BY SHANE TAYLOR
Watch the system in action here:
Further to strong bookings in the first half of 2014 – up 45% for the first six months of the year compared to 2013 (including a 71% Q2) for both its LENS 3D Printers and Aerosol Jet Systems – Optomec, producer of industrial additive manufacturing systems using Aerosol Jet technology, has announced the sale of an Aerosol Jet Quad Print Engine to the Factory Automation and Production Systems Institute atFriedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAPS) to manufacturer artificial muscles for use in robotics, gaming and medical applications, such as biomimetic prothesis.
FAPS engineers aim to utilise Aerosol Jet technology to help facilitate the transition of artificial muscles – also known as Dielectric Elastomer Actuators (DEAs) – from base research unto their usage as regular control elements in complex robots and biomimetic prostheses. The DEAs require the printing of extremely thin layers of elastomer film, silicone and electrodes and Aerosol Jet technology can print a variety of materialsbelow a ten micron height, matching the needs of production for the artificial muscle application.
Aerosol Jet tech works by directly depositing a range of electronic materials – including conductive, insulating and biologic formulations – to most substrates using focusing nozzles (demonstrated in the video above). As the technology proffers electronic and biomaterials within the same deposition system, Aerosol Jet systems offer a unique potential for biomedical micro-device production. The Aerosol Jet Print Engine is a modular system allowing simultaneous, or sequential, printing on up to four different substrateson the same machine. The Engine’s open systems’ architecture allows integration withcommercial automation platforms,ideal for the FAPS application.
Dr. Sebastian Reitelshöfer, Director of the Research Sector Biomechatronics at FAPS enthused: “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 andCarbon Nano Tube (CNT) compounded silicone electrodes. We believe this will be an important element in the successful production ramp up of DEA-based applications.”
Ken Vartanian, VP of Marketing at Optomec offered further enthusiasm: “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. 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.”
The ongoing success and growth at Optomec may attract attention regarding an Intiatial Public Offering this year, postulated as a potential at the start of this year by star of stocks Gary Anderson? Will the current biggest players in 3D printing, Stratasys and 3D Systems, consider an acquisition of Optomec – the former to expand into metal printing and the latter regarding production deals such as the Google Ara Phone?
Jarrett Neil Ridlinghafer
Founder & CEO/CTO
Synapse Synergy Group, Inc.