3D printing or additive manufacturing (AM) is the creation of three-dimensional objects using additive processes by printing successive layers of material directly from a digital design file. The High Density Electronics Center (HiDEC), a user center for electronic/microelectronic and system prototyping, at the University of Arkansas has established a 3D printing laboratory with unique capabilities.
An Optomec AJ-200 printer (Fig. 1) can be used to replace standard printing techniques in circuit design. The tool aerosolizes various types of conductive and non-conductive ink. The pneumatic head creates a controlled and focused mist depositing from a tip suspended 5mm over the surface of feature sizes as small as 10 microns. The versatility of the AJ-200 has made it possible for multiple companies to use one tool for many different applications. Several companies in the Arkansas Research and Technology Park have already found this tool to be beneficial and adaptive to their needs.
HiDEC’s Makerbot printer prints (Fig. 2) molds from ABS plastic to be used with high temperature castable ceramics (Fig. 3) in order to realize the capabilities of high temperature packaging designs for the current NASA project that HiDEC is involved with. This printer uses E3 extruder heads, allowing for more extreme temperatures for printing nylons. The size resolution of both of these models can be printed as small as 400 micron line width and as thin as 200 microns.
Nscrypt’s 3Dn-Tabletop (Fig. 4) is the newest addition to the additive manufacturing options at HiDEC. This system includes print head options that dispense paste as well as print thermoplastics. In addition, the system comes with a micro milling head and a pick and place tool making the 3Dn truly a versatile system providing nearly 10,000 different material options to choose from.
HiDEC’s Nano Synthesis Lab has modified a traditional 3-D printer with pneumatic controls (Fig. 5) to dispense various conductive inks and paste materials in order to pursue research in developing high-quality, but low cost nano-pastes and inks for various applications, including building intermetallic bonds and joining semiconductor chips. The products can be applied with different facile methods and have excellent properties such as low sintering temperatures and high electrical/thermal conductivities. Efforts have been devoted to three aspects, tailor-making nanomaterials with systematically varied morphologies, engineering the interfaces among nanomaterials, binders, thinners and solvents and correlation of the properties and structures/interfaces and optimizing them to achieve optimal performance. The current capabilities of this printer’s pneumatic control resolution are as small as 100 micron line widths and thicknesses as thin as 25 microns.
Printing is possible on various surfaces such as, glass, ceramic, metal, insulating flexible tapes, and fabrics. All the above 3D printing capabilities are available for faculty, students, and outside clients at HiDEC for a nominal fee.