Expanding Rapid Prototyping for Electronic Systems Integration of Arbitrary Form
An innovative method for rapid prototyping (RP) of electronic circuits with components characteristic of typical electronics applications was demonstrated using an enhanced version of a previously developed hybrid stereolithography (SL) and direct write (DW) system, where an existing SL machine was integrated with a three-axis DW fluid dispensing system for combined arbitrary form electronic systems manufacturing. This paper presents initial efforts at embedding functional electronic circuits using the hybrid SL/DW system. A simple temperature-sensitive circuit was selected, which oscillated an LED at a frequency proportional to the temperature sensed by the thermistor. The circuit was designed to incorporate all the required electronic components within a 2.5” x 2” x 0.5” SL part. Electrical interconnects between electronic components were deposited on the SL part with a DW system using silver conductive ink lines. Several inks were deposited, cured, and tested on a variety of SL resin substrates, and the E 1660 ink (Ercon Inc, Wareham, MA) was selected due to its measured lowest average resistivity on the SL substrates. The finished circuit was compared with Printed Circuit Board (PCB) technology for functionality. The electronic components used here include a low voltage battery, LM 555 timer chip, resistors, a thermistor, capacitors, and Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). This circuit was selected because it (1) represented a simple circuit combining many typically used electronic components and thus provided a useful demonstration for integrated electronic systems manufacturing applicable to a wide variety of devices, and (2) provided an indication of the parasitic resistances and capacitances introduced by the fabrication process due to its sensitivity to manufacturing variation. The hybrid technology can help achieve significant size reductions, enable systems integration in atypical forms, a natural resistance to reverse engineering and possibly increase maximum operating temperatures of electronic circuits as compared to the traditional PCB process. This research demonstrates the ability of the hybrid SL/DW technology for fabricating combined electronic systems for unique electronics applications in which arbitrary form is a requirement and traditional PCB technology cannot be used.