3D Printed Electronics for Military Aerospace Applications
The demand for novel consumer and military electronic devices that pack more functionality into less space is driving the need for advanced manufacturing methods that tightly integrate electronic circuitry with physical packaging. The unique ability to print electronics directly onto 3D surfaces, for example on a cell phone case or an aircraft wing, makes Aerosol Jet printing an ideal solution for reducing device size and weight.Common electronic materials including conductor, dielectric, resistor, and semiconductor inks can be processed by the Aerosol Jet system to print conformal sensors, antennas, shielding and other active and passive components. Printing these electronic components directly on or inside the physical device eliminates the need for separate printed circuit boards, cabling and wiring, thereby reducing weight and size while also simplifying the assembly process. Device performance can also be improved by eliminating protruding components such as antenna, thereby reducing aerodynamic drag.
In this example, the Aerosol Jet system was used to print a conformal sensor, antenna, and power and signal circuitry directly onto the wing of a UAV model. The wing itself was 3D printed with the Stratasys system. The electrical and sensor designs were provided by Aurora Flight Sciences, a supplier of UAVs.
Printed drone wing with printed conformal electronics
Printing in Trenches and on Domes
The demand for novel consumer and military electronic devices that pack more functionality into less space is driving development of 3D printed electronics. Applications ranging from System In Package (SiP) used in smart phones and other mobile devices to conformal printed sensors, antennas and EMI shielding used in aerospace and defense products, are all realizing the possibilities of Aerosol Jet conformal printing technology.
6 Axis printing on a dome (courtesy of Neotech Services)
The unique ability of Aerosol Jet systems to print fine-line conformal circuitry on non planar surfaces is a key enabler for fully printed electronics on 3D surfaces. The relatively large stand-off, up to 5mm from the nozzle tip to the substrate, and high-velocity particle stream enable the Aerosol Jet material deposition head to print on surfaces with inclines of up to 60 degrees without tilting the head. Printing on higher inclined surfaces can be achieved by tilting the Aerosol Jet print head. Customers have adapted our systems to their specific printed electronics requirements by adding four or five axes of motion along with specific tilt head control.
3D Printing with Aerosol Jet
Neotech Services, Optomec’s representative in the EU, implemented a 6-axis 3D printing system utilizing Aerosol Jet technology. With this development, Neotech aims to extend Aerosol Jet technology’s unique capabilities towards true 3D Printed Electronics. The installed system can print over complex conformal surfaces and will be used to develop integrated sensor, MID circuit and smart structure applications. The target markets are automotive, industrial and aerospace industries.