Building a Vector Network Analyzer without any prior design knowledge.

Longtime antenna designer Pete Bevelaqua decided to take on a VNA design. He details his build from scratch at HDDG19.

Supplyframe’s mission is to create more access to information about electronics design and manufacturing. As such, we do a meetup in San Francisco called, Hardware Developers Didactic Galactic. These events include talks by industry experts in hardware and software. The speakers are often building hardware for recreation or as part of their employment. The common thread is that they want to give a view “under the hood”.

At HDDG19 on March 9th in San Francisco, Pete Bevelacqua described his journey building a Vector Network Analyzer (VNA) from scratch. He decided to undertake this task because of VNA’s relatively high cost, low ability to modify them and their ultimate importance in designing antennas.

Pete had never previously design and built a hardware device before, so his learning all happened along the way. To be frank, his tenacity and moving the product forward is impressive. Throughout the process he learned:

  • Microcontroller and display selection and prototyping
  • Soldering fine pitch components
  • Circuit board layout
  • Sourcing custom enclosures
  • Designing custom enclosures (MCAD)
  • Writing firmware

The final cost for a single device was around $3500, which seems quite high. Compared to a commercially available VNA, it was much less expensive though. Pete shows a demo at the end of the presentation of the working VNA (with a small amount of ripple that will be fixed in the next revision).

We highly recommend watching how Pete took this product from a pure idea to a working prototype in a short time frame.