS source termination (needed for improved low frequency measurements).

Heat-shrink tubing color-coded the IN and OUT of the reflection bridge. For the DUT port I installed a high-quality Amphenol 131-445 / HP-Agilent #1250-1404 female Type N connector. This instrument grade connector has a SMA(f) on the back. A corresponding SMA(m) with really short pigtail (~4-5 mm) was used for connection to the bridge. I had to make a cut-out in the PCB to accommodate the SMAs.

Because of the custom Type-N connectors, I was able to fit the bridge in a lower profile enclosure - same type I used for my RF-IV sensors - Bud Industries CN-5701 (Digikey p/n 377-1512-ND)