Until now, 3D printing has enabled academics and university researchers to display their findings, and advance their field of study, using true-to-life 3D models — without being able to 3D print electronic circuitry, the heartbeat of all devices. Now for the first time, with Nano Dimension’s DragonFly LDM® System for the Precision Additive Manufacturing of Printed Electronics, researchers are finding new freedom to produce fully functional 3D printed electronic circuitry and non-planar functional parts, in-house, to explore research that enable free-form printing of metals and dielectric polymers.
Nano Dimension works with academic institutions across the globe to train tomorrow’s workforce in electronic additive manufacturing and to empower innovation for real-world applications. Whether in the classroom or in the innovation lab, mechatronics can provide tomorrows engineers and researchers with the tools to develop 3D circuitry and antennas without the straight-jacket of traditional manufacturing processes, allowing them to develop the electronics of the future.
Dragonfly LDM enables optimized embedded sensors
The Center for Biomolecular Nanotechnologies (CBN) in Arnesano, Lecce, is part of the IIT, a leading research institute in Italy with the mission of promoting technological development and higher education in science and technology.
Coordinated by Prof. Massimo De Vittorio, the CBN has developed a strong knowledge and expertise in the design and fabrication of electronic, photonic and MEMS transducers, in particular, through its research line, “Nanotechnologies for Humans and Biosystems.”
CBN conducts studies in the fields of medical devices for body sensing, body control and data management. To improve their technology readiness – as measured by the TRL scale – they are constantly developing new technologies and processes.
CBN chose Nano Dimension and its DragonFly LDM system, which, with its many advantages, was clearly the ideal platform for their needs. The key features of the system included its combination of dielectric and conductive inks, and its process for additively manufacturing electronic components that could optimize how the MEMS transducers used by CBN were embedded in both PCBs and 3D-printed packaging.
The Dragonfly LDM was used in several CBN studies, each with superb results. The first was a study in which researchers used optical fibers to generate light that stimulated the brains of mice and then collected evidence of the resultant brain activity. To enable the connection of electrodes to the mice’s brains, the researchers used Additively Manufactured packaging that was 3D printed using the Dragonfly LDM. This enabled a connection between the sensor, the printed base and the top package print.
For the second study, the researchers were required to collect and correlate signals from an embedded sensor, to extract information about different velocities, linear direction and periodicity of flow fluctuation. The Dragonfly LDM again enabled the 3D printing of additively manufactured packaging, so that they could connect the sensor to the printed base and exterior printing.
The third project involved the creation of a compact, battery-less, non-invasive, wearable sensor that could monitor a human’s vital signs, both biochemical and physiological, using a particular frequency that would enable the WiFi protocol of choice. Researchers here chose the Meander Line Antenna (MLA) composed of two metallic layers.
“The suitability of the DragonFly system to rapidly and affordably manufacture functional prototypes, combined with the broad ecosystem of applications for health and energy harvesting, makes it an ideal choice for our team to achieve higher performance, quick development and print complex shapes not achievable using traditional manufacturing processes.”
Prof. Massimo De Vittorio (CBN-IIT — Lecce — Italy).