4/4/2019 | 1 MINUTE READ

nScrypt 3D Prints Antennas on Complex Surfaces for Air Force

nScrypt’s research group, Sciperio, has recieved funding from the Air Force to continue its work to conform 3D-printed antennas to complex surfaces. Directly printing active phased array antennas on curved surfaces can make it feasible to include advanced communication technology directly into the body of a vehicle or aircraft, the company says.

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After a successful first phase, nScrypt’s research group Sciperio has been awarded a second phase contract for its project to 3D print conformal phased array antennas for the U.S. Air Force. Sciperio, which developed a fully printed phased array antenna for the Air Force in 2016, has continued work to conform 3D-printed antennas to complex surfaces, making it feasible to include advanced communication technology directly into the body of a vehicle or aircraft.

“Directly printing active phased array antennas on curved surfaces will provide unique capabilities to the DoD (Department of Defense), but the ultimate goal is to do this at a fraction of the cost of traditionally manufactured arrays,” says Casey Perkowski, lead developer on the project for Sciperio. “This will allow the DoD to use these antennas in a more ubiquitous manner and this will translate to commercial applications.”

The goal of the project is the production of an 8 × 8 element array on an ellipsoidal surface as a demonstration of the manufacturing process. The subcontractor on the project will be the University of South Florida, which was part of the project that developed the 2016 3D-printed phased array antenna. The university will again support the design, simulation and testing of the antennas for the current conformal array project.

nScrypt’s Direct Digital Manufacturing platform, Factory in a Tool (FiT), integrates multiple tool heads, including nScrypt’s nFD for material extrusion, SmartPump for micro-dispensing, nMill for micro-milling, and nPnP for pick and place of electronic components. The tool heads are placed on a high-precision linear motion gantry (offering up to 10 nanometer resolution, 500 nanometer repeatability and 1 micron accuracy) and accompanied by multiple cameras for automated inspection and computer vision routines. They are also accompanied by a point laser height sensor for mapping surfaces, allowing for conformal printing or micro-dispensing onto objects.

Due to the picolitre volumetric flow control of the SmartPump, the precision deposition of the nFD extruder, and the ±1.0 micron accuracy and ±0.5 micron repeatability of the motion platform, nScrypt’s platform repeatably produces conductive and dielectric features to high tolerances. Combining these processes and capabilities into a single platform enables the manufacture of complex structural electronics at the press of a button.

Using this technology, future electronics could offer reduced size, weight and cost by eliminating the wiring harness, box and PCB and integrating the electronics into the structure, the company says.

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