Optomec announces improved performance of copper inks for aerosol jet printed electronics

Optomec, a leading global supplier of production-grade additive manufacturing systems for 3D printed electronics and 3D printed metals based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, announced significant improvements in the ability to effectively print and post-process copper and copper/nickel (ie: Constantan) inks on its Aerosol Jet systems. The availability and support of these new, cost effective inks from a number of qualified suppliers will enable new classes of electronic devices helping to expand industrial use of 3D printed electronics for consumer electronics, medical device, Internet of Things and other electronic applications.

Copper (Cu) and Copper/Nickel (CuNi; ie: Constantan) inks from Applied Nanotech, Inc., Intrinsiq Materials, Inc., PV Nano Cell Ltd., and Kuprion, Inc. have been successfully printed using Optomec Aerosol Jet technology.  Copper is a well-known material used in the electronics industry to manufacture components and printed circuit boards, while the Constantan alloy is an established standard for critical sensing elements such as thermocouples and strain gauges that are the building blocks of the Industrial Internet of Things.

To help drive the adoption of these copper inks, Optomec offers print recipes, as well as specialised hardware to shield these oxygen sensitive materials during the printing and curing process when necessary, though in some cases the printed copper inks can be cured thermally using conventional ovens already used in the electronics industry or through newer techniques such as flash lamp photonics or laser based curing systems. 

“We are very pleased to be working with Optomec in a NextFlex funded programme to develop Aerosol Jettable inks for printing onto 3D substrates.  Preliminary results have been very encouraging.  We believe this work will enable quality printing of fine lines on commercially relevant substrates which can give excellent conductivity when sintered either photonically or under reducing conditions, thus advancing the applicability of printed electronics”, said Mike Carmody, chief scientist, Intrinsiq Materials.

“Kuprion commercialises a novel nano-copper-based material, substantially oxygen-free that exhibits excellent Aerosol Jet printability and can be fused to solid bulk copper in a few minutes at temperatures as low as 200°C. The resulting traces show high thermal and electrical conductivity approaching that of bulk copper. The nano-copper paste & ink can be readily tailored regarding metal load (can exceed 50% w/w), viscosity and use of carrier solvent. Line-widths as narrow as 25 micron and one pass layer thicknesses ranging from 250nm to 60 micrometer have been demonstrated using Optomec’s Aerosol Jet printing technique. Further optimisation efforts are underway for additive manufacturing applications.” said Alfred Zinn, CEO, Kuprion, Inc.

Fernando de la Vega, CEO, PV Nano Cell, stated: “Our Sicrys copper-based inks, which are very stable 50% w/w metal nano-copper single crystal particles, low viscosity inks are designed to support high throughputs; therefore, the limit depends mostly on the printers.  We are focusing on mass production in various fields, including printed electronics, printed circuit boards, antenna for mobile phones, solar cells, and 3D printing applications. Optomec’s Aerosol Jet printers provide PV Nano Cell with a unique solution for applying our materials to meet next generation manufacturing requirements.”

“The general availability of both copper and copper/nickel materials extends Aerosol Jet printing to address our customer’s next generation product development challenges,” said Mike Renn, Optomec CTO.  “Optomec’s Advanced Applications Lab has already begun using these innovative materials on applications ranging from embedded sensors, thermistors, and flexible electronic circuits.”

Caption: Aerosol Jet for 3D printed electronics (photo: Optomec)



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