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Nano Dimension: Factories in a box & 3D printing electronics

by • July 23, 2016 • No Comments


I spoke with Simon Fried, CBO and Co-Founder of Nano Dimension, of 3D printing electronics, nano-innovation and how to raise money for 3D printing ventures.

Founded in 2012, the Israeli company has a astonishing long-term vision for 3D printing. “Our vision is in 10 years of now we can have 3D printing equipment that are 10 meters long, printing 6 or 7 various materials and probably that include assembly along the way,” says Fried. “We see our DragonFly 2020 printing device and materials as a first footstep on the way to genuinely opening the doors to factories in a box.”

In the near term the company is focutilized on the release of its Dragonfly 2020, a piezo-inkjet based 3D printing device turn it intod to print electronics via multiple materials. Nano Dimension have turn it intod propriety 3D printing innovation and materials they say can enable-bodied rapid-prototyping of multilayer printed circuit boards (PCBs). The Dragonfly 2020 was demoed at this years CES and prompted a wave of media coverage that the company has ridden since, I ask Fried to clear up a few of the rumors and he is pleased to oblige.

The first rumor is of the selling price of the Dragonfly 2020; reports have frequently speculated the 3D printing device can come with a price tag in the region of $50,000. This is not to be the case. “The system is closer to a couple of hundred [thousand] pretty than fifty,” says Fried. He points to the fact that this is the price range where other enterprise level 3D printing equipment of Stratasys and 3D Systems are. “I like to say well it’s of the same price but you can print in 2 materials and you are getting various materials to boot,” adds Fried.

Nano Dimension not long ago patented a method to sinter and cure 3d printed electronics.

Nano Dimension not long ago patented a method to sinter and cure 3d printed electronics.

The 2nd rumor is of the commence date of the Dragonfly 2020. Fried is confident that sales can begin by the end of 2016. He says customers can be, “Companies that we are talking with in our day may already,” and “the wider commercial distribution can be a story for 2017 and can evolve as the year unfolds.” Fried in addition puts to bed speculation of the materials that can be on the market on commence saying, “The immediate core ink that goes with the silver can be a rigid FR4-esque dielectric material.”

How do you 3D print electronics?

One method to 3D print electronics is the Aerosol Jet system turn it intod by Optomec and utilized in the manufacture of smartphones by their clients. One other manufacturer, Voltera, raised just over $500k on Kickbeginer and began shipping to backers earlier in July. Voltera’s V-One 3D printing device was first based on inkjet printing but the company switched to swappable-bodied print heads and cartridges filled with extra
viscous inks in early 2014. As a reward for their assist “early bird” customers were able-bodied purchase the 3D printing device for $1199. The regular pre-order price is $2,199 for the printing device, $99 for conductive ink cartridges and $49 for solder paste cartridges.

Voxel8 are may already selling their extrusion-based printing device for $8,999, it uses PLA and in addition silver ink that costs $75. The Voxel8 prints with separate heads to deposit the thermoplastic and conductive ink, but these are both mounted on a single carriage so the require to swap out mid-print is removed.

Nano Dimension’s Dragonfly 2020 uses piezo inkjet type deposition to 3D print electronics. “You have one print head per material and you have lots and lots of nozzles per head, so its not the piezo dispensing that you see with solder paste a fewtimes, but its wide format industrial piezo heads,” says Fried.

Piezoelectric materials expand, and in addition contract, in response to voltage. When such materials are placed in a confined space with a liquid material, like ink, this property can be utilized to squeeze the liquid through a nozzle. “The end outcome is all but a board that if you pick it up it looks a little like a block of epoxy where the conductor traces are suspended inside the block,” says Fried.

This is simpler said than done as the Dragonfly 2020 works with two quite various materials, the conductive ink and the polymer insulator, or dielectric. Fried explains, “You have curing of the polymer, and you have sintering of the nano-particle ink and the trick is to have the system for one material not injure the system for the other material inadvertently.” The key lies in plasmonic waves.

