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RF Shielding Material Guide

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Table Of Contents

    keypoints-top-borderKey Points

    • RF shielding materials must be conductive in order to be effective.
    • Material quality matters for both RF shielding enclosures and RF shielding gaskets.
    • Even with high-quality materials, you need a high-quality manufacturing partner to make an effective RF shield.

    keypoints-bottom-border

    It’s not easy to design a radio frequency (RF) shield. You have to tailor the design to your specific application and device, and you have to make it effective. As if those two tasks weren’t enough, you then have to figure out which RF shielding materials you’re going to use.

    Why is that a problem? Because there are tons to choose from, and they all come with different properties. Some will be suited for your particular RF shield, and some won’t be. How are you to know?

    By reading this quick and simple RF shielding material guide. Read on to learn everything you need to know.

    Modus Advanced doesn’t just know all of the right materials to use in RF shields — we have direct access to them and routinely use them in RF shields for our customers. Want to get your RF shield manufactured right? Contact us.

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    RF Shielding Resource Center

    Visit the RF Shielding Resource Center

    About RF Shielding Materials

    The materials used in RF shields make or break their ability to function. That’s because it is the materials themselves that reflect or redirect incoming RF signals. To effectively shield against RF signals, RF shielding materials must include a conductive substance — usually a metal.

    RF shielding materials come in a wide variety of brands and types, but they can be broken down into two key categories: those used for the metal enclosures that form the shape of the RF shield and those used for gaskets and O-rings within and on the shield. We discuss both categories below.

    Materials for RF Shield Enclosures

    Most RF shields include a hard exterior made of solid metal. There are exceptions, including the classic Faraday cage design, but even the mesh used for Faraday cages is made of conductive metal. Below are some of the most common and most effective RF shielding materials.

    Copper

    Copper is one of the most effective materials used in RF shields. While copper can be relatively expensive, it provides highly effective conduction, absorption and attenuation of incoming RF signals. 

    Standard copper, beryllium copper, bronze and brass all find uses in RF shields for various applications because they share the above described properties and are fairly easy to form and work with regardless of the shape required for the RF shield.

    Nickel Silver

    With a silver appearance and a natural ability to withstand corrosion, nickel silver is widely available and often used in RF shields. It’s a copper alloy with many of the same properties as copper and its variations.

    Aluminum

    If you’re looking for a lighter weight, yet still effective, RF shielding material, you may find what you’re looking for in aluminum. As an added bonus, aluminum is often more cost effective than other shielding materials, but you should keep in mind that it provides less conductivity and may fall victim to galvanic corrosion.

    Steel

    Steel is a unique RF shielding material because it is incredibly strong and has ferromagnetic properties. Those ferromagnetic properties mean that steel creates a magnetic shield that redirects and redistributes incoming RF signals.

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    RF Shielding: Everything You Need to Know

    RF Shielding: Everything You Need to Know

    RF Shielding Gasket Materials

    Most RF shields will need to have an opening of some kind, and in and around that opening you will likely need to implement an RF shielding gasket. If the gasket or O-ring used for this part of the shield isn’t made with the right materials, you may have an ineffective RF shield on your hands. 

    The following are the most common and most effective materials for use in RF shielding gaskets.

    Filled Elastomers

    Most RF shielding gaskets and O-rings are made with elastomeric materials like silicone rubber, but those elastomers are filled with conductive materials. The elastomers do little to nothing to mitigate RF shields, but the filler materials do the RF blocking job quite nicely.

    The following are some of the most common filler materials used in RF shielding gaskets:

    • Silver
    • Silver aluminum
    • Silver nickel
    • Silver copper
    • Nickel graphite
    • Nickel aluminum

    Conductive Foams and Fabrics

    Although these materials are much less commonly used, conductive foams and fabrics can be found in some low-stakes RF shielding gaskets and O-rings. They are what they sound like — fabric covered with conductive materials or foams sprayed with low-conductivity material.

    These materials cost much less than most of their sturdier counterparts, but they come with drastically decreased effectiveness. Still, for some applications, they’re just right.

    The Best RF Shielding Materials, the Best RF Shield Manufacturer 

    There’s no doubt that you need to work with high-quality RF shielding materials if you plan to design an effective RF shield. However, even if you have nothing short of the best available materials on hand, your RF shield can still be low-quality or even completely ineffective if the manufacturer makes mistakes.

    You can’t have that, and you shouldn’t have to. That’s why it’s so important to work with a leading RF shield manufacturing partner like Modus Advanced. We don’t just have access to the best RF shielding materials — we have robust quality processes, decades of combined manufacturing experience and the best available manufacturing tools and processes.

    Ready to work with the best? Reach out to the Modus Advanced team by calling
    925-960-8700 or contacting us online today.

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