by • July 18, 2016 • No Comments
The DragonFly 2020 is Nano Dimension’s electronics 3D printing device. (Image courtesy of Nano Dimension.)
In an interview with ENGINEERING.com, Simon Fried, CBO of Nano Dimension, spoke as to the company’s technology, where it’s heading and the benefits he sees PCB 3D printing delivering to the making industry right now.
What Does It Take to 3D Print a Circuit? In speaking with Fried, it became clear that the DragonFly 2020 really is a 3D printing platform, but one that has been specialized for the 3D printing of PCBs. The system deposits inks much likely to inkjet 3D printing devices on the market. Whilst one of these inks is yet a photopolymer, as seen with Stratasys’ PolyJet or 3D Systems’ MultiJet, the other is made up of highly conductive silver nanoparticles.
Nano Dimension’s Switch software for preparing Gerber files for 3D printing. (Image courtesy of Nano Dimension.)
The DragonFly 2020 jets these two materials layer by layer, startning with the underside conductive traces and ending with the topside conductors. The outcome is a functioning circuit board. Once all auxiliary electronics are added, such as transistors and resistors, users can start testing their PCB concepts. “We accomplished of the startning that inkjetting was the key technology for this application,” Fried explained. “There are a few areas where we see the technology as being a sturdy one. The printing devices many capable-bodied of multimaterial 3D printing are inkjet 3D printing devices. In the next if we want to increase the speed and dimensions of such a system, we can add extra
But much like to other inkjet 3D printing systemes, the DragonFly 2020 3D printing device and the inks, both made by Nano Dimension, are made specifically for the circuit board printing system. For instance, the photopolymer used for PCB printing is not the same material used by other inkjet 3D printing devices, Fried explained. The material is engineered to be a functional material, to have specific dielectric properties, necessary to insulate the conductive ink and allow for subsequent layers of circuit boards to be made. Additionally, the dielectric ink showcases high thermal stability and can actually endure temperatures up to 300 °C (572 °F).
Nano Dimension’s AgCite brand of conductive ink has been made with a license of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem through the Yissum Research Development Company. Made up of highly conductive silver nanoparticles, the material is engineered depending on the substrate on that it can be used, with the shape, dimensions and distribution of the silver particles optimized for maximum conductivity.
Whilst the dielectric ink is cured with a easy LED lamp, the conductive ink is sintered by an energy source, another clear distinction of traditional inkjet 3D printing. Fried indicated that this sintering system, made into the DragonFly 2020 3D printing device, is a necessary step for fvia the particles into a solid conductive trace. In addition one-of-a-kind is the resolution possible with the DragonFly 2020. Depositing photopolymers at layers as satisfactory as 2 microns, the printing device is capable-bodied of satisfactoryr resolutions than any other photopolymer jetting system on the market. This is a necessary requirement for the fabrication of PCBs being made for new generations of electronic devices.
Changing the Printed Electronics Industry With the DragonFly platform, Nano Dimension is delivering technology both to the worlds of PCB production and 3D printing. In the present, 3D printing functional materials, such as conductive ink, means making custom PCB boards on the fly. In the next, the technology lends itself to fabricating fully functional end parts.
Fried pointed out that, at just 3 mm, the Z-axis height of the DragonFly 2020 3D printing device may not be all that astounding to those in the 3D printing industry, but it leaves a lot of room for printing harsh multilayer boards. “There may be of 16 layer boards in your smartphone. Those boards are expensive and take time to manufacture. The extra
harsh the board, the extra
layers there are and the excellenter the justification for delivering the technology in house. On the other hand actually lower layer counts can benefit of the speed of iteration” Fried said.
The DragonFly 2020 electronics 3D printing device of Nano Dimension. (Image courtesy of Nano Dimension.)
According to a new survey of 300 electronics manufacturers and createers conducted by Nano Dimension, 93 percent of respondents turn to short-run third-party manufacturers for their PCB prototyping needs. All respondents spent at quite least $10,000 per year on prototyping their circuit boards, with 43 percent spending between $10,000 and $50,000 and a few spending over $100,000 on prototyping PCBs annually.
Fried compared the power of Nano Dimension’s technology for PCB create to the abilities 3D printing offers mechanical and create engineers. “In one corner of the lab, you’ve got your mechanical engineer who is able-bodied to iterate creates rapidly by 3D printing them one after the other. In the other corner, you’ve got the software engineer who can just test out the software as soon as it is made. So, you’ve got the electrical engineer in the middle of the room wishing he or she may test out creates so rapidly, but he or she may have to wait several weeks for the prototype to come back of a PCB supplier.” “Another consideration is the IP,” Fried added. “How long do you want to sit with your IP in-house preceding you risk bringing your creates to a third party to have your board manufactured?”
