Israel-based Nano Dimension is seeking to change the way things are made, with their flagship DragonFly 2020 3D printer catching attention from many quarters for its ability to 3D print electronics including printed circuit boards (PCBs). The company has told us before that the sheer newness of their technology is enabling myriad new applications, as they learn along with their collaborators and customers what might be made possible through their novel 3D printing technology. The DragonFly 2020 is nearing its long-anticipated commercial debut as beta customers provide feedback and showcase the benefits of working with the PCB 3D printer.

Of great importance to their efforts in 3D printing is the development of the materials that are being 3D printed, and the company has been placing a major focus on this segment. At this year’s CES, Materials Manager Robert Even showed me a portfolio of potential substrates onto which they could 3D print circuits as capabilities allow for printing onto everything from a can of soda to textiles, among many other possibilities. Nano Dimension has been hard at work in developing additional materials, substrates, and abilities — and at the head of these efforts is the company’s Vice President of Materials, Hila Elimelech.

Elimelech — who brings to the table experience in 3D printing with not only Nano Dimension but with XJet, another Israeli company working with unique materials capabilities in 3D printing — has taken the time to fill us in on her experiences in the additive manufacturing industry, as well as the progress Nano Dimension is making regarding materials advances.

The DragonFly 2020 at CES 2017

Please tell us a little bit about background and education.

“I have a PhD in Chemistry from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where my research focused on nanoparticles of composite materials. There I gained experience with everything related to suspension systems, how to work with nanoparticles, and how to develop dispersion systems.

After graduation I worked at an ink jet printing company called XJet for about two years, then took a year off to have twins. When I was ready to re-enter the workforce, I reconnected with a former XJet colleague, and together we took the first steps toward starting Nano Dimension. We passed rigorous tests and secured funding from the Chief Scientist of Israel, and raised additional funds to get the company started. I was the first employee aside from the co-founders. It’s hard to believe, since now we have more than 100 employees!”

  What is your role at Nano Dimension?

“I am the Vice President of Materials at Nano Dimension, which naturally means I’m responsible for everything related to materials. This is quite a large responsibility, because Nano Dimension views itself as a materials company that will be at the forefront of revolutionizing the world of production by using advanced materials in 3D printing.”

Robert Even showing some of Nano Dimension’s materials portfolio at CES 2017

How does your team’s work impact the end-products that your customers will 3D print?

“We bring the magic! The whole 3D printing process starts with a liquid ink, and the ink needs to have certain properties in order to meet the specs and parameters of the end product. Our materials department is responsible for the tailoring of each and every property of our ink formulations to meet the needs of the final products that will be 3D-printed.

Understanding the specs and parameters of the end-product is a very important part of our work. Will it have elevated temps, does it need high mechanical strength, conductivity, or insulation properties? Developing customized ink formulations is a complex process since we’re not working with existing materials – we are starting from scratch.

Our team is involved from start to finish in the development process – we research, synthesize the nanoparticles, analyze, develop ink formulations, print them, and then test for thermal, electrical and mechanical properties in-house. The success of our 3D printer and the end-products it prints is based largely on our advanced materials.”

How has your expertise in materials development contributed to the success of Nano Dimension so far?

“So much work from the whole team has gone into getting Nano Dimension to its current stage – with two commercially-available inks, and a full beta program and early access sales for our DragonFly 2020 3D Printer. We also have a number of patents for materials and processes that we’re constantly working on, including breakthroughs with ceramic and copper materials that are very exciting for us and for the industry.

Our primary materials include silver nanoparticle inks that have high conductivity and high resolution. One thing that makes Nano Dimension unique is that we synthesize our silver nanoparticles in-house, which is very important to control the final product’s properties.

The silver inks are designed to work together with our one-part insulating dielectric inks. Our DragonFly printer allows for simultaneous 3D printing of conductive inks (metals) and insulating inks (polymers). This combination is game-changing, and another thing that sets Nano Dimension apart.”

A 3D printed circuit board at formnext 2016

What do you expect for you and the company in the near future?

“Currently we’re focused on 3D-printing PCBs, but we at Nano Dimension believe that we’re developing a disruptive technology that will change the world of production.

The fourth industrial revolution will rely on 3D printing to deliver tailor-made products, and we expect Nano Dimension to be a leading player in this field. An advanced printer and materials are essential to making this possible, and we’ve already proven we have these capabilities. Our technology will enable real-time customization of complex electronics in a range of industries, including space, military, smart cars, and more.”

3D printed circuitry at formnext 2016

As VP of Materials, you hold a very senior and technical position at Nano Dimension. What can you tell us about your experience as a woman working in this role and industry?

“I truly don’t think being a woman has made any impact in my career whatsoever! I haven’t been treated differently at all, and gender has no role in my day-to-day responsibilities.

Nano Dimension is a very professional and progressive company. Typically women make up less than 20% of the workforce in the additive manufacturing industry, however, at Nano Dimension approximately 35% of employees are women. Since the very beginning, we have made a conscious effort to not be a male dominated company, and I had this in mind as I built my team also. This set the tone from the beginning, as it has carried through as we’ve continued to grow.”

What advice do you have for girls/young women considering a career in AM?

“Recently I gave a lecture at the Hebrew University about life after the academy, and a female student asked about how to balance work and family. My advice to her was to not be intimated, and to know that it’s really possible to have both. For me it has never been a trade-off, and my family hasn’t suffered because of my professional career.”

As we look forward to the full launch of the DragonFly 2020 and hearing more about its performance from the handful of companies already working with the technology, this insight into operations is a helpful advance look at the company’s business plans. The company is dreaming big, and showing the benefits that a diverse workforce brings to its operations.

Share your thoughts in the Hila Elimelech forum at 3DPB.com.

 

If you are interested in sharing your story, or know a woman we should get in touch with for this new series, please reach out any time. Send us an email or connect on Twitter. We’re looking forward to sharing more stories about women in 3D printing. Find all the features in this series here.
We are also featuring educators focusing on training and teaching 3D printing skills; see all these features here.

[CES/formnext photos: Sarah Goehrke]

 

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