Now that we’ve got a number of advanced 3D printing technologies, from high-end metal 3D printers to low-cost desktop fabricators, we await the day when 3D printed items become fully-functional with electronics 3D printed directly into objects during the manufacturing process. The FlexTech Alliance, a public-private partnership devoted to enabling the growth of the flexible electronics industry, is keen on making the 3D printing of functional electronics a reality. FlexTech has announced today the awarding of $1,291,000 to two companies, nScrypt and NovaCentrix, to develop a new 3D printing system for fabricating complex, functional objects.
nScrypt is an Orlando-based company that focuses on micro-dispensing technology for electronic packaging and 3D printing, while NovaCentrix, based in Austin, is in the field of printed electronics. Together, the two will develop a new system for 3D printing integrated hybrid circuits onto 3D objects and flexible, low-temperature, and rigid surfaces. The device will feature a range of different heads: one fused deposition extruder, a pick-and-place unit, three micro-dispensing pump heads, and a photonic curing tool. Hypothetically, the system will be able to print, switch materials, and cure quickly and without stopping to change inks.
President and CEO of FlexTech Alliance, Michael Ciesinski, commented on the partnership, “The teaming of nScrypt and NovaCentrix on this project is optimal for a successful outcome. nScrypt has already created some of the most advanced 3D printing tools, while NovaCentrix is consistently introducing tools which are enabling the printed electronics revolution.”
CEO of nScrypt, Kenneth Church, contributed, “At nScrypt, we know that 3D printing is a truly disruptive technology and, even though initially expensive and challenging, the promise of flexibility and cost savings will drive adoption. FlexTech funding allows nScrypt, where we have been working on digital printing for more than 15 years, and NovaCentrix to combine our expertise and demonstrate why 3D digital printing is a game-changing manufacturing process.”
Vice president of marketing at NovaCentrix, Stan Farnsworth, added, “This ground-breaking integrated unit is the next step in what we see as the inevitable convergence of printed electronics and 3D fabrication. The portfolio of materials able to be used in 3D fabrication will expand dramatically, and active electronics can be designed into structures in ways never-before possible. We laud FlexTech for the vision and organizational efforts in bringing this project to fruition, and the team at nScrypt for their engineering capability and deposition expertise.”
Once complete, the tool will give engineers the ability to create all-in-one 3D printed devices, such as antennae, touch sensors, and cell phone circuits. As it advances, its capabilities could be greatly expanded to print even larger, more varied components. According to the press release, one FlexTech partner that is greatly interested in the technology is the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, which is increasingly interested in applying 3D printing to the field of war. Based on the two companies’ already existing capabilities, I think that they’ll be able to pull it off. Just watch the nScrypt pick-n-place at work below: