Adaptive Laser Sintering System to Pave Way for In-Space Fabrication of Printed Electronics

Posted Jul 17, 2017 by

Optomec has been awarded with a NASA SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) contract for the further development of an Adaptive Laser Sintering System (ALSS). The success of this endeavor will enable electronic circuitry to be printed onto a wider variety of temperature sensitive substrates expanding its use for production applications. The fully automated system will also enable printed circuitry to be repaired or manufactured with minimal human intervention paving the way for its use in long duration NASA space missions.

Working in conjunction with Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, the project will enhance Optomec laser sintering technology to a fully automated curing system for printed electronics. The Optomec-Harding team seeks to enhance the localized laser sintering concept by developing an ALSS with in-situ automated adjustment of laser power and processing time. This will pave the way for the use of this advanced technology in the next generation of human space exploration and also expand production use of printed electronics to a broader range of temperature sensitive substrates used in commercial applications.

The success of the endeavor could prove to be of vital importance to NASA’s in-space, on-demand manufacturing capabilities to support the unique challenges of long-duration human spaceflight. The developed automated, in-line quality control system with ALSS will meet the requirements for long-duration human space missions with minimal need for astronaut intervention. This will allow NASA to print conformal electronics and sensors onto flexible substrates of various geometrical complexities and then fully cure them using Aerosol Jet technology, all while in space.

After the successful design, test and implementation of ALSS, the science and technology of laser sintering is expected to be better understood for controllable adaptive operations. ALSS can be a key solution to NASA’s challenge of in-space, on-demand manufacturing capabilities to support the unique challenges of long-duration human spaceflight, which requires an automated adaptive in-line quality control system along with the associated manufacturing process.

Harding University too hopes the successful development of laser assisted drying and sintering of 3D printed electronics will greatly reduce the production time for 3D printed electronics devices and substantially reduce the need for human intervention.