Optomec, a leading global supplier of production-grade additive manufacturing systems for 3D printed electronics and 3D printed metals recently announced its Aerosol Jet Technology can enable 3D polymer and composite structures to be printed at the micron scale with embedded electronics.
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We caught up with Mike O’Reilly, Director Aerosol Jet Product Management, to learn more about Optomec’s Aerosol Jet Technology in an exclusive AMazing® Q&A conversation.
AMazing®: Mike, thank you for your participation. This must be an exciting time at Optomec with the recent announcement of Optomec’s new aerosol based direct-write micro-additive manufacturing method for producing 3D polymer and composite structures with conductive traces. What makes this new additive manufacturing method unique and how does it differ from conventional powder bed approaches? What benefits does this new additive manufacturing method offer over conventional 2D lithographic processing?
Mike O’Reilly: Thanks for inviting Optomec to participate and yes, our Aerosol Jet technology is being used in exciting ways we never imagined when we started down this technology path 10+ years ago.
Our micro-structure solution combines Aerosol Jet dispensing technology with an in-flight materials processing mechanism that enables liquid droplets to partially solidify before depositing on a surface. After the in-flight processing, the droplets can be deposited to form free standing structures. Some of the advantages of this approach include ultra-high resolution 3D printing, with features sizes down to 10 microns, lateral feature resolution to 1 micron, and vertical resolution to 100 nm. The aspect ratio of the free standing structures can be more than 100 to 1 and the structures can be printed on nearly any surface and surface geometry by manipulating the print head relative to those surfaces.
Overhangs and closed cells can be printed directly, without using sacrificial support materials. Both metal and insulating materials can be processed which enables the co-deposition of electronic materials for fabricating circuits in 3D. Additionally, composite materials can be printed which allow for the tailoring of the mechanical and electrical properties of the 3D structures.
In contrast, conventional powder bed and stereolithographic solutions employ a layer-by-layer build approach in creating a 3D part. These approaches use either a high powered laser or UV source to either melt or solidify metals and resins, in that order while slowly building up the final part. Typically support structures need to be incorporated into the builds when overhangs occur in the part. The support structures are removed as part of a post processing step.
Whether using powder bed or stereolithographic processes, both only allow a single source material as part of the build process. In contrast, our Aerosol Jet micro-dispense process can simultaneously deposit polymers, metal, and ceramic materials, and further functionalize these printed structures by adding additional material to them without having to remove the originally created structure. Material is minimized since only material used in the creation and functionalization of the part is required.
AMazing®: What material sets are currently available for use with Optomec’s Aerosol Jet Technology when producing custom-shaped free-form structures with conformal 3D conductive traces, as well as printing onto existing components and products?
Mike O’Reilly: Our Aerosol Jet micro-structure solution takes advantage of commercially available material from a wide variety of global material suppliers and that is one of the things that makes our solution so powerful.
By using readily available photo curable polymer materials and, where applicable, combining those photopolymers with solid particles such as fibers, silicon, ceramics, metals, etc. a wide variety of structures can be created with the necessary properties to meet industrial requirements.
Photopolymers that work with our Aerosol Jet process come from companies such as Dymax, Henkel, Resin Designs, etc.; Ceramic material from Ferro; and Nano-Silver from over 20 companies including ANP, Paru, Sun Chemical and Xerox.
AMazing®: What excites you most about Optomec’s Aerosol Jet Technology breakthrough in 3D printing technology and the next generation of wearable and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices?
Mike O’Reilly: What’s most exciting about our technology is inventions we haven’t even imagined yet! Optomec has already established itself as a leading solutions supplier in addressing next-generation antenna and sensor applications in consumer and mil-aero markets. And our technology is already enabling capabilities not possible before. Now, combining our current expertise in printing antenna and sensors onto 3D structures coupled with the uniqueness of Aerosol Jet’s micro-structure solution we imagine there will be much broader product expansion especially in wearable and IoT devices. Our ability to miniaturize technology enables further embedding of sensors into wearables. By reducing size and weight and potentially encapsulating those same sensors from environment-related challenges created by the weather and human body, a whole new set of possibilities emerge.
We are just beginning to touch the surface in regards to the application of printed micro-structures. They hold enormous potential in reducing size, weight, and cost in future product design and enabling new classes of products and solutions to come to the market. Optomec is excited to be at the forefront of this next generation of Additive Manufacturing technology.
This concludes our interview. Mike, thank you very much for your participation. We are very grateful for the opportunity to learn about Optomec’s Aerosol Jet Systems and new breakthrough in additive manufacturing.
About Mike O’Reilly
Mr. O’Reilly is responsible for leading Optomec’s Aerosol Jet commercialization efforts within printed electronics and related markets. Prior to joining Optomec, Mike was Vice President of Product Marketing at Cadence Design Systems responsible for system level design and verification products. Mike has over 30 years of experience introducing advanced technology into the commercial sector.
Optomec is a privately-held, rapidly growing supplier of Additive Manufacturing systems. Optomec’s patented Aerosol Jet Systems for printed electronics and LENS 3D Printers for metal components are used by industry to reduce product cost and improve performance. Together, these unique printing solutions work with the broadest spectrum of functional materials, ranging from electronic inks to structural metals and even biological matter. Optomec has more than 200 marquee customers around the world, targeting production applications in the Electronics, Energy, Life Sciences and Aerospace industries. For more information about Optomec, visit http://optomec.com
LENS (Laser Engineered Net Shaping) is a registered trademark of Sandia National Laboratories. Aerosol Jet and Optomec are registered trademarks of Optomec Inc.
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To read Optomec’s full press release titled ‘Optomec Breakthrough in 3D Printing Enables Micron-scale Smart Structures’, press here.
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