Optomec, a leading provider of production grade additive manufacturing systems, announced that the Factory Automation and Production Systems (FAPS) Institute at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) has purchased an Aerosol Jet Quad Print Engine. The versatile print engine will be used to develop an automated production environment for the manufacture of artificial muscles (also known as Dielectric Elastomer Actuators –DEAs) that can be used in robots, games and medical applications. The production of DEAs requires printing of ultra thin layers of elastomer film, silicone and electrodes. These needs fit the capabilities of Aerosol Jet technology, which can print a variety of materials and at dimensions below 10-microns.
Aerosol Jet technology is a non-contact direct write printing process that directly deposits a range of commercial and custom electronic materials, including conductor, insulator and biologic formulations onto virtually any substrate. Aerosol Jet technology can print a variety of feature sizes ranging from less than 10 microns to more than one centimeter using patented aerodynamic focusing nozzles. Due to its ability to handle electronic and biomaterials within the same material deposition system, Aerosol Jet systems offer a unique biomedical micro-device development and production solution that bridges these disciplines.
Engineers at FAPS are looking to Aerosol Jet technology to help facilitate the transition of DEAs from fundamental research to their qualification as regular control elements for use in complex and compliant robots and in lightweight biomimetic prostheses. This requires the development of an automated production processes for stacked DEAs that can meet their challenging implementation requirements.
The Aerosol Jet Print Engine is Optomec’s workhorse technology for implementing cost effective and flexible high volume additive manufacturing systems. The modular Print Engine consists of process controls and print modules enabling simultaneous printing to 4 different substrates, or sequential printing of up to 4 different materials on the same substrate all on one machine. The Print Engine also provides an ‘open systems’ architecture facilitating its integration with custom or standard commercial automation platforms making it ideally suited for the FAPS application. Aerosol Jet technology is also available in turnkey bench top and full lab system configurations suited for R&D and rapid prototyping.
“As Aerosol Jet printing technology allows the manufacturing of homogeneous layers with a thickness below 10 microns, the process seems very well suited to print stacked DEA composed of Silicone layers as dielectric medium and Carbon Nano Tube (CNT) compounded silicone electrodes,” said Dr. Sebastian Reitelshöfer, Director of the Research Sector Biomechatronics at FAPS. “We believe this will be an important element in the successful production ramp up of DEA-based applications.”
“We’re pleased to see the unique capabilities of Aerosol Jet technology being applied to the exciting area of DEAs and helping develop production grade manufacturing environments for their implementation,” said Ken Vartanian, VP of Marketing at Optomec. “The research being done at FAPS holds great potential for many life-changing innovations and we’re proud to be contributing to accelerate the commercial viability of this work.”