5G innovation: A modern technological breakthrough
Jun 18, 2021

Megatrend Spotlight: Earlier this year, 3M shared the megatrends we see shaping the next 5-10 years of life on this planet. To understand the source of these trends, and their impact around the globe, we are taking a deeper dive into their key themes and the ways our people, technology and solutions are working to improve lives.

Throughout history, key advancements in technology have fundamentally changed the way we live and interact in society. New breakthroughs require new standards of innovation to support its trajectory, setting the stage for what’s possible—and what’s next. 

Nowhere is this more evident than in our modern world of communication and interconnectivity.

The introduction of the World Wide Web in 1993 marked a historic moment for global connectivity. The proliferation of broadband internet in 2001 ushered in the beginning of internet accessibility. The advancement of cellular networks made wireless browsing a reality, and the adoption of mobile phone “pocket computers” created endless information right at our fingertips.

We find ourselves in one of these exciting times: We are more connected than ever before, processing more information, innovating across industries, and our demand for connection and convenience is at an all-time high. 

So, what is today’s breakthrough technology to meet the moment? It’s in 5G.

What is 5G?
In short, 5G is the fifth generation of cellular networks. It utilizes groundbreaking technologies in data transfer and new understandings of connectivity to create the most advanced networks in human history. 

However, the implications for 5G go beyond your cell phone. It offers vast opportunity across industries to meet today’s various challenges of data processing and the implications of creating advanced networks.

How 5G is advancing our lives.
As Brian Meyer, president of 3M’s advanced materials division, says, “Impacts of 5G will hit every industry from manufacturing, healthcare, transportation, to personal connectivity. 5G enables faster and stronger connectivity allowing for swift data processing speeds and outputs well beyond the 4G capabilities.” 

For consumers, that could mean a robust jump in all the things we enjoy at our fingertips. Meyer continues, “Consumer data requirements are growing at a large pace which in turn drives antenna frequencies. 5G will enable increased streaming, the internet of things, and even autonomous driving. All of these require the processing of massive amounts of data, quickly and efficiently.”

5G is also a matter of infrastructure advancement in order to serve society. 

As Meyer, sees it, “The technology impacts both global communications and local communities. 5G infrastructure can expand access to healthcare, widen applications of robotics, which enables smart cities, water system management, supports city planning and enables remote work and learning.”

3M’s role in 5G, plus New 3M™ Glass Bubbles for 5G
As a material sciences company, 3M has an exciting role in 5G, designing scientific solutions to help connectivity designers improve and advance 5G connectivity innovation. 

“5G networks push current materials to their limit with signal loss and thermal management,” says Kelly Denman of 3M’s 5G segment marketing team. “3M Advanced Materials has solutions targeting both challenges. But our most recent product introduction is our 3M Glass Bubbles designed specifically with 5G in mind.”

“Every time a 5G signal passes through a material it loses momentum and speed. The addition of 3M glass bubbles can help mitigate that loss,” Denman explains. “3M Glass Bubbles are a low loss additive used in resin material which enables engineers to tailor their 5G design to certain relevant dielectric values while ensuring the material quality and consistency required for the electronics space.”

Designs incorporating 3M Glass Bubbles help enable a 5G signal by improving the data transfer velocity and reducing the signal transmission power loss. 3M Glass Bubbles is an additive used in high-speed high frequency copper clad laminates (CCL), the base material for 5G printed circuit boards – the building blocks for 5G wireless radio systems. They can also be used in plastics and composites like antenna system radome covers, antenna splits or even a device case in the 5G network.

“We are constantly innovating and evolving around these,” said Andrew D’Sousa, global 3M Glass Bubbles lab manager. “Our next phase of 5G 3M Glass Bubbles product innovation is designed for an even higher mmWave frequency, which will further enable 5G innovation with our customers.”

The future of 5G.
As 5G continues to be a mainstay of various industries, improvements and innovations are already on their way. 

“The future of 5G means the future of all industries,” says Meyer. “As we continue to advance our 3M solutions, 5G becomes even faster and more reliable, supporting various technologies and industry advancements.”

The ability for 5G infrastructure and innovation means a quicker realization of vast data transfer, faster internet connections, artificial intelligence networks and data processing, advancement of autonomous vehicles… the list goes on.

In what ways will our communication change and shift? In what ways will 5G create new customer expectations in communication? 

“We are already designing for higher frequencies and are looking beyond the limits of 5G,” says Meyer. “What is most exciting is to think, when the time comes, what will our customers require with 6G and beyond?” 

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