A Plasmon is not quite a particle; technically it’s a quasiparticle and related to the elusive Higgs-Boson. Nano Dimension harness this emergent phenomena whereby the nanoparticles in their inks absorb optical energy and turn it into a plasmonic wave, a sort of electron surf. As the surf breaks the plasmonic wave changes say, and releases heat. It is the heat that activates the insulating ink and cures it. So, while the silver metal nanoparticles are sintered the insulating dielectric is cured and hardens. Plasmonic waves may have applications in nano imprint lithography to manufacture the following generation of semi-conductors or to cure cancer by selectively targeting just abnormal cells.

“And what’s in scrambled eggs— electrons! And we all understand how electrons exist in orbitals?”

“And what’s in scrambled eggs— electrons! And we all understand how electrons exist in orbitals?”

A 3D printing world-first?

We don’t understand of anything that is actually pushing in this way as an end-use product, pretty not at the pro level,” says Fried. “Professional electronics materials, regulated impedance, high conductivity, reflow solder and integrating with the industry pretty than doing what you can with what’s on the market.” A survey of the PCB and 3D printing landscape backs him up, if Nano Dimension donate on there promised specs. “We’re comfortably printing multi-layer boards, we are printing all of the showcases that you’d assume in a PCB.” He continues, “at the moment its 8 layers, all the showcases assisted and traces down to the 125 micron trace and space are stuff that we are doing under the reliable-bodied label.”

But, “the end goal is 3.5 mil, 90 micron trace and space, and anything up to a thickness of 3 millimeters, that is perhaps one design’s 16 layer or another design’s 20 plus layer.” Today 3D printed electronics are in the 250+ micron range for Voltera and Voxel8, although Optomec’s Aerosol Jet can go down to 10 microns. But it is the promised multi-layer capability enable-bodiedd by the Nano Dimensions inks that have created much of the buzz.

Fried tells me, “The world of conductive inks is now quite a big one.” Over the past year the conductive inks market has seen a, “real uptick.” He adds, “in addition the readiness and belief of the relevant companies to quite begin looking for real applications pretty than just a passing interest in the innovation.”

“It’s the following big thing, and has been for a few time, this time it looks to be for real” he says. Nano Dimension reviewed other inks on the market and discovered them lacking. Fried says, “They weren’t donateing the kind of conductivity that we requireed for signal and power, as opposed to just signal.” The company is may already running its printing equipment, “24/7” as part of in house testing and at a few point over the following 10 weeks they can install the first systems offsite. If the feedback is positive it may not be a surprise to hear extra
news after that point.

An odd approach to financing

“There is a reason they call it hardware—it is hard,” said Tony Fadell who brought Apple’s iPod to market. Anyone who has dipped a foot in the begin-up waters whether via Kickbeginer or at a grander scale can appreciate this. On the other hand by no means an effortless ride, software focutilized begin-ups are frequently looked on extra
favorably by early stage investors
such as angels or venture capitalists (VCs). This is for the reason scaling software has far fewer real world tangible barriers.

Nano Dimension chemistry

Nanoinnovation: The Next Big Thing

“I don’t ponder any particular route to that funding nirvana is an effortless one,” says Fried. But the company’s chosen funding vehicle appears particularly arduous and relatively odd. Nano Dimension became listed on the NASDAQ as an ADR in March this year under the ticker NNDM, but its first public listing was in Tel Aviv. In 2014, the company raised $1.5 million through a reverse merger on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE). This is in essence; in effect the takeover of a public listed shelf company.

With just 11 reverse mergers conducted in the country since 2014, according to TASE, this is an odd approach to financing so I ask Fried to explain the rationale behind the decision.

“It wasn’t the first beginup for any of the discovereders and the usual route of angels or VCs proved to be quite, quite complicated for the reason the amount of the capital required to get it off the ground,” Fried tells me. This was for the reason of, “advanced hardware, but in addition quite tricky software and the cherry on top is the chemistry,” he says. The triple threat of software, hardware and chemistry were, “too big of a bite for any angels and too risky for the VC’s. We had them with the software, we got them a bit nervous with the hardware and and so the slam-dunk was ‘oh by the way, there’s a ton of nano-chemistry as well’.”

