9 RF shielding Techniques Explained

Different RF shielding techniques suit different industry requirements and other RF protection needs. To help you understand the range of available options, this article will take a look at nine most used shielding methods against radio waves interference. Before that, here is a brief overview of the radio frequency shielding concept.

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Table of Contents

How Does RF Shielding Work?

RF shielding is used to mean the process of preventing radio frequency waves from entering or escaping a designated area. RF interference shielding works either reflecting or absorbing the radio frequency field, using a variety of different materials and design options.

An RF signal is an electromagnetic wave with a frequency range that ranges from 3 kHz to 300 GHz. When this wave encounters any type of conductor, it induces currents that are proportional to the strength of the incident field.

The induced currents then produce secondary EM fields that distort or weaken the original signal. Radio frequency shielding works by either reflecting or absorbing these interfering electromagnetic fields, ensuring that they do not affect the operation of an electronic device.

RF shielding techniques on an electronic device
RF shielding techniques on an electronic device
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RF Shielding Techniques

RF shielding manufacturers make use of a variety of different shield designs to achieve the desired protection. These can range from simple conductive materials to complex enclosures with multiple layers of shielding. Here is a list of the most common RF interference shielding techniques in use today, including a look at the pros and cons of each method.

1. RF Shielding Enclosure

RF shielding enclosures are made in different sizes, forms, and shapes depending on the kind of application they are meant to be used in. For example, it can be an RF shielding box for use in a laboratory, an RF shielding can for PCB protection, and so on.

Advantages:

  • An RF shielding enclosure is mostly easy to make and install
  • Provides high levels of shielding effectiveness over a wide range of frequencies
  • Enclosures offer environmental protection in addition to RF shielding

Disadvantages:

  • Can be expensive, especially when made from solid metal
  • Can be too rigid and heavy for some applications

2. RF Shielding Panels

RF shielding panels are designed to be used in commercial, industrial, and military applications. Usually, these allow for a modular construction of an RF shielding room using several pieces of metal sheet or other materials.

RF panels are necessary when a regular enclosure is not suitable due to the size and space constraints. The use of panels allows for an easier installation and may also make it easy to replace a part without having to re-install or reconfigure the entire shielding system.

Advantages:

  • Easier to install than a full RF enclosure
  • Can be used to protect a larger area than an enclosure
  • Easy to upgrade and reconfigure the system with additional panels

Disadvantages:

  • Requires planning and sealing to ensure proper shielding
  • Can be expensive for larger areas

3. RF Shielding Foil

RF shielding foil is one of the most cost effective options for reducing RF interference. This type of shielding is made from a thin layer of metal which is usually laminated or bonded to a substrate material.

The metal layer of an RF shielding foil acts as a reflective surface for the RF energy, sending the interfering signals away from the protected device. This type of shielding can also be used in with other materials to provide more effective shielding performance

Advantages:

  • Low cost solution compared an enclosure or panel system
  • An RF shielding foil is lightweight usable in many applications
  • Flexible enough to be installed in various shapes and sizes

Disadvantages:

  • Not suitable for high flex situations as it can easily break
  • Shorter lifespan due to the low mechanical strength

4. RF Shielding Film

An RF shielding film is a thin layer of conductive material that can be applied to any surface to provide an RF barrier. This type of shielding is often a clear material to block out unwanted radiofrequency signals, such as those emitted by cellular phones and other wireless devices.

RF shielding films can also be used in industrial and medical applications, including shielding sensitive electronic equipment from EMI or radiation. These films are available in different thicknesses and other customization features.

Advantages:

  • Easy to install onto different types of surfaces
  • Low cost compared to other RF shielding methods
  • RF shielding film is flexible enough to be installed in various shapes and sizes

Disadvantages:

  • Can be difficult to maintain consistent shielding performance over a wide range of frequencies
  • Prone to scratches and damage which can reduce the shielding performance

5. RF Shielding Gasket

This is one of the most used RF shielding techniques today, with its application ranging from cellular phones, to computers, and automotive systems. The RF gasket material is designed to provide a Faraday Cage-like shielding effect while also providing an airtight seal between two components.

An RF shielding gasket is usually made of metal or conductive rubber. These gaskets are designed to be used in conjunction with other components such as enclosures, sealing off openings that may allow RF interference to enter the protected space.

Advantages:

  • Easy to install
  • Provides effective shielding when other RF shielding techniques leave gaps
  • Can be used to provide an airtight seal between two components and provide environmental protection

Disadvantages:

  • May not provide sufficient shielding compared to the main RF shielding technique used
  • Can be prone to degradation, which can reduce its performance

6. RF Shielding Tape

RF shielding tape is a type of adhesive material designed to provide RF shielding. It has the advantages of being easy to install and relatively inexpensive compared to other RF shielding techniques.

The most common type of RF shielding tape consists of a thin layer of metalized plastic or metal-coated material, which is then laminated to a backing material and supplied with adhesive to stick to surfaces.

Advantages:

  • Easy to use
  • Low cost compared to several other RF shielding techniques
  • Flexible enough to be installed in various shapes and sizes

Disadvantages:

  • May not provide sufficient shielding in some applications
  • Prone to damage which can reduce the shielding performance

7. Braided RF Shielding

Braided RF shielding consists of a woven metal mesh that can be used to provide flexible shielding for different types of applications such as cables. This type of shielding is often used in automotive and industrial applications, as well as wireless communication systems.

The mesh of the RF shielding braid is usually made from copper, or other conductive material, which helps to prevent incoming EM waves from entering the protected area or leaving, depending on the need.

Advantages:

  • Highly flexible and suits many uses, including high-flex applications
  • Can be customized for different applications
  • Durable and resistant to scratches and other damage

Disadvantages:

  • Can be bulky and may not fit tight places
  • Does not provide total coverage and may not suit some applications

8. RF Shielding Bag

An RF shielding bag, as its name implies, is a type of shielding bag used to provide a barrier to radio frequency (RF) signals. Also called a Faraday bag, this type of shield is typically made from metal or metalized fabrics and non-metallic materials, such as nylon or polyester.

A radio frequency shielding bag works by blocking outside sources of RF waves and also any outgoing signals from within the bag. This prevents anyone outside the bag from accessing information stored inside, such as would be stored in an electronic gadget.

Advantages:

  • Lightweight and portable
  • Can provide shielding for more than one item at once
  • Easy to use

Disadvantages:

  • These bags must be properly sealed or they will not provide effective shielding
  • An RF shielding bag is often limited in size and capacity, and cannot contain large items

9. RF Shielding Tent

Although not as popular as the other RF shielding techniques, this type of shield is one of the methods available for protection against radio waves. The tent is usually made of a flexible RF material such as conductive fabric, and designed to absorb or redirect incoming electromagnetic waves.

RF shielding tents are mostly used as testing enclosures for wireless systems and medical equipment. They form a barrier between the enclosed area and any nearby transmitters of interference, thereby providing an effective shield.

Advantages:

  • Easy to install and transport
  • Provides an enclosed space for testing or sensitive operations

Disadvantages:

  • Must be carefully sealed to ensure the shielding effect
  • RF shielding tents can be expensive compared to other shielding methods.

Conclusion

Different RF shielding techniques are available today, with each offering its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Understanding what type of shielding is best suited for your application will help you ensure the best protection against unwanted RF energy. That’s because while some techniques perform better than others, others may be more cost effective or easier to use, among other factors.

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