, an ‘established leader’ in additive manufacturing solutions for 3-D metal printing and 3-D printed electronics, has received new patents covering the use of ‘Aerosol Jet’ for producing 3-D micro-structures with a resolution down to 15µm — about one-fifth the width of a human hair, and smaller than the resolution of the human eye.
This capability has been demonstrated for a range of materials, including polymers, metals and composite structures. These new grants are the latest in an IP portfolio that totals more than 75 patents issued, with global protection including the USA and key markets across Asia and Europe.
The new 3-D micro-printing patents present a method for fabricating three-dimensional structures using in-situ heating or UV illumination to modify the properties of aerosol droplets as they are jetted onto a target surface.
In the case of the ‘UV embodiment’, light at least partially cures photopolymer droplets, or alternatively causes droplets of solvent-based nanoparticle dispersions to rapidly dry in-flight,with the resulting increased viscosity of the aerosol droplets facilitating the formation of free-standing 3-D shapes.
Michael Renn, Optomec’s chief technology officer who is the inventor on these new patents, and has more than 50 patents to his credit in total, said: “Optomec continues to invest heavily in its core technology, seeking to extend the already broad range of applications for its Aerosol Jet solution. The capability demonstrated with our 3-D printed micro-structures work is already seeing potential applications in semiconductor packaging and medical device markets.”
Optomec — based in New Mexico — is a privately-held supplier of additive manufacturing systems. The company’s patented Aerosol Jet systems for printed electronics, and LENS and Huffman brand 3-D printers for metal component production and repair, are used by industry ‘to reduce product cost and improve performance’.
Together, these printing solutions work with a broad spectrum of ‘functional materials’ that range from electronic inks to structural metals— and even biological matter. Optomec has delivered more than 500 of its proprietary additive manufacturing systems to more than 200 ‘marquee customers’ around the world, for production applications in the electronics, energy, life sciences and aerospace industries.