Welcome to the Silicon Valley Neighborhood: Nano Dimension Arrives in California


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dan_feinberg100-15.jpgFeinberg: You have machines in the warehouse getting ready to ship right now, so the more that you have in the field, obviously, the consumable sales go up. Are you thinking about anything beyond the present consumables, besides the dielectric and the conductor?

Fried: There is certainly a roadmap on the material side. And, it's part and parcel of the release of the technology. At the moment, we're one step better than Henry Ford in that you can have any material you'd like as long as it's one of these two. It’s reasonable to expect additional materials to follow in time.

Feinberg: Not just black.

Fried: Exactly. So, now you've got the two “colors,” conductive and dielectric. In the end we want to be customer led and deliver materials that meet quite a broad range of customer needs.

Feinberg: And you’re a step ahead because you have the new Dragonfly 202 Pro which is set up with the cartridges of dielectric, cartridges of consumables. Let's say you had a third consumable for some reason, maybe a different conductor. Maybe instead of silver it’s gold or copper. Could you then just plug that new consumable into the same cartridge with the existing plumbing?

Fried: Well, it's not as quite as easy as that. You see, everything that we make now is with the consideration of ability to inkjet print. Every material that you introduce must, in the end, work with the other materials. So, when it comes to things like adhesion and cohesion and how they react to heat, they must be adapted to one another. More printheads and more material options would certainly allow for a greater set of applications. Swapping inks in inkjet systems isn’t a hot-swap procedure.

Feinberg: Correct; that could become a contaminant.

Fried: Like other 3D inkjet machines you cannot flip from one ink to the next in a matter of minutes. But, if you have a project that requires other electrical properties for example, or other mechanical properties, you may say, "Fine. I'll run it for those kinds of jobs this week and next week we'll run it for the other kind."

Feinberg: We'll flush it and run for a week, and flush again. And, you get to a point where they flush it often enough they're going to say, "Let's just get another machine."

Fried: There are two things that we're doing on that front. One is planning our materials roadmap, and there's definitely a need for materials, just like the PCB industry. In a sense we're just mimicking what is done in traditional electronics, there is an industry need for many different electrical properties. Do we need to look at materials that are better suited to flex or bend-to-fit-type applications? The ones we have can do it to an extent, but additional mechanical properties may be required for specific applications. There are mechanical variations that we're working on. And there are dielectric variations that we're also working on.

For board assembly we currently recommend that people use low-temperature solders when they're soldering components to our boards. It's easier and more beneficial for the customer to have the assembly process be similar to a standard RoHS process. Most of the companies we work with use batch-size assembly for these boards but if they happen to have an assembly line or their regular supplier does, then it’s important that downstream activities are compatible with our prints. Currently there is a need to use low-temp, but it is certainly made up for by the time savings our technology offers.

Feinberg: This is like the inconvenience of 10 years ago when people were converting from leaded to lead-free. A 10°C or so pop in temperature was required. You know, different levels of oxidation would happen with time. Now, that's kind of the standard.

Fried: It's very similar. Now you talk to people about doing anything other than RoHS and they don't want to move the dial on anything. These are issues that the industry knows how to work with.

Feinberg: That's right. There are still some advantages to leaded solder that people forget about, ductility for one.

Fried: I've had quite a lot of interaction with people who are looking at assembly and different solder providers. It seems as if the whole assembly space is splitting in two. On the one hand you have companies that are pushing for lower temperatures, because today's components are more sensitive. Other areas, notably automotive, are interested in higher temperature assembly.

Feinberg: So, go back to leaded solder?

Fried: They're going below leaded temperatures. They're moving to tin, bismuth, indium, and I believe it was Lenovo that launched a laptop which was entirely assembled using tin-bismuth solders last year or maybe a year and a half ago. I think lead-free solders have their risks around brittleness and so on. So, they worked things out to the point where a consumer product that's assembled with low-temperature solders is out there and it's performing just fine. So, that meets our current material set quite nicely. Folks are already doing this for their own reasons, so we can tag along. Then you have the other end of the spectrum, the automotive guys. And you see the value here in Silicon Valley particularly where cars are no longer just cars—they are rolling communications devices. So, you have the military and the automotive space and the aerospace guys rushing to make things that will survive any kind of thermal cycle. And, the rest of the industry wants to make things gentler for today’s sensitive components.

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