Carnegie Mellon Extends Research into 3D Micro-Additive Manufacturing

January 11, 2018 by Paul Shepard

Optomec today announced its Aerosol Jet Technology has been deployed by Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering to advance 3D micro-additive manufacturing methods for fully-printed conformal sensors, low loss passives and antennas for on-chip and off-chip electronics. These advancements have significant potential to drive next-generation manufacturing processes.

Carnegie Mellon’s Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Laboratory (AMML), led by Dr. Rahul Panat, is working on solving fundamental and applied problems in the areas of printed and flexible microelectronics manufacturing and lithium-ion batteries.

These areas are highly relevant to realize devices and systems for wearable and Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Examples include smart contact lenses, wearable electronic clothing, robotic skins, and bio-patches.

“We employ an Optomec Aerosol Jet 3D print system to directly print nanoparticle inks and polymers over complex surfaces,” said Dr. Panat.

Dr. Panat

“The Aerosol Jet system has enabled us to fully print 3D antennas at the sub 100um length scale and to conduct simulation studies to identify omnidirectional antenna designs. These fabrication methods are unique and can pave the way for several applications in the high-speed communication areas," observed Dr. Panat.

The team has also demonstrated recently that complex 3D battery architectures fabricated by Aerosol Jet show electrode utilization and fast-charge discharge cycles.

Dr. Panat and his team are focused on developing next generation fully printed and in-situ cured solutions that have practical use within mainstream manufacturing.

The hypothesis of the research into 3D battery structures is that by controlling the porosity of a structure from nano to microscales, it should be possible increase the capacity of the batteries and the charge-discharge rates. The microscale additive manufacturing method that has been developed is highly useful for this application.

The researchers have also worked on developing models for the stresses in Li-ion batteries to find thermodynamic conditions under which the battery will show a crack growth. This research has been a success and a paper will exciting results is underway.

(click on image to enlarge)

Optomec’s Aerosol Jet 3D micro-structure printing enables the creation of micron-scale, high-aspect ratio structures by using in-flight curing and directly printing liquid materials. Aerosol Jet technology, in combination with an in-flight UV curing process, enables photopolymers to be printed into free-form standing 3D structures.

Advantages of this approach include:

  • Ultra-high resolution 3D printing, with features sizes down to 10 microns
  • Lateral feature resolution to 1 micron
  • Vertical resolution to 100 nm
  • An aspect ratio of more than 100:1 can be achieved
  • Structures can be printed on nearly any surface geometry by manipulating the tilt and rotation of the print head
  • Overhangs and closed cells can be printed directly, without using sacrificial support structures
  • Co-deposition of electronic and support materials for fabricating 3D circuits
  • Composite materials can be printed, which enables tailoring of the mechanical and electrical properties of the 3D structures.

Using the Aerosol Jet process, practically any type of material and/or solvent can be printed. The large standoff from the substrate, from 1 to 5 millimeters, enables high aspect printing without any z-axis motion. 10 micron focusing of the aerosol mist stream enables creation of ultrafine features.