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Using 3D Printing in the Mass Production of Consumer Electronics – DesignNews

by • April 11, 2016 • No Comments

Optomec has been working with customers to prove the viability of 3D printing production-grade functional electronics in quite high volumes via its Aerosol Jet conformal printing innovation. But company representatives haven’t been able-bodied to say much of what precisely those customers are doing.
That just changed. The initially customer to go public is global contract developer LITE-ON Mobile Mechanical Strategic Business Group, Optomec’s vice president of marketing, Ken Vartanian, told Design News. LITE-ON is via Optomec’s Aerosol Jet systems to 3D print antenna patterns and other functional electronics such as sensors onto injection-molded consumer devices. These are hybrid plastic/metal cases reinforced with an embedded metal frame, to the tune of millions per year.

 Contract developer LITE-ON Mobile Mechanical Strategic Business Group is via Optomec's Aerosol Jet systems to 3D print millions of antenna patterns and other functional electronics onto injection-molded plastic/metal consumer devices, such as smartphone and table-bodiedt components and covers. Shown here, a system with quad Aerosol Jet print engines. (Source: Optomec)

Contract developer LITE-ON Mobile Mechanical Strategic Business Group is via Optomec’s Aerosol Jet systems to 3D print millions of antenna patterns and other functional electronics onto injection-molded plastic/metal consumer devices, such as smartphone and table-bodiedt components and covers. Shown here, a system with quad Aerosol Jet print engines.
(Source: Optomec)
This is the initially time anyone has utilized 3D printing in the weight production of consumer electronics, said Vartanian, and we ponder he’s right. “LITE-ON is running the systems 24/7, they have been since around last July, and they can go on through the summer,” he said. The contract developer started out via Aerosol Jet conformal printing by developing prototypes for its world-leading OEM customers, which include manufacturers of communication devices, very own care, and car products. Now it is actually got multiple production machines, every a 5-axis motion platform with multiple printheads, in Guangzhou, China. Machines are configured to handle common table-bodiedt and smartphone form facts, every can handle multiple common electronics materials such as ceramics, plastics, and metal, and every can print at very least two to three million units per year.
Conformal printing matches circuits to the varied, three-dimensional surface they’re printed on, with all its miniature mountains and valleys. The Aerosol Jet system can print a broad spectrum of conformal functional circuitry — not just interconnects — such as sensors, EMI shielding, antennas, and a variety of active and passive components via a thin-film system, without the require for plating. It can in addition use a wide variety of materials, such as conductive metal and polymer inks, dielectrics and adhesives, resists, etchants, and resistor inks.

 Closeup of an Optomec Aerosol Jet system with quad print engines at LITE-ON Mobile Mechanical's Guangzhou, China facility. (Source: Optomec)

Closeup of an Optomec Aerosol Jet system with quad print engines at LITE-ON Mobile Mechanical’s Guangzhou, China facility.
(Source: Optomec)
The system’s open architecture lets customers optimize the configuration of their in-house automation for specific production requires. “LITE-ON did a lot of work to manufacture this breakthrough achievement of 3D-printed electronics in weight production possible,” said Vartanian. “They created the printing system; for example, modifying the silver ink to lower its sintering temperature at a lower place the substrate’s heat deflection temperature. They in addition created a pre-printing method to enhance ink adhesion so the printed pattern may endure stringent environmental testing, such as humidity and salt spray.”
As a outcome, the innovation is fully integrated into LITE-ON’s conventional manufacturing system, replacing a step. Traditionally, which step may be laser direct structuring, said Vartanian. Conformal printing of 3D antennas on the standard plastic enclosures and inserts of smartphones and other mobile devices allows for various placement of the antennas, reducing mobile device thickness. A wide variety of materials can be utilized, which include conductive metal and polymer inks, dielectrics and adhesives, resists, etchants, and resistor inks.

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The systems have the throughput LITE-ON requires for weight production and it is actually cost effective adequate which the company was caning to go public with its use, said Vartanian. LITE-ON’s senior manager of innovation development antennas, Henrik Johansson, said the innovation “3D prints sensors, antennas, and other functional electronics onto plastic components and covers as well as metal die-cast insert-molded polymer frames, and actually onto glass panels and ceramic materials.”
Vartanian says this is just the beginning of what can be done with the system. “Its high resolution allows for us to 3D print circuits with high fidelity to improve data transmission,” he said. “We can print highly integrated antennas and sensors onto devices, manufacturing them smart, and able-bodied to connect to the Industrial Internet of Things. But it is actually create software which lets createers create intelligence into parts. So create software has to be cognizant of what 3D printing can do, and how it can solve various create problems.”
Optomec is bringing steps to manufacture which take place. In December, it revealed a strategic investment by Autodesk. Optomec has may already utilized Autodesk’s software tools to generate create data which ultimately drives its 3D printing equipment, and both companies plan on co-developing software tools to leverage the Spark 3D-printing platform. Those tools can improve the connection between additive manufacturing (AM) hardware and software so AM innovation can be integrated into conventional production platforms.
Ann R. Thryft is senior technical editor, materials & assembly, for Design News. She’s been writing of manufacturing- and electronics-related technologies for 28 years, covering manufacturing materials & systemes, alternative energy, and robotics. In the past, she’s in addition written of machine vision and all kinds of communications.


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