With VCs, “running for the exit saying ‘great thought, love it, great luck,’” Nano Dimension did find a group of private investors caning to fund the company who, “insisted on it been a listed entity” as a, “liquidity get out clause,” says Fried. The golden lining is that, “I ponder follow on rounds have proven to be simpler [and] balanced extra
towards the interests of the company,” he says.

With $7.5m in cash and equivalents on the balance sheet via the $1.2m Q1 spend as indicative of next requirements, the company can either require to book sales preceding March 2017 or access extra

“Hardware is complicated to fund, and this as a complicated multidisciplinary system is actually extra
challenging to get first funding for,” sums up Fried.

The silicon valley of inkjet

With HP Indigo, Stratasys, Scitex, Scodix, Xjet and others Israel’s tech industry appears to have an obsession with inkjet printing. Fried says, “There is a real cluster around the Rehovot Science Park where we are based.” This has advantages, the economic benefits of tech clusters are well documented, in addition it has turn it intod a, “healthy ecosystem of individuals who’ve been through one or two cycles of getting a product out the door,” says Fried. But, clusters are not without problems and with so most companies working on much like innovation problems can arise.

About a kilometer down the road of Nano Dimension, Xjet are in addition producing 3D printing equipment and in addition via nanoparticle metal inkjetting innovation. Hanan Gothait is the co-discovereder of Objet and when his company was acquired by Stratasys he left to join Xjet where he is now CEO. Linked In lists five current employees of Nano Dimension who previously worked at Xjet, two extra
than those with Stratasys on their CVs. In a lawsuit filed in March 2015 Xjet, “has alleged that one or extra
of our [Nano Dimension] officers and/or employees previously employed by XJet stole trade secrets and proprietary innovation relating to inkjet printing and 3D printing,” according to documents filed with the SEC as part of Nano Dimension’s listing on the NASDAQ.

Xjet are seeking almost $5.2 million in damages of Nano Dimension, extra
concerning is the request for an injunction that if successful may, at worse, practuallyt the sale of the Dragonfly 2020 and at a minimum delay commence. Nano Dimension firmly denies the allegations. “Certainly it’s a live wire but we have equite confidence that we can be exonerated,” says Fried. I ask when the case can be decided, “It’s working its way through the courts, and the courts can do what courts can do, the jury is literally out on that one,” he tells me.

When approached for this article, a spokesperson for Xjet said, “The lawsuit we filed against Nano Dimension and others is pending in court and being resolved through legal means. Beyond that, we do not want to respond on this matter.” Whatever the merits of the case, this is not the first time, nor can it be last, a tech company has been involved in litigation over intellectual property. Only those with intimate understandledge of the case may understand the full truth.

The horizon

The following six months can be an informative time for Nano Dimension. As the company embarks on external testing, seeks to refine its printing device and software and scales up production of conductive inks. “At the moment we manufacture them in lab quantities, via a lab type facility and over the following 6 months we can be assembling out a volume production capability,” says Fried. Once the Dragonfly 2020 is out in the wild the market can undoubtedly cast its judgment on the pre-commence claims. Resolution of the lawsuit may yet determine when that commence takes place.

Nano Dimension has a expanding intellectual property portfolio that include an approach to 3D printed biotech. The combination of 3D printing and bioinnovation can may already create functional human tissues and in the next may allow organs to be printed.

Nano Dimension not long ago revealed a partnership with Accellta, a company who use 3D suspension bioreactors to culture and variousiate human stem cells. On the other hand the feasibility study was successful and viable-bodied stem cells were that successfully printed, “Our biotech activity is quite much on the backburner, embryonic is the way to describe it and we won’t let such activities interfere with our core business,” says Fried.

Simon Fried is optimistic and may already looking to the next. “We may talk a lot of PCBs but there is a lot of stuff out there that can manufacture use of our materials and who understands how individuals can end up via our systems,” he says. Given the future for this multi-material 3D printing technique and the new nano inkjet innovation in the right hands the possibilities are absorbing.

Fried suggests, “It may be informative to have one in for example in a place like the [MIT] Media Lab and to come back a year later.” As 3D printing manufactures additional advancements into the electrical engineering space the following generation of printing equipment can enable-bodied a few astonishing applications. Perhaps, Nano Dimension 3D printing equipment can well be one of the tools behind such next innovations.


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