AMS Spring 2023

$2M in Electronics 3D Printers Sold to Military Customer by Optomec

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While we’re still not able to 3D print an entire iPhone at once, electronics 3D printing may be progressing more quickly than most people might notice. A pioneer in this space is Optomec, Inc., which develops not just directed energy deposition 3D printers but a line of systems capable of 3D printing materials for electronics manufacturing. Now, the company has announced that it has sold six of these Aerosol Jet machines to an existing customer, who now owns a total of 20 such 3D printers. The price of the order totals over $2 million.

The Aerosol Jet line is unique in its ability to spray an ultrafine mist of materials onto non-planar and planar surfaces. While this could mean a wide variety of feedstock, including biological material, it is increasingly being used for semiconductor packaging and printed circuit board (PCB) assembly. One key use case for Aerosol Jet is that of electronics manufacturer LITE-ON Mobile, which uses the technology to 3D print antenna onto mobile phones (shown below). Samsung also purchased an Aerosol Jet machine in 2019.

The latest version of the Aerosol Jet series is the HD2 3D printer, introduced last year.  This machine is optimized for semiconductor packaging, dispensing conformal 3D interconnects between substrates, chips, components, and dies. This makes it possible to print 3D interconnects that link chips to other chips, circuit boards or even directly onto an end product. This latest order will see the customer’s very first HD2 printer installed, along with recipes for conductive and insulating materials from Optomec.

Semiconductor Packaging examples showing Printed 3D Interconnects for 3D stacked die (l), mmWave (c), and flex circuit (r). Image courtesy of Optomec.

Optomec doesn’t disclose who the customer is, except to say that it makes over $25 billion in annual sales and are big in manufacturing electronic systems for the aerospace and defense sectors. It has also been an Aerosol Jet customer for over five years. If all goes well, the customer is planning on adding more 3D printers to its operation with a goal of having more than 30 over the next year.

“Optomec is fortunate that many of its customers are at the vanguard in adopting Additive Manufacturing in real-world production applications,” said David Ramahi, Optomec CEO. “This particular user is truly a standout in leading the charge when it comes to implementation of 3D Additive Electronics, having shipped 100,000s of products manufactured using Optomec’s Aerosol Jet solution for advanced semiconductor packaging.”

The Aerosol Jet HD2 3D printer from Optomec. Image courtesy of Optomec.

This is obviously a big win for Optomec, which is arguably leading the charge in electronics 3D printing due to the fact that its technology is actually being used in the mass production of consumer goods. We’re still not sure what exactly those goods are, but there’s a possibility that you’re carrying one around in your pocket.

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