Manufacturing at the Speed of Light

Manufacturers are always looking for new ways to make their operations more efficient. One innovative new solution to do this might be using light manufacturing techniques. Light manufacturing techniques are useful for very small objects (think microns or nano-meters in length), which makes them excellent for the electronic industry where people are demanding smaller and smaller electrical components. As the demand for smaller electrical components increases, the cost of manufacturing these components also increases as the precision required by existing machines increases. There are two methods currently being used or researched that could make the process of manufacturing electrical components faster and, more importantly, less expensive.

The first technique is called “optoelectronic tweezers”. This method use optical traps (light) to move small objects into place and assemble the component in liquid and then freeze dries the liquid to allow the manufactured component to be removed. According to the article “New Approach Uses Light Instead of Robots to Assemble Electronic Components” this method could reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of making circuit boards and other small electronic devices. One of the benefits of this method is that it allows for massive parallel assembly meaning you could assembly multiple components at the same time, which improves the time it takes to manufacture bulk shipments of components.

The second technique, called “intense pulsed light sintering”, uses high-energy light to fuse nano-materials in a matter of seconds. The benefit compared to using lasers which accomplish the same thing is that the area of effect is nearly 7,000 times greater in the intense pulsed light sintering method than the typical laser method. The other benefit to this method over the existing pulsed light fusion technique is that it does not require as high a temperature to perform. Pulsed light fusion requires temperatures up to 250 degrees Celsius whereas this new method only requires temperatures up to 150 degrees Celsius. According to the article “Faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing”, engineers at Rutgers are currently developing this method for use in the manufacturing of thin films.

 

Questions:

  1. When will these methods be available for manufacturers to start implementing into their processes?
  2. What other areas besides circuit boards and thin films could this technology be used in?
  3. How big of a bottom line impact could this technology have for manufacturers making these electronic components?

 

Source: https://www.osa.org/en-us/about_osa/newsroom/news_releases/2017/new_approach_uses_light_instead_of_robots_to_assem/

Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180214093836.htm