Aerosol Jet Print Engine will be Used at FAPS Institute to Enable Printing of Artificial Muscles

By CIOReview | Thursday, August 28, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M: Optomec, a provider of additive manufacturing systems, has announced that the Factory Automation and Production Systems (FAPS) have purchased an Aerosol Jet Quad Print Engine. The patented printer from Optomec will be deployed to develop an automated production environment for the manufacturing artificial muscles also known as Dielectric Elastomer Actuators (DEAs), used in robots, games and medical applications.

Engineers at FAPS are gearing up for transition of DEAs from fundamental research to their qualification as regular control elements in sophisticated and acquiescent robots and lightweight biomimetic prostheses. The Aerosol Jet technology is capable of printing a variety of materials at dimensions below 10 microns making it the ideal choice for generating artificial muscle application. The DEAs require printing of ultra thin layers of elastomer film, silicone and electrodes.

“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,” says Dr. Sebastian Reitelshöfer, Director of the Research Sector Biomechatronics at FAPS.

Aerosol Jet technology is a non-contact direct write printing process competent of depositing a wide 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. It possesses the unique ability to supervise electronic and biomaterials within the same material deposition system, and also offers biomedical micro-device development and production solution.

The Aerosol Jet Modular Print Engine consists of process controls and print modules enabling simultaneous printing on up to 4 different substrates, or sequential printing of up to 4 different materials on the same substrate all on one machine. It also provides an ‘open systems’ architecture facilitating its integration with custom or standard commercial automation platforms making it ideally suited for the FAPS application.

 “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,” says 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.”