W. Buskirk, S.D. Liniger
ImTech Technologies LLC,
Keywords: materials deposition, printhead, piezo
Summary:Ink jet technology continues to advance, providing greater opportunities for research, prototyping, and manufacturing. 3D printing continues to evolve, enabling advancements in market segments from medical devices to industrial components. This presentation will provide an overview of the capabilities today’s ink jet technologies provide, as well as where this technology is headed. We will target multi-head systems and their uses for research, prototyping, and manufacturing. We will look at some of the current uses of printhead technology for development, research, and manufacturing. Today’s printhead technology provides a robust, precise, fast method of ejecting fluids and materials. Advancements in speed, height, and durability are ongoing, to the point where referring to these tools as printheads is severely understating their capabilities and usefulness. With these advancements, printheads are finding their way into all areas of use. Featuring piezo technology, today’s ink jet printheads offer precise performance, ideal for all sorts of research, development, and manufacturing opportunities. Today’s ink jet printheads make it possible to jet a wide variety of fluids, including aqueous and solvent-based fluids, solutions and particle suspensions. Typical fluid characteristics are viscosities in the 2-30 centipoise range. Ink jet printhead components have advanced to where there is little or no impact or “contamination” to the jetted material, ensuring pure performance from the deposited fluid. In fact, today’s ink jet printhead technologies are compatible with most organic solvents and acrylate materials. Another key feature and important characteristic, particularly when scaling up from research to manufacturing, is consistency. Printheads provide drop size repeatability within ranges of 3.5%, and can be adjusted to provide in the area of 0.5% repeatability. Drop size and drop spacing are also widely ranging, and are getting smaller (and larger!) with advanced technology developments. While a single printhead provides great flexibility, multi-head ink jet systems provide tri-dimensional printhead positioning for accurate drop placement and materials deposition. Multi-head systems are ideally suited for configurable 3D materials deposition, as well as for printed electronics, biology, and other applications requiring a high degree of material placement accuracy. These systems feature multiple camera installations, to ensure precise printhead alignment and saber angle adjustment. These systems also provide tools for drop observation, so materials can be fine-tuned to optimize printhead performance and ensure consistent performance. With this droplet ejection analysis, these systems provide a qualitative measure of trajectory and velocity, enabling the refinement of the performance of inks and jettable materials. Multi-head systems can utilize multiple fluids and materials, allowing the build-up and mixing of unique fluids. With extremely precise process repeatability, jetting accuracy, and a broad range of materials compatibility, multi-head systems serve as excellent tools for product development, and can also be scaled up for small-scale manufacturing, and beyond. Applications such as optical device manufacturing and biologic dosing are being achieved utilizing ink jet technology. As we are discovering, ink jet technology is proving an ideal development tool for materials deposition, jetting analysis, and any project where a high degree of analytical analysis and jetting accuracy is required.