3D Printer from Optemec Prints Embedded Electronics onto almost Any Substrate
Kyle Maxey posted on January 27, 2015 |

Unlike systems that we've profiled in the past, Optomec's Aerosol Jet 300 is a beast of a different order. Built to construct electronic and biological designs at the nanoscale, the Aerosol Jet 300 can process metals and “biologics” by depositing materials via an atomized spray onto any viable substrate.

At its core, the Aerosol Jet 300 is a departure from traditional rapid prototyping and rapid manufacturing machines as it is currently only capable of adding electronic components and circuitry to previously built designs.

While electronics will likely dominate the workload of the Aerosol Jet 300, the system's ability to process polymers and biological materials allows it to function in a wide variety of applications. This gives the Aerosol Jet 300 room to grow in the burgeoning field of additive manufacturing.

How the Aerosol Jet 300 3SP Works

The Aerosol Jet 300's ability to manufacture 3-dimensional electronic circuits and components stems from its unique methodology. Unlike other 3D printers, the 300 uses an aerodynamic aerosol system to deposit metallic, polymer or biological “inks”.


Once loaded into the system's atomizer, inks are split into fine aerosol droplets (1-5 microns in diameter) and carried via dry N 2 or compressed air spray to the system's deposition head. Once they are at the system's head, a second stream of sheath gas is added to the mixture surrounding the ink in an annular, focusing ring. As the ink flows from the deposition head it is concentrated and compressed, resulting in a fine mist of ink that can accurately place a CAD design directly onto any relatively smooth surface material. In addition to accurately jetting inks onto any material, the 300 is also capable of printing onto complex surfaces such as irregular polygons, spheres, etc.

Once a design has been printed onto its target surface, some post-processing work must be done to ensure the ink's desired properties reach their full potential. For metallic inks, a thermal sintering process is required to increase electrical conductivity and adherence. In the case of polymers, a UV curing process is used to bake the inks onto the surface.

Though the Aerosol Jet 300 is still a niche AM machine, OPTOMEC is looking to complement its Aerosol system with traditional rapid prototyping techniques so plastic and metal components can be embedded with 3D electronic systems. If they can achieve their goal the 300 could become an invaluable tool for product designers across a wide spectrum of industries, including consumer electronics, solar cell manufacturing, sensors and biomedical devices.

 

 

Quick Facts

Manufacturer: Optomec

Model: Aerosol Jet 300

Material: Metal: Metal Inks (Gold; Platinum; Silver; Copper; Aluminum; Nickel) ; Resistor Inks (Carbon; Ruthenate) Non-Metallic Conductors (Single Wall Carbon Nanotubes; Multi Wall Carbon Nanotubes; PEDOT:PSS); Dielectric and Adhesive ( PVP; Teon AF; SU-8; Adhesives; Opaque coatings; UV adhesives; UV acrylics); Semiconductors (Organic semiconductors; Single Wall Carbon Nanotubes; Organic semiconductors); General Solvents; Acids & Bases; Photo and Etch resists; DNA; Proteins & Enzymes

Color: Depends on material

Build Envelope: 300mm x 300mm (standard); 370mm x 470mm (optional)

Layer Thickness: 100 nanometers

Build Speed: 200mm/s

Axis Resolution: =/- 2μm

Printer Dimensions: 1020mm x 1375mm x 2240mm )

Printer Weight: ~795kg (1752.6 lbs)

Recommended Uses: Electronics manufacturing; MEMS; SDM (Space-Division Multiplexing); Life-Science Applications

Machine Price: $325,000

 

Who Should Use the Aerosol Jet 300 :
For anyone looking to create advanced prototypes and functional models of complex 3-dimensional and miniature electronics, the Aerosol Jet represents a new paradigm in additive manufacturing.

The 300's ability to print on irregular surfaces allows the machine to reach into just about any industry that requires embedded or complex electrical configurations.

Because the Aerosol Jet 300 can print on nearly any surface, the machine is also a great compliment to other rapid prototyping systems and would be an excellent addition to any prototyping service bureau or R&D lab.

Finally, in addition to its ability to build complex electronics the 300 is well-positioned to support designers working with biological materials. Thus, while the field of bioprinting is still fledgling, the Aerosol 300's ability to process biologics could make it a viable option for one of AM's most promising future applications.

Why Wouldn't You Use the Aerosol Jet 300 :
Given the narrow application scope of the Aerosol Jet 300, anyone interested in application outside electronic components and biologics should shy away from the Aerosol Jet 300.

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