Optomec 3D Printed Electronics Using Nanomaterials
One company discussed in the Nanlyze forums about 4 years ago was Optomec and their work in printing copper inks. In a March 2012 press release by Stratasys titled “3D Printing is merged with 3D electronics” it was noted that Stratasys and Optomec successfully completed a joint development project to merge 3D printing and printed electronics to create the world’s first fully printed hybrid structure seen below:
Optomec is a privately held, profitable company which has now installed Additive Manufacturing Systems at 150 customer sites in 15 countries. They hold thirty (30) issued patents and another fifty (50) pending, all in the field of Additive Manufacturing.
One technology the company has developed is Aerosol Jet printing which is an additive manufacturing solution that reduces the overall size of electronic systems by using nanomaterials to produce fine feature circuitry and embedded components. Using this technology, leading research institutes have been able to print Thin Film Transistors using carbon nanotubes. Additionally, Aerosol Jet technology has been used to print antennas using conductive nanoparticle silver inks. Mobile device antennas including LTE, NFC, GPS, Wifi, WLAN, and BT have been printed using the Aerosol Jet process and independently tested by a leading cell phone component supplier. The company states that a new high volume process will soon be available which will lower manufacturing costs for antennas used in mobile devices. Advantages of these printed antennas include:
In another example the Aerosol Jet system was used to print a conformal sensor, antenna, and power and signal circuitry directly onto the wing of a UAV model. The wing itself was 3D printed by Stratasys.
In addition to printed electronics technology, The company also has a product line of 3D metal printers that use a technology called LENS which uses the energy from a high-power laser to build up metal structures one layer at a time. In June 2013, Optomec announced the availability of a new low cost offering in its line-up of metal 3D Printers named the LENS 450.
In addition to the LENS 450, the company also offers the LENS MR-7 for research and development, and the LENS 850R production repair system. Materials supported include titanium, stainless steel, nickel, cobalt and other alloys.