We’ve discussed 3D printing before and its super-disruptive effect on personalised manufacturing but to be disruptive it is important to have a diverse and robust range of materials – such as the materials for the 3D printing of electronic circuits.
PEN, which stands for Products Enabled by NanoTechnology, is comprised of a team that works on a parallel mission alongside many other innovators today to redefine products, services, and so many factors that truly impact people’s lives. They rely on nanotechnology to find solutions to challenges in numerous industries, partnering with clients like the US Department of Transportation, the Army Research Office and the US Department of Agriculture. They also hold more than 250 patents, with a commitment to making innovations that actually help in everyday life too.
Now, they are throwing their hat into the ring with a substantial innovation regarding 3D printing materials, leading to ease in fabricating metallic prints with an inkjet nano-copper ink which they developed through a modification to their own award winning 2D inkjet copper ink. This led to the creation of 3D metallic copper structures on Kapton substrates.
“3D printing is the fastest growing segment in printed electronics, but without 3D metal printing its scope will be commercially limited. Our new technology has the potential to transform production in a wide range of industries, from medical devices to structural electronics,” said Dr. Richard Fink, President of Applied Nanotech, Inc.
Fink’s thoughts on metal 3D printing emphasize those of many involved in the higher echelons of industry, where 3D printing with metal–and electronics–is becoming more prevalent, and desired. Echoed around the globe, commitment to this latest evolution in additive manufacturing is leading to numerous innovations in both hardware and the crucial materials which must be used in production.
“The success of the electronic 3D printing industry depends on the ability to make metallic objects or parts that have a metallic component, but suitable metallic inks and printing methods have not been readily available. The new ink enables novel sintering methods using a photo curing Xenon 2000 unit operated sequentially for each 5 micrometer thick inkjet trace in ambient air and room temperature,” explained Dr. Zvi Yaniv, lead researcher.
The new method paves the way for the electronics manufacturing industry to produce fully functional components, including 3D antennas and full printed sensors from multiple materials such as metals and plastics.
The researchers combined 2D printed electronics with 3D printing and expanded the impact of Multifunctional Additive Manufacturing—which involves printing multiple materials in a single additive manufacturing system to create components that have broader functionalities.
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Existing systems do not typically use more than one material, limiting the functionality of the printed structures. By having two materials like a conductor and an insulator, the researchers expanded the range of functions in electronics.
Goods which are produced in other countries could be near sourced and this will lead to reduction in the shipping and air cargo volumes.
Reduction in warehouse requirement as because of mass customized products which results in fall in inventory levels as goods are made in order.
There would be fewer opportunities for logistics suppliers to be involved in companies’ upstream supply chains, as manufacturing processes are increasingly re-bundled within a single facility. Tiers of component suppliers are done away with, as is the need for supplier villages, line side supply etc.
A major new sector of the logistics industry would emerge dealing with the storage and movement of the raw materials which ‘feed’ the 3D Printers. As 3D Printers become more affordable to the general public, the home delivery market of these materials would increase.
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