- Festo’s bionic ants are an outstanding example of MID technology
As a technological showpiece, Festo’s BionicANTs have been distinguished with the 2015 MID Innovation Award by the Research Association Molded Interconnect Devices 3-D MID e.V. The bionic ants consist of laser sintered components which are subsequently furnished with visible conductor structures by means of the 3D MID process. The award ceremony took place in Nuremberg on the 6th of May at the SMT Hybrid Packaging trade fair.
Together with LPKF Laser & Electronics AG, Festo added visible conductor structures to laser sintered components with the help of the 3D MID process. The electrical circuits are applied to the artificial ants. As a result, the components fulfil both structural and electrical functions simultaneously.
With the help of Moulded Interconnect Device technology – MID for short – visible, three-dimensional circuit traces can be applied on the surface of injection moulded components. This enables mechanical and electronic functions to be integrated on a single moulded part in a unique way. The products can therefore be designed much more freely in terms of space and made much smaller and lighter – an important step towards further miniaturisation. At the same time, MID components often make do completely without cables, which makes them much easier to assemble.
Injection moulded shaped parts with structured circuit pattern
Unlike classic, predominantly two-dimensional printed circuit boards, MID technology uses a three-dimensional shaped part as a circuit board – for example the housing. There are various production methods for making MIDs. In the case of the frequently used Laser Direct Structuring (LDS), a special metal connection is added to the injection moulding plastic.
The required component is first moulded from this material. The areas where circuit traces are planned are then exposed with a laser beam. At the same time the added metal connection is activated and can be immersed in a copper bath, for example, during the subsequent metallisation process, whereby the circuit traces are formed with a sharp outline. Various coatings made of copper, nickel or gold can thus be applied one after the other. Electric circuits can be soldered onto the resulting conductive areas.
BionicANTs – MID technology in miniature ant robot
For Festo, 3D MID technology offers great potential for the future of automation technology and use in future production systems. With the BionicANTs, Festo has produced miniature robots for the first time based on this technology. The bionic technology platform is inspired by the natural role model of an ant. It demonstrates how units can work efficiently together by means of autonomous decision-making and cooperative behaviour. Thanks to 3D MID technology, all the mechanical and electronic functions were able to be housed on the ant measuring just 13.5 cm and exactly coordinated – functional integration in its complete form!
For further information on the Festo BionicANTs press here.
Corporate Communication – Technology
Festo AG & Co. KG
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(Top photo) MID technology: Highly integrated components with potential for the future. (Photos: Festo AG& Co. KG)