Air Force Awards Optomec Project to Eliminate Solder in Electronics and Reduce E-Waste

Air Force Awards Optomec Project to Eliminate Solder in Electronics and Reduce E-Waste

2014-04-15T01:38:36+00:00March 31st, 2009|

Aerosol Jet Deposition System used to Fully Print Electronic Circuitry-Including Active and Passive Components and Interconnects

Albuquerque, New Mexico, 31 March 2009: Optomec announced today that the company, along with a major Aerospace OEM, was awarded a project to eliminate solder from the manufacture of electronics. The $300,000 proof of concept project is structured as a one-year feasibility study. Follow-on awards are anticipated based on initial project results.

The main goal of the Solder Free project is to demonstrate the fabrication of functional circuits without solder. To accomplish this goal, a leading Aerospace/Defense company will design multiple test circuits, including a Twin-T notch filter circuit and an inverter circuit that will then be completely printed using an Aerosol Jet system. All elements of these test circuits, which include resistors, capacitors, transistors and interconnects, will be fully printed by an Aerosol Jet system and will demonstrate its ability to precisely deposit a variety of conductor, semiconductor, resistor and dielectric materials. Performance and cost data will be gathered to demonstrate the potential savings of using Aerosol Jet compared to traditional manufacturing processes for military printed electronics applications.

Aerosol Jet systems are able to print virtually any material onto any substrate. The process involves forming a dense stream of ink micro-droplets into a tightly confined jet and then focusing the beam of material onto a circuit board or substrate. The droplet stream is printed at specific locations on a substrate using CAD/CAM information to drive the printing process. This approach eliminates the time and cost of creating screens or stencils.

Both the Lead Solder process and the Lead-Free Solder process exhibit many problems and challenges for current day electronics manufacturers, all of which can be avoided when the Aerosol Jet process is employed. The Lead Solder process poses e-waste hazards worldwide and many countries have taken measures to prevent the use of lead and other harmful materials in manufacturing. The use of Lead-Free solders in the fabrication process introduces reliability challenges, including the growth of tin whiskers, solder cracking and voids. The Aerosol Jet deposition process, however, can print the entire circuit board, including interconnects, and active and passive components. No soldering is required, hence environmental and reliability concerns are eliminated. Other key benefits of the Aerosol Jet process include reduced cycle time and reduced cost for low volume production.

Dave Keicher, Optomec VP/CTO, states, “Optomec is pleased to have been selected by the Air Force for the proof of concept phase of the Solder Free electronics project. The ability of Aerosol Jet to direct write active and passive components as well as fine line interconnects on virtually any substrate makes it an ideal solution for fabricating completely printed electronic circuitry. In light of the international concerns regarding the use of lead and other hazardous materials, Aerosol Jet holds the promise to become the green standard for new clean-tech printed electronics manufacturing processes.”

For more information on Aerosol Jet and its use for military and commercial applications, please click on this link to download the whitepaper “Aerosol Jet Direct Write Printing for Mil-Aero Electronic Applications”. Optomec is the world-leading provider of additive manufacturing systems for high-performance applications in the Electronics, Biomedical, and Aerospace & Defense markets. These systems utilize Optomec’s proprietary Aerosol Jet and LENS powder-metal fabrication technology. The company has a global customer base of industry-leading manufacturers.