Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, Vol. 29, Issue 9, PP. 1.9, August 22, 2017

Inkwells for on-demand deposition rate measurement in aerosol-jet based 3D printing

Yuan Gua, David Gutierrezb, Siddhartha Dasa, and D. R. Hinesb

a Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA
b Laboratory for Physical Sciences 8050 Greenmead Drive, College Park, MD 20740, USA


Aerosol-jet printing (AJP) is an important direct-write printing technology based on additive manufacturing methods. Numerous research groups have utilized AJP for the fabrication of electronic circuits and devices. However, there has not been any real-time or even any on-demand method for quantitatively measuring and/or setting the deposition rate of an AJ ink stream. In this paper, we present a method for measuring the deposition rate of an AJ ink stream by printing into an array of inkwells that were fabricated using photolithography and were characterized using x-ray tomography and optical profilometry. These inkwell arrays were then used to establish a set of deposition rates namely 0.0011, 0.0024, 0.0035, 0.0046 and 0.0059 mm3 s−1 that were subsequently compared with independently-measured deposition rates obtained by printing the ink stream into a weighing pan for a specified time and calculating the resulting deposition rate from the weight of the printed sample. From this comparison, it is observed that, for a human operator, the error in setting a specific deposition rate is less for inkwell fill times greater than 3 s and greater for fill times less than 3 s. This observation indicates that the average volume of an inkwell array should be at least three times the desired deposition rate (Vinkwell > 3R). It was also observed that when the diameter of the inkwell was only slightly larger than the ink stream diameter, the ink uniformly wets the sidewall of the inkwell and results in a well filled inkwell for which the point at which it is just fully filled is easily observable. Finally, the interactions of the ink with both ‘philic’ and ‘phobic’ inkwells were studied illustrating the ability to use inkwells of various materials for setting the desired deposition rates for a variety of AJ printable inks.

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