Jun 6, 2017 | By Julia

Touted as the next big thing in electronics manufacturing, the emerging field of stretchable electronics has been generating serious buzz for some time now. While 3D printing has always been a part of the stretchable electronics discussion, a new announcement from additive manufacturing heavyweight Optomec has put it front and center in this exciting global conversation.

Earlier today, the major supplier of 3D printed metals and electronics systems announced it was awarded a major development project from NextFlex, the leading manufacturing institute for Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE). Defined as a new class of lightweight, low cost, flexible, stretchable, conformable and efficient devices for the Internet of Things (IoT), medical, robotics, and communication markets, FHE is fast becoming the go-to form of stretchable electronics, and thus is of special interest to 3D printer suppliers such as Optomec.

The Optomec Aerosol Jet 5x​ 3D printing system

Together with Optomec’s development partners Lockheed Martin, Binghamton University, General Electric Company, Intrinsiq Materials, and the University of Maryland, the new project between NextFlex and Optomec will see the latter help bring Flexible Hybrid Electronics (FHE) to widespread adoption.

Not just any contract, the new project is expected to be a serious game-changer in the intersecting fields of 3D printing and FHE, with a total value of $3.1 million. Titled “Conformal Printing of Conductor and Dielectric Materials onto Complex 3D Surfaces,” the Optomec-NextFlex undertaking signals a strong vote of confidence from industry, academia, and government leader in bringing FHE into the mainstream.

The goal of the project is officially to enable conformal printing of conductor and dielectric materials on complex 3D surfaces by advancing tooling, software, and printing processes. To that end, Optomec will deliver two Pilot Line systems to the NextFlex Technology Hub in San Jose, California and New York, each featuring Optomec’s Aerosol Jet 5-axes (5x) printing systems.

“Optomec is committed to supporting industries’ growing need to deploy smart, connected devices that take advantage of data and cloud computing advances to improve performance and lower cost throughout the product life cycle,” said Optomec CEO Dave Ramahi. “We are very excited to be part of this important project and to be working with our NextFlex partners to accelerate the development of FHE-enabled products.”

Additional Aerosol Jet systems will also be made available at several team member facilities, Optomec reps reported. As part of the initiative, project lead Lockheed will deliver conformal sensors, 3D antenna structures, and non-planar circuit routing demonstrators as well. As a result of using the advanced tool path generation software, project teams will be able to use the Aerosol Jet 5x systems to print conformal circuitry at resolutions as miniscule as 10 microns onto 3D surfaces.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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