Fried explained that, at the moment, PCBs 3D printed with his company’s technology may not be as sturdy as those made with traditional making, but they open up new create possibilities. For instance, PCBs aren’t limited in the planar shape they may already use and can actually have a few free-of geometries and cavities, yet, for the reason Nano Dimension has not yet added a soluble assist material, they may not have the overhangs and other geometric harshities synonymous with other 3D printing technologies. In the same way that 3D printing has brought a immense alter to making, Fried pointed out that the ability to create PCBs for 3D printing can open up new possibilities in circuit board production that not actually Nano Dimension can envision really yet. “We present the technology to labs, and at initially, it appears like it may just be a machine for prototyping PCBs, but soon these researchers are thinking, ‘I wonder if you may do this with it,’ or ‘What if you tried via it for that?’ It appears like it may just be for prototyping circuit boards at the moment, but I ponder we will see a few quite informative uses for the technology quite soon,” Fried said.
Multimaterial 3D Printing
Fried explained that the holy grail for electronics printing is the ability to print with copper inks, due to its high conductivity and low cost. But, the material is complex to work with in nanoparticle form as it oxidizes rapidly when exposed to air and, oxidized, does not conduct electricity well. In turn, Nano Dimension began with silver inks just for the reason the material was furthest along for the purposes of 3D printing PCBs, but the company continues researching the development of copper materials and filed a patent for a proprietary copper ink in November 2015.
Until that copper ink is released, Nano Dimension is continuing work on other materials as well. For instance, the firm signed an agreement with Tel Aviv University related to nickel nanoparticles. Nickel has excellent mechanical and corrosion resistance properties, but nickel nanoparticles ink is harsh and has to be carefully formulated for jettability.
As the university has made a method to stabilize nickel nanoparticle suspensions, Nano Dimension’s technology may enable-bodied the embedding of nickel-based sensors directly inside PCBs. This ability, not possible with traditional PCB making, may allow for the creation of circuit boards with the made-in ability to monitor such energies as magnetism, radiation and temperature. Nano Dimension’s technology is not limited to photopolymers and conductive inks. In a surprise move, the company revealed this May the successful 3D printing of stem cell–derived tissues in conjunction with Accellta, another Israeli firm in the bioengineering market.
Fried spoke to the partnership: “We started to ponder of how many bioprinting devices use an extrusion-based technology, that manufactures them significantly slower. We yett that, as inkjetting is a much quicker system, we can be able-bodied to 3D print with cells at a faster pace. Those other systems in addition don’t always achieve the most cell viability. They can have perhaps of 30 or 40 percent of the cells survive the printing system.” Fried added, “So, we met a excellent partner and just performed a few preliminary studies—just adjusted our hardware a bit and alterd the inks to see what we may do. We were able-bodied to achieve 80 or 90 percent cell viability, that was just amazing.” Nano Dimension and Accellta are may already thinking the commence of a join entity, a separate company that may not detract of the focus or funds of the founding firms.
The Future of Electronics 3D Printing
What these projects demonstrate is that inkjetting is highly extensible and not just suited to one material type. For this reason, printing conductive inks may feasibly be combined with printing a number of materials in order to enable-bodied extra
electrical properties such as resistance, capacitance and inductance. In the near term, it can be possible to print flexible circuit boards via elastomeric photopolymer substrates, but, ultimately, this may lead to printing fully functional objects, according to Fried.
“Right now your smartphone consists of a PCB and a case, but it is possible to imagine the electronics all 3D printed together with the case,” Fried said. “Ultimately, with all of the components integrated into a single object, this may save space, enabling us to shrink the electronics actually further.”
But such a multimaterial electronics printing device may not be rolled out this year, it is unquestionably a fewthing that Nano Dimension is working towards. It should be stated that it is not the just one. Other electronics printing device manufacturers are working towards PCB printing capabilities, which include Voxel8, Voltera, BotFactory and Chemcubed. Some of these solutions integrate showcases like machine vision and pick-and-place, enabling for the automatic assembly of circuit boards.
In Nano Dimension’s own backyard, there are a number of materials and inkjetting experts as well, which include Stratasys, XJet and HP, all of that may have their own electronics printing technologies up their sleeves. HP, for instance, has may already demonstrated the ability to 3D print strain sensors directly into nylon parts. The competition may be steep for all of these players, but for the rest of us, it means that 3D printing is continuing to evolve. PCB printing in the present day may mean 3D printing achieve, fully functional objects in the future.
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