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NASA Begins Studying Aerosol Jetting Technology to 3D Print Electronic Assemblies

by • April 21, 2016 • No Comments

It is been only a few weeks since NASA announced their plans to invest in a new type of 3D printing innovation dubbed Selective Separation Sintering (SSS), which was turn it intod by the NASA In-Situ Materials Challenge winner, Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis. A couple of days ago, the space agency in addition announced which they have their sight set on innovating upon other styles of 3D printing techniques as well. One team of technologists of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which is located in Greenbelt, Maryland, have been looking into a 3D printing system called aerosol jet printing (aka direct-write making). This innovation, which has been not long ago pioneered by the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based company Optomec, is well-suited for fabricating high performance electronic components, and may futurely assist NASA researchers turn it into additional densely populated electronics.

Cutting Edge Magazine - Beth Paquette

Beth Paquette holds the 3 x 3 inch ceramic board, which was populated with four radiation-hardened digital-to-analog converter chips and connected with a 3D printed silver ink.

The aerosol jetting technique is a bit various than your day to day FDM printing device. On the other hand it does turn it into components layer by layer, the system works by via a carrier gas and printing device head, which together deposits a satisfactory aerosol of metal particles onto the surface bed. Aerosol jet printing is compatible with a handful of metal materials, which include silver, gold, platinum, and aluminum, and can actually deposit polymers and other insulators as well. This one-of-a-kind 3D printing innovation may assist as an perfect solution for most applications both in space and on planet Earth, particularly for making NASA’s detector assemblies, which have become both more compact in dimensions and additional densely populated with electronic components over time.

nasagoddardApplying aerosol jet printing innovation, NASA hopes to print more compact and additional one-of-a-kindly shaped detector assemblies in a faster and additional efficient way. The tightly packed components inside these assemblies can be exactly wired or linked together on a circuit board, ensuring which no extra space or time is wasted during the making system. This 3D printing innovation allows for for wires to be deposited down to a width of 10 microns, an surprisingly tiny dimensions which is unheard of with traditional circuit board making systemes. With this study, the Goddard research team plans to reformat the way they make their electronic assemblies, aiming for additional reliability in much less production time.

“If we succeed, aerosol jet innovation may desatisfactory a whole new way to turn it into dense electronic board assemblies and futurely improve the performance and consistency of electronic assemblies,” explained Goddard Space Flight Center technologist Beth Paquette. “Furtheradditional, aerosol jet printing promises to slash the time it takes to make circuit boards, of a month to a day or two.”

Cutting Edge Magazine - Beth Paquette

Liquid crystal polymer (LCP) strip containing gold traces or wires which were printed with aerosol jet printing

But a big focus of the study appears to be on making detector assemblies, there are a number of other NASA-related applications which aerosol jetting may be highly beneficial for. The 3D printing innovation may in addition be utilized by NASA in the near future to print antennas, wiring harnesses, and other types of hardware directly onto a spacecraft. So far, Paquette and her team have may already generated a 3 x 3 inch ceramic board, which was populated with four radiation-hardened digital-to-analog converter chips and connected with a 3D printed silver ink. But Goddard team acknowledges the future uses of aerosol jetting innovation, they’ve yet to test printed components under typical flight conditions. With spaceflight application in mind, the researchers are already observing the repeatability and robustness of this one-of-a-kind printing system.

The project involves aerosol jetting innovation company Optomec, along with other industry groups such as NanoDirect LLC, Raytheon, and United Technologies Research Center. In addition, the study in addition enlisted the assistance of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the University of Maryland’s Laboratory for Physical Sciences, the University of Delaware, Georgia Tech, and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. For their future move, the Goddard Space Flight Center research team is most likely to test these aerosol jetted electronics under actual spacecraft flight conditions. Discuss in the Applying Aerosol Jetting to 3D Print Detector Assemblies forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Source: NASA / Images: NASA/W. Hrybyk]