While we still may not be able to 3D print an entire iPhone at once, electronic 3D printing may advance faster than most people would notice. A pioneer in this field is Optomec, Inc., which is developing not only directed energy deposition 3D printers, but a range of systems capable of 3D printing materials for electronics manufacturing. Today, the company announced that it has sold six of these Aerosol Jet machines to an existing customer, who now owns a total of 20 such 3D printers. The price of the order amounts to more than 2 million dollars.
The Aerosol Jet line is unique in its ability to spray an ultra-fine mist of materials onto non-flat and flat surfaces. While this could mean a wide variety of raw materials, including biological materials, they are increasingly being used for semiconductor packaging and printed circuit board (PCB) assembly. A key use case for Aerosol Jet is as an electronics manufacturer LITE-ON Mobile, which uses technology to 3D print an antenna on cell phones (see below). Samsung also bought an Aerosol Jet machine in 2019.
The latest version of the Aerosol Jet series is the HD2 3D printer, introduced last year. This machine is optimized for semiconductor packaging, dispensing compliant 3D interconnects between substrates, chips, components, and dies. This makes it possible to 3D print interconnects that connect the chips to other chips, circuit boards, or even directly to a final product. This latest order will see the installation of the customer’s very first HD2 printer, as well as recipes for conductive and insulating materials from Optomec.
Optomec does not disclose who the customer is, except to say that it has more than $25 billion in annual sales and is large in the manufacture of electronic systems for the aerospace and defense industries. He has also been an Aerosol Jet customer for over five years. If all goes well, the client plans to add more 3D printers to their operation with a goal of having more than 30 over the next year.
“Optomec is fortunate that many of its customers are at the forefront of adopting additive manufacturing in real-world production applications,” said David Ramahi, CEO of Optomec. “This particular user is truly a leader in the implementation of 3D additive electronics, having shipped hundreds of thousands of products manufactured using Optomec’s Aerosol Jet solution for packaging semi -advanced drivers.”
This is obviously a big win for Optomec, which is arguably at the forefront of electronic 3D printing due to the fact that its technology is actually used in the mass production of consumer goods. We still don’t know exactly what these wares are, but it’s possible you have one in your pocket.
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