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3D printing of flexible electronic circuits and small objects made by advanced materials

Country of Origin: Greece
Reference Number: TOGR20190826001
Publication Date: 26 August 2019

Summary

Greek SME, active in advanced materials, has developed a procedure to print flexible electronic circuits and small objects made by graphene and thermoplastic materials using poly-lactic acid (PLA). The company is able to print 3D objects for different end-users by its own equipment, replacing the existing products with super-light ones with better characteristics. The company is looking for partnerships under manufacturing or research cooperation agreement.

Description

A Greek SME is active in the scientific field of mechanical engineering and especially in advanced materials. The principal motive for the Greek company is the implementation and optimization of applied research leading to added value composite products. To fulfill this aim, the Greek SME has turned to additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing lies in the opposite direction of the conventional subtracting processes, exhibiting several outstanding advantages, in such extend that the various 3D printing technologies are often considered as the next industrial revolution. 

The company has developed a procedure to print flexible electronic circuits and small objects made by graphene and thermoplastic materials by using poly-lactic acid (PLA). The components that already produced with this method will aim for three specific areas of application that represent certain market segments: automotive, sport goods and bioengineering (prosthetics). Existing commercially available products in those areas, can be eventually replaced with super-light products with better mechanical behavior, endurance and sensing abilities.

Based on the above the company is looking forward to establish cooperation with other companies, SME or industries involved in the material sector that need a custom made solution, which can be achieved with the implementation of 3D printing technologies, in order to cooperate under manufacturing agreement. Additionally, the company’s scientific team is very experienced in research projects’ planning and implementation and it is looking for research partners activated in the field of material science, in order to collaborate on new product development, under research agreement. In both cases the Greek SME aims to establish permanent or long-term collaborations in technologically advanced sectors, building partnerships under manufacturing or research cooperation agreement.

One of the major company’s capabilities is to plan and pursuance of research projects. With adequate knowledge and experience the Greek team is able to design and establish a full process development roadmap in any project related in the field of material science, where an industrial and/or an academic partner can be involved.

The company can act as a service provider partner in a research project, offering technical solutions related to the optimization of the production process, quality control as well on testing services in the material sector. Company is experienced in this field, as has already collaborations with local industries in research activities.
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Advantages and Innovations

The company’s main advantage regarding the 3D printing procedure is that it has the ability to print small objects for different end-users by exploiting the capabilities of using its own 3D printing equipment.
The company has already tried to exploit the use of nanotechnologies to aggregate multiple materials in a single process with enhancement of their performance/ functionality and, in specific cases, allowing new innovative applications of the parts realized with such technique. Particularly, the embodiment of graphene powder in thermoplastic printing filaments, such as a commercial poly-lactic acid (PLA) has been already applied leading to fully thee dimension (3D) printed heating elements. As a consequence, several production steps can be skipped (post processing, trimming, joining) and component design can be optimized, resulting to lighter, more cost effective and less material consuming products. It is of paramount importance for the developed system to promote a single-step production process.
Also, the technology tip of using poly-lactic acid (PLA), as is a biodegradable and bioactive thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable sources, gives to the company the advantage of rapid 3D printing and prototyping, that is very important in the development process in the automotive industry as well.
Among the advantages of the 3D printing technologies, one can highlight the faster time-to-market, the ability of complex designs as well the minimization of the required production steps and the shorter supply chain and the adaptation of the production lines to on-demand services with minimum costs. Up to now the company has been exploiting the capabilities of its own 3D printing systems and equipment, by utilizing computer-aided design (CAD) design & 3D modelling software, in order to produce conductive components for flexible low-voltage applications.

Stage Of Development

Under development/lab tested

Stage Of Development Comment

The product has technological readiness level (TRL) 4 to 5 and can be customized for different applications.

Requested partner

The desired cooperation can be either under the frame of a research program or directly through a manufacturing partnership. In both cases, the company aims to establish permanent collaborations in technologically advanced sectors.

Regarding the manufacturing agreement, the company is looking for partners in the following areas to cooperate:
(i) Flexible electronics:
The company is looking for a partner (company and/or academia) which is involved in developing ‘flexible’ low-voltage applications, e.g. from wearables products to sensors, in order to produce (for the partner) conductive components for ‘flexible’ low-voltage applications, using its own equipment. The goal is to achieve flexibility in terms of design and re-design, to fabricate highly competitive products capable of outstanding performance and lower cost compared to products available on the market realized with conventional manufacturing methods.
(ii) Sporting and construction equipment:
The Greek SME is looking for collaboration with companies, which are producing sporting goods equipment, e.g. from bicycles to tennis rackets, from boards to joints for furniture that can be set up by the user himself. The company has the potential to produce both simple and complex in terms of geometry, but also with enhanced mechanical properties, as well to minimize the required production steps of the partner involved and to adapt to its production lines for on-demand services with minimum costs.

As for a research cooperation agreement, the Greek SME is looking for partners who have already started developing a technological innovation/novelty in the field of lightweight constructions and needs a partner for either the design and/or the characterization of the structure (e.g. mechanical, thermal).

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