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3D Printing Enables ‘Lights-Out Digital Manufacturing’ of Electronic Circuitry

Nano Dimension Ltd. introduced its new DragonFly Lights-Out Digital Manufacturing (LDM) printing technology, which the company claims to be the industry’s only comprehensive additive manufacturing platform for round-the-clock 3D printing of electronic circuitry.

The initial deployment of the system took place at the Munich premises of sensor and defense electronics provider HENSOLDT. The company designed the DragonFly LDM system for Industry 4.0 and manufacturing for the Internet of Things, and it is the extension of Nano Dimension’s successful DragonFly Pro precision system, which prints electronic components including multilayer PCBs, antennas, capacitors, and sensors. The DragonFly LDM is now available through the company’s global sales channel. In Germany, Phytec New Dimension, a Nano Dimension reseller, already launched the DragonFly LDM.

Lights-Out Digital Manufacturing (LDM) is a manufacturing method in which systems can run around the clock with little to no human intervention. With additive manufacturing, LDM lets DragonFly users 3D-print more functioning electronic circuitry faster, extending the DragonFly’s rapid prototyping abilities and increasing opportunities for short-run, small-volume fabrication of printed electronics. Nano Dimension says its DragonFly LDM extends 3D printing for printed electronics beyond prototyping to actual in-house, lights-out digital production, enabling one-off prototypes as well as low-volume fabrication of printed electronics.

DragonFly LDM augments the capabilities of the company’s DragonFly Pro system with new, proprietary, state-of-the-art technology that Nano Dimension says enables 24/7 uninterrupted 3D printing. Improvements in the system include the optimization of overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and significantly improved workflow and production processes of 3D printed electronics. New advanced printer head software management algorithms are combined with automatic self-cleaning of the print heads every few hours. Real-time automatic material monitoring capabilities help maximize runtime. According to Nano Dimension, the new technology minimizes the frequency and duration of scheduled downtime to just one weekly maintenance operation typically.

DragonFly LDM Technology Features & Benefits
  • Long uninterrupted printing for increased uptime and improved yield
  • Supports 3D printed multilayer PCBs, capacitors, coils, sensors, antennas and more
  • Simpler and faster operation for minimal maintenance
  • New automatic printhead self-cleaning system
  • Offered also as an upgrade for existing DragonFly Pro users

Hensoldt began working with a DragonFly system in 2016 to examine the possibilities of 3D printing electronics, and Hensoldt is still active in that innovative field. For Hensoldt, the existing working experience in fabricating 3D printed multilayer circuits with the multi-material inkjet-process, offered by Nano Dimension, reveals that a high level of personal care is needed to keep the printer system operational.

However, the implementation of the new LDM system allows for significant time and cost reduction for realizing circuits, which are often needed as soon as possible.

During the joint LDM-campaign, Hensoldt contributed by producing reference circuits to demonstrate the advantages of the new LDM system.

A comparison of the actual printing time revealed that the LDM system can continue printing 40% longer.

“The DragonFly LDM is a necessary evolutionary setup up from the DragonFly Pro, enabling low-volume manufacturing of electronic circuits fast and easy to do in-house, with minimal operator time. It will be a great addition for Hensoldt, enabling us to develop innovative applications faster and with far better machine availability and lower maintenance than ever before,” said Andreas Salomon, responsible project leader for 3D printed electronics at Hensoldt.

“The DragonFly LDM is designed to help our customers prepare for Industry 4.0. and stay competitive in a world that demands electronic devices with increasingly sophisticated features. Like its predecessor, the DragonFly Pro, it’s the first of its kind on the market, carefully designed for both ease-of-use and even more agile, faster and affordable 3D printing of functional circuitry,” said Amit Dror, CEO and co-founder of Nano Dimension. “We’re confident that the LDM system will provide best in class additive manufacturing of printed electronics on the market, making it possible for companies to be more innovative, improve productivity and reliability, lower costs and reduce time-to-market.”