Advanced manufacturing is rapidly changing the way products are designed and made. Innovative processes such as 3D printing provide unprecedented capabilities including rapid on-demand manufacturing and wider design space. These not only provide an opportunity to address shortcomings with traditional manufacturing schemes but also enable performance and advantages that were previously unattainable. For instance, the manufacturing of sophisticated geometries and hollow objects using subtractive fabrication techniques (e.g., CNC machining) faces intrinsic restrictions including inaccessible construction planes. Additive manufacturing schemes, on the other hand, enable monolithic fabrication of complex structures that potentially paves the way to achieve improved performance and higher reliability all at a smaller form factor; these are critical metrics for many applications, especially in the aerospace and defense domains. However, the current 3D printing systems exhibit inherent fundamental limitations for the simultaneous processing of metals and dielectrics. Therefore, in 3D printing systems metal and polymer components are manufactured separately and subsequently integrated into a cohesive system. This is due to the required high temperature for processing metals. Accordingly, monolithic integration of semiconductors and polymers with metals in a 3D printing system is virtually infeasible since these materials are temperature sensitive. To additively manufacture electronic systems, a proper 3D printing solution should address integration of metals, dielectrics, and semiconductors into a 3D geometric part while it is being printed. We have successfully 3D printed electronic systems at room temperature in two steps using our proprietary and commercially available (1) hybrid 3D printing and (2) direct metal micro 3D printing technologies. While no technology has shown such capabilities, we present our hybrid metal-dielectric and micron-scale room temperature direct metal 3D printing schemes as enabling technologies for the purpose of manufacturing monolithic 3D printed electronic systems and 3D integration of electronic components. Thus, the presented technologies are expected to address manufacturing constraints for different applications and offering higher metrics that were previously unattainable as follows:
(1) 4x reduced manufacturing steps.
(2) 10x smaller feature sizes (down to 10 micron) vs. conventional 3D printers.
(3) 1200% higher metal adhesion quality to a dielectrics compared to ink-jet printers.
(4) potentially post-assembly free manufacturing scheme enabled by monolithic integration of electronic components into 3D printed systems.
(5) virtually zero retooling cost.
(6) room temperature process.
(7) approximately 690% better electrical resistivity of printed copper than the state-of-the-art inkjet printing.
(8) ability to create thin metal films as thin as approximately 50 nm, for wide range of applications such as sensing and flexible electronics.