Developing New Microwave Technology
Plextek was approached by a leading global domestic appliance brand with a new microwave oven concept for cooking different foods together, but at different temperatures. If it could successfully deliver the concept it would be able to cook better quality microwave food more conveniently; and compared to a conventional oven, cook more energy efficiently leading to an improved sustainability footprint. But while the company had expertise in magnetrons it recognised it didn’t have the expertise it would need in solid state RF electronics.
Using our expertise in solid state electronics and antenna propagation, we created a proof of principle demonstrator in a very short time with multiple patch antennas. While it was unsightly and bulky it allowed us to quickly run a set of experiments with different foods in different areas of the oven (“what, ice cream AND sausages?”). The experiments dimensionalized the potential technical performance for the concept and proved its feasibility. This rough demonstration was presented to the company’s senior leadership and won go ahead for a formal development.
Over the following 9 months a joint team from the customer, a key component partner and Plextek designed and developed a fully functional unit. In particular Plextek led the development of the control system, antennas, power supply and the cooling mechanism.
During the development we overcame multiple technical challenges resulting in a regular sized “looks-like and works-like” prototype. In the final days of the project we worked with the customer’s development chefs to successfully cook conventionally challenging foods for microwaves such as meatloaf, popcorn and swordfish.
Following another successful demonstration to the company’s senior management, we introduced the concept back into the customer’s core R&D department for development through its internal stage gates.