Direct Digital Fabrication: Integration of Advanced Manufacturing Processes

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Sch of Mechanical and Manufacturing Eng

Abstract

Digital Fabrication is the direct manufacture of three-dimensional objects using additive or subtractive processes. Digital Fabrication enables agile, on-demand and fully automated production in a wide range of manufacturing contexts and is seen as a key enabling technology for future high-value manufacturing applications. Current Digital Fabrication technologies are however limited, in the range of materials which can be used, the processing speed and the resolution.

In particular, the ability to combine multiple materials, for example metals and plastics, in a single process is very restricted at present and therefore this project seeks to address these limitations. This will be achieved by using a multi-process integration approach to Digital Fabrication where the best process for the application in hand can be selected. It combines the advantages of additive manufacturing, laser based processing and ink jet printing technologies to deposit and integrate different materials within each layer.

The project addresses the fundamental scientific challenges required to interleave these different manufacturing techniques in order to achieve fine-grained control over the spatial distribution, microstructure and interface properties of the different materials to be laid down in each layer.

These challenges include;
1) The integration of different Digital Fabrication processes and the associated issues with the compatibility and transitioning between processing.
2) The use of configurable laser profiles to control droplet evaporation properties and as result gain control over the so-called 'coffee-staining' effect.
3) The use of laser-based surface texturing to improve the adhesion between the various layers to improve the overall mechanical properties of the part.

The project will provide the unpinning research to enable the production of three-dimensional structures from a range of materials. This research brings together a unique combination of academic expertise in laser-based processing, additive manufacturing, ink jet printing and applied mathematics from four of the UK's leading research-led universities along with a consortium of industrial partners with strong track records in innovation for high value manufacturing applications.
 
Description The template driven nature of traditional electronics manufacturing requires volume production to achieve economically viability. This results in long pre-production timescales, a lack of versatility and customisation. Conversely, Additive Manufacturing (AM), commonly termed 3D printing, is a family of processes that produce parts directly from a digital model without the need for templates or moulds and can rapidly produce unique and highly complex parts. However, inherently, each AM process alone has resolution and material constraints. In relation to electronics manufacturing a wide range of materials including conductors and dielectrics must be deposited in order to generate complex circuitry and interconnects. In order to enable truly functional products using 3D printing, the integration of multiple digitally driven processes is seen as the solution to many of the current limitations arising from standalone AM techniques. During this project the researchers at University of Loughborough (now at the University of Leeds) have developed a process capable of digitally fabricating fully functioning electronics using a unique combination of AM technologies. This has been achieved by interleaving bottom-up Stereolithography (SL) with direct writing (DW) of conductor materials alongside mid-process development, dispensing of interconnects, component placement and thermal curing stages. The resulting process enables the low-temperature production of bespoke three-dimensional, fully packaged and assembled multi-layer embedded electronic circuitry. This new paradigm in manufacturing supports rapid iterative product development, mass customisation of electronics for a specific application and allows the generation of more dimensionally complex products with increased functionality.
Exploitation Route This flexible and reconfigurable manufacturing process chain could be applied to a wide range of applications to generate multimaterial functioning devices.
Sectors Electronics,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

 
Description This project has seen the various researchers career flourish as a result of the experience and mentoring from working within a highly multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional research grant. For example Dr. Ji Li the PDRA from Loughborough University on the project secured an academic posting in China, Dr. Tom Wasley is a lead engineer at the Manufacturing Technology Centre Catapult and Dr. Maria Mirgkizoudi is now Head of Technology & Packaging Engineering for Airbus Defense. The Industrial partners have also benefited from this project from the fostering of new collaborations, developing new application areas, additional equipment sales and improved product development capability. The approach taken by Dr. Kay and team example one of the first Hybrid Additive Manufacturing approaches to produce multi-material functional structures. This background research alongside other EPSRC funded research was recently validated as internationally leading by peer review through the award of the A Platform for Hybrid Manufacturing Process research (EP/P027687/1).
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Electronics,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic

 
Description A Platform for Hybrid Manufacturing Process research
Amount £1,675,629 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P027687/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2017 
End 06/2022
 
Description Additive Manufacturing and 3D printing workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The International Microelectronics and Packaging Society (IMAPS) Workshop on Additive Manufacturing (printing) for packaging was hosted by Dr. Robert Kay at Loughborough University on the 22nd October 2015. This workshop brought together a range of individuals primarily from industry in order to introduce them to the current developments and activities in 3D printing applied to the field of electronics. The workshop was split into a morning session which educated these new individuals into the field of Additive Manufacturing and then in the afternoon covered the latest developments in academia and industry around 3D printing for electronics manufacturing. The research findings from two EPSRC projects was also showcased at this event (EP/L017415/1 & EP/L022133/1). Besides the networking benefits from this event the investigators on this grant were able to establish new collaborations with industry on existing and future research activities. The event also raised the awareness of many of the research activities in this field currently being conducted by UK Universities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://imapsuk.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/additive-manufacturing-and-3d-printing-workshop-programme-a...
 
Description Inspiring the next generation of students into Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. Smallpeice Trust event at University of Warwick for Year 12 Students, July 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact My aim was to deliver a talk that inspired students into engineering by me sharing my own personal experiences and research activities. The talk received many questions afterwards plus I received feedback by e-mail from some students thanking me for an enjoyable talk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Presentation at the Solid Freeform Fabrication Symposium - Additive Manufacturing of High Resolution Embedded Electronic Systems 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The presentation given at this event titled "Additive Manufacturing of High Resolution Embedded Electronic Systems" was well received and resulted in a host of new North American contacts and resulted in a number of requests for further information.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description School Of Mechanical Engineering Seminar, 9th November 2017 Hybrid Additive Manufacturing of 3D Electronic Systems 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 30 individuals from the School of Mechanical Engineering Attended an Invited Colloquium where Dr. Robert Kay presented his portfollio of EPSRC funded research
in the area of "Hybrid Additive Manufacturing of 3D Electronic Systems". This talk has sparked discussions to form new potential research collaborations in the field of Manufacturing Processes Research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description The investigators, post-graduate researchers and PhD students from this project organised a 2. 5day off-site team development activity in Argyll, Scotland. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A facilitator was used to organise a range of activities off-campus around team development activities, research planning, creative thinking and blue sky research ideas generation. All project investigators and project researchers attended this event from the 5-7th April 2016 in Argyll Scotland. The researchers particular found the various sessions very useful for developing multidisciplinary research ideas. In addition, the team came up with some new concepts for developing into publications and research proposals as a result of this event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016