Component Management

Fully functional additively manufactured IoT devices

1st May 2019
Alex Lynn

An additive electronics provider, Nano Dimension, has announced it has successfully printed and tested an Internet of Things (IoT) transceiver, an additively manufactured IoT device. Using its DragonFly Pro precision additive manufacturing system, Nano Dimension reportedly printed a transceiver prototype in 12 hours with improved performance over traditional manufacturing.

Enabling full interconnectivity between a wide range of objects for IoT requires both a transmitter and receiver (transceiver) to create the communication and connection between two objects. Using the DragonFly Pro, Nano Dimension’s pioneering 3D printer for printed electronics, the print, assembly and testing of a working transceiver prototype was completed in just one day, dramatically accelerating development by up to 90%, for a process that often takes two weeks or more.

In its recent qualification study, Nano Dimension additively manufactured two identical printed circuit boards (PCBs), one programmed as a receiver and one as a transmitter with communication between them at the 2.4GHz WiFi standard frequency. Each PCB contained circuitry and a built-in antenna and was a replica of an off-the-shelf traditionally manufactured PCB. The receiver and transmitter PCBs were then individually connected to two separate microcontrollers.

Testing at Nano Dimension’s electronic materials and device characterisation laboratory compared the printed devices to off-the-shelf devices manufactured by standard methods. Tests at distances up to 20m, showed more than ten percent higher data integrity as compared to transmission with off-the-shelf devices.

The dielectric material used in the DragonFly Pro has a dielectric constant lower in value than that of FR4, which helped improve the quality of the signal sent by the transmitter PCB. In an open-air environment, the transmitter received and showed good communication performance at distances up to 40m. 

The testing showed the transceivers produced using the DragonFly can be used as a fully-functional PCB, allowing designers to build and quickly test a wide range of IoT applications in a matter of days instead of weeks for applications such as communications inclusive of smart homes, household appliances, wearables, toys, smart phones, and more.

With in-house additive manufacturing of electronic circuits, designers can go through multiple design iterations, easily adapt the shape of the PCB to the given end product, eliminating the need for expensive routing or laser cutting. 

Amit Dror, CEO of Nano Dimension, said: “With more industries pushing for IoT compatibility for their devices, companies are looking for ways to accelerate their new product introduction, and we knew the DragonFly Pro could help them better predict development cycles and shorten new product introductions. Just imagine, in less than 24 hours you can produce a soldered, working IoT sample.

“It’s remarkable to get a fully functional prototype so quickly without compromising on design quality or performance. Now, IoT device designers can think of this state-of-the-art additive manufacturing system as their best and fastest means to truly innovative designs, where they are limited only by their imaginations rather than the technology and process.” 

The additively manufactured PCB used in the test was 16x33x1.6mm and had two conductive layers.

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