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Curing and NovaCentrix’s PulseForge

Nearly two decades ago, designers and manufacturers started demanding more innovative curing solutions for the growing printed, flexible electronics market. NovaCentrix listened.

The Origin Story of PulseForge Tools

Nanoaluminum Powder and an Ordinary Camera Flash

In 2005, NovaCentrix (originally Nanotechnologies, Inc.) was primarily a nanoparticle producer. We had just started to make dispersions followed by inks from our nanometal particles for the emerging printed electronics industry. Since our customers were printing our inks on low temperature plastics and paper, a common request was, “Can you design the inks to cure at a lower temperature?” It wasn’t an unreasonable request, but we realized our customers really wanted a way to cure the printed traces without damaging the low temperature substrate. That involved an innovation at the processing level.

Disposable Camera

At the same time, Dr. Kurt Schroder was experimenting with nanoaluminum particles by initiating their combustion with pulsed light. He realized that their high surface-area-to-mass ratio meant that if enough optical power could be applied, the amount of energy needed to cause ignition was very little. He then successfully used a $7 disposable flash camera as the source. By extention, he theorized that pulsed light could also be used to instantly heat printed nanosilver and nano copper traces on plastic and paper, curing them instantly without damage to the substrate. He called this process “photonic curing” and for this was named “Inventor of the Year” for the state of Texas in 2012 –the same award given to Jack Kilby for the invention of the integrated circuit.

We branded this flashlamp-based system, PulseForge® tools. The value proposition was, and still is, to replace large, slow, energy consuming ovens typically used for processing for thermal processing, initially for conductive inks and printed electronics, with a system that is compact, fast, energy efficient, and higher performing. Saving energy while enabling our customers to develop and manufacture new products is a fundamental NovaCentrix tenet that carries through to today. With hundreds of PulseForge tools shipped and patents filed, we continue to move forward, defining new PulseForge products, all while continuing to expand our market and application scope.