9/15/2016 | 1 MINUTE READ

Optomec Development Enables Micron-Scale Smart Structures via 3D Printing

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A combination of local deposition and curing enables the building of free-form 3D structures at small scale.

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Optomec Inc. has announced that its Aerosol Jet Technology can enable 3D polymer and composite structures to be printed at the micron scale with embedded electronics. According to the company, this development has significant potential to reduce the cost and size of next-generation products used in the electronics and biomedical industries.

This new capability is enabled by combining Optomec’s Aerosol Jet for fine feature printing with a proprietary in-situ curing capability for rapid on-the-fly solidification. Unlike other high-resolution 3D printing approaches that deposit material globally, the method relies on both local deposition and local curing. According to Optomec, this approach makes the process more economical, in terms of material consumption, but is also key to enabling high-resolution features.

The company says this process enables printing of high aspect ratio, free-form 3D structures at the micron scale, without the need for support structures, from materials including photopolymers and certain composites. Ultra-high resolutions with lateral features down to 10 microns are possible, as well as lateral and vertical build resolutions from 1 micron to 100 nanometers, respectively. According to the company, aspect ratios of more than 100-1 have been achieved. Such 3D microstructures can be printed onto existing components and products, such as semiconductor chips, medical devices or industrial parts.

Additionally, the resulting structures can be metallized with conformal 3D conductive traces and printed functional components, such as antennas and sensors, to create fully functional 3D components all-in-one manufacturing machine. This direct digital approach optimizes the fabrication process, reducing manufacturing steps and material usage making Aerosol Jet 3D micro-structure printing a cost-effective, green technology, Optomec says.

“This breakthrough in 3D printing technology extends additive manufacturing to the creation of micron scale, free-form polymer structures and smart devices,” says Mike O’Reilly, Optomec director of Aerosol Jet product management. Early adopter customers have already developed applications for smart devices and micro-fluidic applications, the company says.

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