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Additive manufacturing in power electronics

3D Printing

Phytec New Dimensions
PCB produced using the DragonFly printer (image: Phytec New Dimensions)

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is a catalyst for innovation and one of the top ten disruptive technologies that are currently transforming our world. Additive manufacturing is finding its way into many areas of industry, where it complements conventional subtractive manufacturing. Its applications range from printing simple parts at home (e.g. spare parts) or manufacturing special parts in an industrial setting (e.g. prototype construction, special geometries or small series) to macroscopic applications (e.g. 3D concrete printers for residential buildings) or even 3D bioprinting (printing tissues and organs).

Spare parts logistics providers are investing in 3D printing technology so that they can print spare parts when needed instead of having to store them for several decades – an approach that saves on storage costs and protects the environment.

Additive manufacturing for power electronics

Martin Müller/FAPS@FAU
An insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBP) on a direct copper bond (DCB) substrate with planar contacting of the IGBT on the top and bottom with thermoplastic silver ink (image: Martin Müller/FAPS@FAU)

By making it possible to print conductive structures and insulating layers, additive manufacturing has also opened up the world of electronics. The printed electronics industry brings together the microelectronics, electronics manufacturing, material science, polymer chemistry and printing branches. Familiar screen, inkjet and piezo inkjet printing techniques are used to produce the individual component layers, which can have insulating, electrically conductive or semiconducting properties.

This rapidly evolving technology makes it possible, especially in relation to power electronics, to print PCBs, resistors, inductors, capacitors, sensors and heat sinks. Because printed transistors are still around a thousand times larger (in the µm range) than those manufactured using conventional methods (in the nm range), the practical applications of printed power electronics are limited to passive components.

Additive manufacturing techniques complement – and can even lead to the replacement of – existing manufacturing methods. Limiting factors in additive manufacturing include the number of printable materials, the build size of the printer (with the resulting maximum component size) and the relatively long time required to create the finished product layer by layer.

Compared with traditional subtractive techniques such as lathing, milling and drilling, additive manufacturing has the following advantages: There is typically no waste (e.g. machining chips) and no additional tools are needed to create the product. This means that additive manufacturing techniques are also superior to conventional manufacturing techniques when it comes to environmental protection and the efficient use of resources. Yet another advantage in terms of innovation is that 3D printing can be used to produce sophisticated geometries that previously could hardly be produced at all, or only at great expense, using subtractive manufacturing techniques.

Click here for the interview in full length.

Additive manufacturing has the potential to complement existing technologies very well. The growth of the market is further supported by factors relating to resource efficiency and environmental protection.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ulf Schwalbe

Tags

  • Subsystems
  • Other applications
  • Power semiconductor devices
  • Passive components
  • Thermal management
  • Tools for design and test

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