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EETE DEC 2015

printed electronics 3D printers spit out small PCBs By Rick Merritt Two companies showed 3D printers that can spit out small printed circuit boards and others including Qualcomm showed advances putting electronics on plastic substrates at the annual IDTechEx conference in Santa Clara, California. “We see 3D printing contributing to the vision of a trillion-sensor world,” said James Stasiak, a distinguished technologist in printing technology at Hewlett Packard Inc. A combination of traditional electronics with 3D printing of nanomaterials on new kinds of substrates will enable ten-cent transistors needed for the future Internet of Things, Stasiak said in a keynote. He pointed to the room-sized YieldJet inkjet printer from Kateeva Inc. (Newark, Calif.) that printed OLEDs as well as research printing with DNA and other biological materials. On the show floor Israeli startup Nano Dimension demoed its DragonFly 2020 3D Printer for the first time in the U.S. It can print a multilayer 20 x 20 cm circuit board that Nano Dimension printed tiny circuit boards at IDTechEx, held in Santa Clara Calif. (Nov. 18–19, 2015) - All images: EE Times. is up to 3mm high with 80 micron traces in 3-20 hours, depending on the number of layers. The company targets users who don’t want to wait weeks it typically takes to make a board and can tolerate the $50,000 cost of the printer. Key to the 3D printer is a silverconductive and an insulating ink Nano Dimension developed, printed through a 500-nozzle inkjet head from Minolta. Like many targeting this market, the company is working on a cheaper copperconductive ink, but so far no one has solved the problem of keeping cooper from oxidizing in the print process, said Amit Dror, chief executive and co-founder of the company, shown with the new system below. Nano Dimension got its start less than two years ago when its founders had an idea for adapting for printed-circuit boards a silverconductive ink used for creating solar cells on a silicon wafer. Investors encouraged the founders to get listed on the Tel Aviv stock exchange where it has been able to raise $17 million. It aims to start pre-selling systems at the Consumer Amit Dror, chief executive and co-founder of Nano Dimension, is shown with the company’s DragonFly 2020 3D Printer. Electronics Show and deliver them late next year. HP’s Stasiak said companies such as Nano Dimension ultimately should be able to print circuit boards that cost less and offer greater flexibility than traditional processes. One of the challenges using the ink jet method, however, is it is currently limited to applying femto-liter droplets that create relatively large traces, he said. Owl Works LLC showed its Morpheus 3D printer. It can create a 340x190x330 mm build with 170 micron resolution and 25-200 mm height. The system will cost $500 when it goes on sale in the spring. That’s about half the cost of similar 3D printers thanks to its use of a relatively low cost ultraviolet light sources and LCD display in place of the lasers or digital light processors other printers use, said chief marketing officer S.J. Park. The technology for electronics on plastic substrates, also known as surface electronics, is here today. Qualcomm researchers are seeking applications for it. “We try to identify or create high-value apps that leverage these relatively crappy electronics and take advantage of their dimensions that traditional electronics do not address,” said Stein Lundby, a Qualcomm researcher shown above with his prototype plastic sensor platform after a keynote at the event. The company’s first prototype is EnFucell, a hybrid plastic circuit with Bluetooth and accelerometer chips mounted on it. The Band-Aid shaped device can be placed on Chief Marketing Officer S.J. Park of Owl Works LLC, which showed its Morpheus 3D printer at IDTechEx. Stein Lundby, a Qualcomm researcher with his prototype plastic sensor platform after a keynote at IDTechEx. 20 Electronic Engineering Times Europe December 2015 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE DEC 2015
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