Microheater Array Powder Sintering (MAPS) for Printing Flexible Electronics

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Holt, Nicholas
Additive Manufacturing; Flexible Electronics; Novel Processes; Applied Mechanics; Electro-Mechanical Systems
thesis / dissertation description
Microheater array powder sintering (MAPS) is a novel additive manufacturing process that uses an array of microheaters to selectively sinter powder particles. MAPS shows great promise as a new method of printing flexible electronics by enabling digital curing of conductive inks on a variety of substrates. MAPS operation relies on establishing a precision air gap of a few microns between an array of microheaters, which can reach temperatures of 600°C, and a layer of conductive ink which can be deposited onto a flexible substrate. This system presents challenges, being: the fabrication of a microheater that can reach suitable temperatures in an acceptable time frame and is reliable, electronic control of a single microheater, electronic control of an array of microheaters, and precise control of the position of the array of microheaters relative to the substrate.This work describes the design and fabrication of a printer which uses this novel technology to print flexible circuit boards. Various simulations are discussed which are used to explore the parameters affecting the MAPS printing process. Then, a small microheater array is fabricated and controlled using an electronic circuit using a PID feedback loop. This microheater array is used in an experimental proof of concept machine to print conductive lines onto a flexible substrate. Finally, a prototype MAPS printer is developed which is capable of using an improved microheater array to print simple circuits onto flexible substrates.