Industrial additive manufacturing equipment manufacturer Optomec has just introduced a new platform with applications for 3D printing micro-electronics, antennas, sensors and circuits on uneven surfaces using five different axis of movement. Optomec developed the Aerosol Jet 5X for use in the small-scale personal electronics market and they hope it will aid in the development of smaller and more advanced smart phones, tablets, laptops and sensors.
The Aerosol Jet 5X is capable of printing between 10 microns to up to a millimeter in width within a print envelope of 200mm x 300mm x 200mm (7.8inch x 11.8inch x 7.8inch). The 5-axis motion platform allows materials including conductive inks, dielectrics, polymers and even adhesives to be 3D printed along uneven surfaces such as electronic internals and circuit boards.
This 5-axis movement allows the print nozzle to effectively print on just about any surface that is capable of holding the material. As an example of how effectively it moves along all five available axes, here is a brief video showing the Aerosol Jet 5X printing on the surface of a golf ball:
Director of Aerosol Jet Product Management at Optomec Mike O’Reilly explains: “Optomec continues to break through traditional manufacturing barriers by extending the advantages of 3D printing to advanced applications such as 3D printed electronics, and further showing the promise to be competitive in the production of cost-sensitive devices such as smart phones and the sensors driving the Internet of Things. With the Aerosol Jet 5X system, Optomec is enabling functional electronics to be readily integrated onto and within 3D structures in ways not previously imagined.”
Aerosol Jet technology works by atomizing and converting the printing material into a dense aerosol consisting of droplets between 1 to 5 microns in size. This gas is mixed with an inert carrier gas that pulls it into the printing head where it is extruded out at an extremely high velocity onto the printing surface. Optomec has claimed several patents on aerosol 3D printing and currently offers four different platforms equipped with the technology.
Additionally you can fully integrate the Aerosol Jet 5X into the Optomec Marathon Print Module which can convert the technology into a low volume production line. There is also a scalable version of the print module that can be configured with four print heads, allowing full integration into high volume production platforms and applications.