Additive manufacturing systems supplier Optomec is pretty well-known in the industry for its LENS 3D printers for metal components, but the New Mexico-based company has also made major waves with its patented Aerosol Jet Systems, meant for 3D printing electronics—definitely an area in which Optomec excels. Now, it’s introducing a new machine to its line of additive electronics printers, one that’s meant specifically for advanced electronics packaging and inline production.
The new Aerosol Jet HD2 is optimized for use in the cutting-edge, $4 billion semiconductor packaging and assembly market, one of Optomec’s major applications. This market even encompasses competing technologies, including dispensing and wire bonding, which see an average of 5,000 – 10,000 machine shipments a year.
“The HD2 really changes the way designers think about IC packaging. Not only can it reduce the size of the final electronics package, but it also out-performs wire bonding when it comes to high-frequency signals. Wire bonds simply produce a lot of inductance for RF applications above 40 GHz,” Bryan Germann, Aerosol Jet Product Manager, said in a press release.
Optomec developed this new printer to meet continuing demand for miniaturized wearables and mobile products, and uses its patented Aerosol Jet technology to print circuitry at a high resolution. According to the release, the new Aerosol Jet HD2 is able to “dispense conformal 3D interconnects” between substrates, chips, components, and dies, which is important because the powerful interconnects are actually able to perform better at high frequencies; good news for mmWave and 5G applications. Additionally, no wire bonding is required.
Aerosol Jet technology lays a fine mist of inks, based on conductive nanoparticles or dielectric inks, down onto a surface using precision jet printing. It supports 3D printing on different kinds of substrates, including ceramics and metallic structures, though commercially available materials, such as the nanoparticle-based inks, have been optimized for the process so that you can print on plastics with low heat deflection temperatures. Additionally, Optomec’s Aerosol Jet process can also be used to apply adhesive and insulating materials.
One potential application for this electronics 3D printer is the fabrication of antennas, sensors, and transmission lines onto different materials, such as ceramic, metal, glass, polymers, FR4, and IC materials. But a major possibility is to use the new Aerosol Jet HD2 as a “drop-in replacement” for the time-tested process of using wire bonds to connect electrical components. Wire bonds can have a lot of issues, which makes component connection tough: they need a high impact level of mechanical contact with the IC, which can often result in the production of scrap that just ends up being wasted. Wire bonds also need more space in a package: not helpful when you’re trying to create miniaturized devices for consumer electronics, where smaller is usually better. Finally, the high frequency MMwave signals needed for automotive radar and 5G communications can be cut off by wire bonds.
The new Aerosol Jet HD2 printer can fabricate features that are as narrow as ten microns, with an accuracy of under 5 microns. Then, the nanoparticles are sintered together to build a solid metal conductor of either silver, copper, or gold. Meant for high-volume manufacturing, customers can purchase the system with an optional in-line conveying process for automated part loading, or a rotating table for 4-axis processing. The system can process part trays or substrates up to 300 mm wide, and takes QA compliance seriously by including production-friendly software so operators can easily figure out the start-up process.
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