July 22, 2014

The current 3D printers can fabricate objects from plastics, metals, ceramics, etc, but they haven't yet been widely used to produce electronics. Currently several companies are working on using 3D printing to produce electronic components and products. One pioneer is Optomec, which has developed the Aerosol Jet process, a patented printed electronics technology which applies conductive nano-particle inks on to the component. Another company, Germany-based Neotech AMT GmbH, which began developing this novel technology in 2006 has announced Monday the release of a new 3D Printed Electronics system, the LBS 45XE, which is capable of production complex circuitry on almost any 3D surface.

Light Beam Sintering (LBS) is a non-contact, photonic sintering technique that can be applied to printed electronic circuits on "low temperature" substrates such as Polycarbonate (PC).

Notech's 3D Printed Electronics technology is based on the combination of three key modules: Motion 3D Tool-path Generation Software, 5 axis CNC Motion Platform and Optomec's Aerosol Jet Print Engine.

Each sintering head of the LBS 45XE consists of a specially selected light source with integrated air-cooled reflector and lens system. The projected light beam (tuned to the absorption wavelength of the printed media) is focussed on the printed trace where heating and sintering is performed leaving the surrounding body unaffected. Sintering is carried out with up to 5 simultaneous axes of motion and the LBS 45XE is capable of printing on parts from a few cm up to 2m in size. Advanced Tool Centre Point technology ensures consistent sinter profiles even on highly curved surfaces. "The sintered trace is highly conductive with strong adhesive and cohesive strength." says the company.

"This platform will assist customers to develop novel 3D Printed Electronics structures on low temperature substrates." Dr. Martin Hedges, Managing Director of Neotech states, "The initial target markets are printed antenna for mobile phones and heater patterns for the automotive industry. The LBS 45XE has been designed for mass production with low operating costs. The system will be a very useful compliment our current range of 5 axis printing platforms to advance 3D Printed Electronics."

One applications of Neotech AMT's system is for printed 3D cell phone antenna. This system is capable of printing millions of parts per year. Demand for this solution is being driven by the cost reduction potential. It also improves design flexibility, reduces device product thickness, and offers environmental benefits compared with current production process. The lead time for new product design can also be significantly reduced.

Posted in 3D Printers

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