May 3, 2017 | By Tess

Optomec, an Albuquerque-based supplier of 3D printing systems for printed electronics and laser metal deposition, says it has significantly improved its process for printing and finishing copper and copper/nickel inks using its Aerosol Jet additive manufacturing systems. The new copper-based inks will have applications in 3D printed electronics, medical devices, Internet of Things, and more.

Both copper (Cu) and and Copper/Nickel (CuNi or Constantan) are useful materials for the manufacturing of electronics: copper is commonly used to make electronic components and printed circuit boards (PCBs), while Constantan is suited for manufacturing critical sensing elements such as thermocouple and strain gauges, both of which are important in IoT devices.

Optomec's Aerosol Jet 5X additive manufacturing system

Using its Aerosol Jet Technology, Optomec has successfully 3D printed parts using copper and Constantan inks from a variety of suppliers, including Applied Nanotech, Inc., Intrinsiq Materials, Inc., PV Nano Cell Ltd. and Kuprion, Inc. According to the company, its additive manufacturing technology has been upgraded to be better suited for use with the copper inks, which will help to accelerate their adoption across the electronics industry.

Optomec’s Aerosol Jet systems offer users a specialized hardware which protects the copper and copper alloy inks from oxygen while they are printing and curing (except in the case where the printed copper inks can be cured thermally).

“The general availability of both copper and copper/nickel materials extends Aerosol Jet printing to address our customer’s next generation product development challenges,” said Mike Renn, Optomec CTO. “Optomec’s Advanced Applications Lab has already begun using these innovative materials on applications ranging from embedded sensors, thermistors and flexible electronic circuits.”

The suppliers of copper and copper alloy inks commented on Optomec’s printing technology. Richard Fink, President of Applied Nanotech, said: “Applied Nanotech has supplied both Cu and CuNi-alloy ink to Optomec for successful demonstration of printed thermocouple and thermopile devices, and have sampled CuNi-alloy ink to strain gauge manufacturers…Our collaboration with Optomec on next-generation electronic devices has been a win-win for both companies.”

Mike Carmody, Chief Scientist at Intrinsiq Materials, commented: “We believe this work will enable quality printing of fine lines on commercially relevant substrates, which can give excellent conductivity when sintered either photonically or under reducing conditions, thus advancing the applicability of printed electronics.”

Fernando de la Vega, CEO of PV Nano Cell, added: “We are focussing on mass production in various fields, including printed electronics, printed circuit boards, antenna for mobile phones, solar cells, and 3D printing applications. Optomec’s Aerosol Jet printers provide PV Nano Cell with a unique solution for applying our materials to meet next generation manufacturing requirements.”

Optomec unveiled its Aerosol Jet additive manufacturing technology last year. The technology uses an additive technique to print conductive, dielectric, semiconductor, and biological inks onto a range of two-dimensional or three-dimensional structures (whether they are plastic, ceramic, or metallic substrates). The technology has been marketed towards 3D printing electronics and now, with improvements for using copper and copper/nickel inks, Aerosol Jet’s applications continue to grow.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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