Integration with 3D-Printed Structures Will Play an Important Role in Developing 3D Printed Electronics

With the recent award of the $75 million grant for establishing the Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute as part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, we can expect the development of a roadmap toward high-volume manufacturing and deployment of products leveraging a more widespread use of flexible substrates. This coincides well with 3D printing’s ascent from being a process that predominantly served as a prototyping tool to being utilized for delivering production solutions.

Applications where the needs for production volume and production speed could be matched and where 3D printing brings unmatched advantages over traditional manufacturing process in terms of design complexity are growingly used, i.e., tooling fixtures, aircraft parts, and dental applications. While these applications slowly begin to become common, a roadmap to integrate electronic structures, e.g., sensors (strain gages, temperature or deformation), in the various 3D-printing processes will only augment the growth of both technologies.

This integration initially can be just adding sensors that are manufactured discretely in separate processes, either on ceramic or flexible substrates. Then, as materials and processes mature, there can be an integrated step within the 3D-printing process itself. However, this evolution will not happen overnight, needing to go through careful evaluation of materials, characterization of design and development, and deployment of manufacturing and test processes.Read more

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