German company Neotech AMT announced yesterday it planned to release commercially a production platform for sintering 3D printed electronics. This new machine, called LBS 45XE, uses light beam sintering to place Ag inks onto polymer substrates. Managing director of Neotech, Dr. Martin Hedges, explained the new machine’s benefit for their clients:
“This platform will assist customers to develop novel 3D printed electronics structures on low temperature substrates. The initial target markets are printed antenna for mobile phones and heater patterns for the automotive industry. The LBS 45XE has been designed for mass production with low operating costs. The system will be a very useful complement to our current range of five axis printing platforms to advanced 3-D print electronics.”
A case study performed by Neotech AMT’s research and development team, using the newly released machine, demonstrated improvements in design flexibility, reductions in product thicknesses, and environmental benefits when printing cell phone antennas as compared to the traditional processes for their creation. The digital nature of the process made possible with this machine eliminates the need for hard tooling, special plastic resins, and plating processes.
This machine can carry out sintering processes on up to five axes of motion simultaneously. Each has its own individual light source that is tuned to the particular absorption wavelength of the printed media. That light beam allows for local heating and sintering to be focused on a very specific area, leaving the surrounding material unaffected. That centered area leaves a trace that is both conductive and has strong adhesive and cohesive strength.
Neotech has been involved in the development of systems for 3-D printed electronics since 2006. The company is located in Nuremberg, Germany and rose to stardom when they installed the world’s first five axis 3D printed electronics system in 2010. The advent of that system allowed for the combination of hardware and software elements capable of producing complex circuitry on nearly all 3D services.
With the announcement of their latest technological contribution, they are advancing capabilities for 3D printing of electronics. There are other companies pioneering developments in electronics printing technologies, such as Optomec, developer of an aerosol jet printing process. Neotech is, in a sense, standing on the shoulders of giants by combining motion 3D toolpath generation software, Optomec’s aerosol jet print engine, and a five-axis CNC motion platform.
This new technology is most likely one step on the pathway rather than endpoint itself. Just as Neotech has built upon their ability to understand potential connections among existing technological capabilities, it is only a matter of time before Neotech or someone else develops an integrated electronics printer capable of producing both the object and its electronics at the same time. It will certainly be interesting to watch as this technology furthers its uses within manufacturing. Let us know what you think about this new electronics 3D printing platform in the Neotech electronic 3D printer forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video below provided by Neotech AMT for further information regarding their printers.
[Sources: TCTMagazine, Neotech]