New Mexico Patent of the Month – June 2021

3D printing has evolved rapidly and revolutionized the manufacturing world. There are different 3D printing methods, some of which use UV lasers on photopolymer resins. The resins are extruded at melting point, quickly cooling in place. It is typically extruded layer by layer, building a 3D structure as it goes. If an overhang is needed, a sacrificial support material is extruded and later dissolved or mechanically removed. Optomec, Inc. has designed a new 3D printing method that utilizes aerosol droplets rather than traditional extruders.

The patented Aerosol Jet dispensing technology uses a special liquid that partially solidifies mid-air and finishes solidifying on the surface. The aerosol droplets are capable of producing free standing structures and can even formulate sizes down to 10 microns. This printing method is non-contact technology, using low viscosity inks that have been aerosolized into fine droplets. The space between the nozzle and substrate is subjected to UV light which causes the aerosolized ink to begin solidifying, thereby increasing the viscosity. As the viscosity increases, the ink can better form free standing structures. This method allows for the fabrication of overhangs without using sacrificial support materials, thereby saving materials and time needed. Furthermore, the nozzle and system can handle both metals and insulating materials, allowing for co-deposition of electronic components for 3D fabrication of circuits. This aerosol jetting procedure provides free standing and arbitrary shapes with simple adjustments to the nozzle positioning. 

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