American technology company Harris Corporation has utilized Nano Dimension’s electronic 3D printing technology to successfully manufacture a radio frequency (RF) amplifier. The electronic components, printed on the DragonFly Pro, have demonstrated performances comparable to those of a traditionally manufactured RF circuit, marking an exciting milestone for 3D printed electronics.
Harris Corporation has been working in partnership with the Israel Innovation Authority and the Space Florida Foundation to research the benefits of adopting additive manufacturing for creating RF circuits for wireless systems. The project is part of a larger initiative to develop and commercialize new technologies for the aerospace industry.
In developing the RF circuits, Harris—a leader in RF circuit development—chose to work with Nano Dimension to leverage its multi-material DragonFly Pro 3D printer. The Nano Dimension technology enabled the company to design and manufacture the RF circuits in a single print.
A specialist in RF circuits for electronic warfare and communications systems, Harris has been working to improve the mobility and performances of the devices in recent years. RF circuits themselves are used to transmit data, video, voice and other information across long distances.
Using traditional manufacturing, producing an RF circuit is a complex and multi-step process that incurs high costs. With the DragonFly Pro 3D printer, however, Harris was able to print a 101 x 38 x 3 mm circuit in just 10 hours. The circuit in question was made using Nano Dimension’s silver nanoparticle conductive ink and its dielectric ink. Final components were then manually soldered onto the printed circuit board.
“Harris looked at the applicability of 3D printing for developing RF systems, and then designed, simulated and tested the 3D printed RF amplifier and compared it with an amplifier fabricated using conventional manufacturing techniques,” explained Arthur Paolella, PhD, senior scientist, Space and Intelligence Systems, Harris Corporation. “Our results showed similar RF performance between the 3D printed version and the baseline amplifier, clearly demonstrating the viability of 3D printed electronics for RF circuitry.”
“The use of in-house 3D printed electronics to make antennas is a breakthrough, in terms of the time and cost of prototyping and proofs-of-concept,” added Amit Dror, CEO of Nano Dimension. “In addition, 3D printed electronics makes possible development of even smaller and lighter antennas that have rigid packaging integrated with flexible circuits, without the need for cables and connectors.”
Nano Dimension has been working in collaboration with Harris since as early as June 2017, when it was awarded an Israel Innovation Authority grant to fund a project on 3D printing electrical modules for space applications with Harris. The project set out to demonstrate how 3D printing could be effectively used to print double-sided multilayer circuits with improved weight, power consumption and costs.
With the companies’ recent announcement, it seems they have successfully proven this, showing that 3D printed RF circuits are comparable to traditionally manufactured ones (with the benefit of being cheaper and faster to produce).
Harris will present a more detailed account of its 3D printed RF circuits at the IEEE Radio and Wireless Symposium in January.