Sunday, 1 April 2012

Hybrid 3D Printed objects with Embedded Electronics

Stratasys is collaborating with Optomec to develop a 3D object that can be embossed with printed electronics. In one test project, a wing for an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was 3D Printed with printed electronics embedded within it.  Imagine the applications if this technique were to be perfected. "If you can print electronics onto a 3D Printed object you can give it intelligence," said Jeff DeGrange, vice president of digital manufacturing at Stratasys.

The wing was 3D printed using Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process, while Optomec used its Aerosol Jet system to print a sensor, antenna and circuitry directly onto the wing.

Printed electronics refers to a wide range of techniques, but the Stratasys/Optomec collaboration raises the possibility of meshing two different additive manufacturing technologies together to create a 3D Printer capable of directing printing hybrid objects consisting of substance and electronics functionality.

The Optomec Aerosol Jet process is capable of handling the entire range of materials classes required for Printed Electronic manufacturing: conductors, resistors, dielectrics/insulators and semiconductors, and also combinations of materials printed layer-wise to create differing functionality. The jet of conductive material that that such printers use opens up the possibility of printing in three dimensions, on surfaces that are curved and have very complex geometry.

Optomec is a leading provider of additive manufacturing solutions for high-performance applications in the electronics, solar, medical, and aerospace & defense markets. These systems utilize Optomec’s patented Aerosol Jet Printed Electronics technology and powder-metal fabrication technology, which can make, enhance, and repair high-performance metal components in state-of-the-art materials such as titanium, stainless steel, and Inconel. 

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