Aerosol Jet technology, developed by Optomec for the DARPA Mesoscopic Integrated Conformal Electronics (MICE) program, is totally different from industrial ink jet technology. The Aerosol Jet process begins with the atomization of a print material to produce droplets on the order of one to two microns in diameter. Materials with viscosities ranging for 1 cP to 1,000 cP have been successfully atomized and deposited using Aerosol Jet.
These atomized femtoliter size droplets are entrained in a gas stream and delivered to the material deposition print head. Here a second gas is introduced around the aerosol stream to focus the droplets into a tightly collimated beam and also to eliminate clogging of the nozzle. The combined gas streams exit the print head through a converging nozzle that compresses the aerosol stream to a diameter as small as 10 microns. The jet stream of droplets exits the print head at high velocity and impinges upon the substrate.
The high exit velocity of the aerosol stream enables a relatively large separation between the print head and the substrate, typically 2-5 mm. The aerosol stream remains tightly focused over this distance, resulting in the ability to print conformal patterns on three dimensional substrates. Despite the high velocity, the printing process is gentle; substrate damage does not occur and there is generally no splatter or over-spray from the droplets.
Patterning is accomplished by attaching the substrate to a computer-controlled platen, or by translating the deposition head while the substrate position remains fixed. The system is driven by standard .DXF or .DWG CAD data which is converted to make a vector based tool path. The table below summarizes the advantages of Aerosol Jet technology over ink jet. Click here for more information on Aerosol Jet technology.
For more information click here to access an article featured in Organic and Printed Electronics magazine titled "Aerosol Jet System, an Alternative to Inkjet Printing for Printed Electronics."