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24 SMT Magazine • January 2015 No, money is not the most important fac- tor in business and life; that spot is reserved for time and its close kin, timing. Time and timing are arguably the most important factors. Busi- nesses and individuals alike enter the world with a finite life ahead of them. Time may be infinite but we are not and neither are businesses. The list of highly successful companies that have come and gone is very long. Knowing this, the value of time should be pa- tently obvious. This is where 3D printing appears to have a vital role to play in the world of businesses which manufac- ture hard products. 3D print- ing allows the manufacturer to make mistakes at a prodi- gious rate enabling much fast- er cycles of learning than have ever been available to the will- ing student. Circling back to the an- swer to the question posed earlier, the astute reader has likely already picked up on the nexus between time and money. "Time is money," as the old adage goes. It is especially true in the arena of product markets and product introductions. Simple math is all that is required to understand the potential im- pact. For example, if a prospective market size is projected to be $100 million a year and a tech- nology is available that allows one to enter that market six months sooner than the competi- tion, the reward is one half of the total available market or $50 million provided the product de- livered meets with all customer demands and expectations. With electronic products with ever decreasing product cycles this is especially true. Those who have studied 3D printing to any depth know that the concept is not all that new, having been introduced in the mid-1980s. The technique was originally called stereolithogra- phy and the machines SLAs (stereolithographic apparatus). The original SLA machines were comprised of a vertically movable platform re- siding in a vat of liquid polymer resin and a laser beam capable of hardening the surface of resin when exposed to the laser's energy. Like today's variants of the technology, the object was produced a slice at a time. With each pass, the platform was lowered slightly and additional slices produced. When completed, the platform was raised and the completed ob- ject removed after the resin had drained away. Today, 3D machines use a variety of dif- ferent methods and materi- als including paper, plastics, metals and ceramics often in combinations and in a wide range of colors. The mix of plastic and/or ceramic and metal is of the highest inter- est to those in the electronics industry. One company, Eo- Plex, markets QFN packages which are entirely additively processed using 3D methods. It is unclear if 3D printing will ever be suitable for the highest volume production, but its versatility is perhaps one of its greatest attributes. Being able to produce prototype products in a matter of hours di- rectly from CAD files is immeasurably valuable because of the immeasurable value of time. Let's examine the potential application of 3D prototyping methods to the production of a manufacturing system capable of fabricating an electronic assembly using nothing but present- ly available equipment, materials and processes and wherein the use of solder is not required. 1. Place the electronic components on a tacky carrier to affix them temporarily accord- ing to design plan. 2. Scan the assembly with a laser to define the outline of the components (including bat- teries if desired). 3. Print in 3D the results of the scan, creat- ing a base sheet with cavities which match the outlines and dimensions of every component and place the components into them. 3D PrInTInG In ELECTrOnICS—a PErSPECTIvE continues today, 3d machines use a variety of different methods and materials including paper, plastics, metals and ceramics often in combinations and in a wide range of colors. the mix of plastic and/or ceramic and metal is of the highest interest to those in the electronics industry. " " Feature

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