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Horizon Microtechnologies Develops Micro 3D Printing Solution for Functional Electronics Packaging

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Horizon Microtechnologies, a German additive manufacturing (AM) company specializing in micro-scale components, announced that it has developed a process for series production of functional packaging for microelectrical-mechanical systems (MEMS). The technique could be of particular interest to companies in the wearable electronics market, a space which, throughout this decade, is expected to consistently expand upon its already rapid growth.

According to Horizon, the key to the technique is the post-processing phase. Packaging for a given MEMS product is printed in “templates” at near-net shape, and then a coating is applied after the print is complete to finish the part. The coating is what makes the packaging not only customizable, but functional: the company says the coating can be used to make the packaging either partially or wholly conductive, as well as more shock resistant. Additionally, the available coatings include both polymers and metal oxides.

In a press release about the micro 3D printing solution for MEMS packaging, the CEO of Horizon Microtechnologies, Andreas Frölich, said, “While [AM] is not typically considered a mass production technology, the reduction in the size of electronics and optics — and the accompanying shrinkage of packaging — has made micro-AM a viable production alternative for MEMS housings for small to medium batch sizes. In addition to the precision offered by micro-AM, and the ability to build geometrically complex housings, an intelligent use of our post-processes can increase the functionality of the packaging, for example by reducing stray light in the infrared, having integrated electrical conductors, or making an off-the-shelf MEMS system usable in a harsh environment by adapting the right packaging.”

It’s starting to seem pretty clear that the electronics market is the future of the 3D printing industry. Among many other compelling reasons for why that is so likely, the one that stands out the most is that electronics now traverses every single other market, to an extent that has only been seen in perhaps one other case in history (the fossil fuels industry).

Thus, the more standardized and effective that the processes for electronics AM become as a whole, the more likely it is that companies in, say, the aerospace sector, will increasingly use AM for electronics, more so than for all other applications. Again, it is only a matter of the processes being perfected, before that eventuality plays out.

In turn, the companies in the 3D printing sector that are likeliest to succeed are the ones that can prove they have the most immediate usefulness to the electronics supply chains of some other major industry, again, like aerospace, or automotive, or clean energy, etc. The good thing is that that’s such a broad parameter for success — electronics is an infinitely complex set of many overlapping markets with a great diversity of components — that it gives companies lots of room to get creative.

Images courtesy of Horizon Microtechnologies

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