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28 SMT Magazine • May 2016 available today that can extract OML data from any machine or process on the market. Hav- ing real-time, accurate, and normalized data from all processes allows the detailed analysis of machine utilization, especially the scheduled downtime periods. Not only does the OML IoM data provide the information necessary to assess how auto- mation may be used to improve processes, but it is also a key backbone for the control, man- agement, and monitoring of Industry 4.0 or other smart factory solutions. In any case, even when measurements who it is not prudent to go ahead with automation, an installed OML backbone would provide critical information for process management and operational im- provement. The specification of OML, which is available to everyone, free of charge, can be found at SMT Michael Ford is senior marketing development manager with Mentor Graphics Corporation's Valor divi- sion. To read past columns, or to contact the author, click here. EMS RulES oF autoMation & Roi As detector assemblies get smaller and denser — packed with electronic components that all must be electrically connected to sense and read out signals — it's becoming increasing- ly more challenging to de- sign and manufacture these all-important instrument de- vices. A team of NASA technol- ogists at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, however, has begun investigating the use of a technique called aerosol jet printing or di- rect-write manufacturing to produce new detector assemblies that are not possible with traditional as- sembly processes. "If we succeed, aerosol jet technology could define a whole new way to create dense electron- ic board assemblies and potentially improve the performance and consistency of electronic assem- blies," explained Goddard technologist Beth Pa- quette, who is leading the R&D effort that began last fiscal year. Furthermore, aerosol jet printing promises to slash the time it takes to manufacture circuit boards, from a month to a day or two, she added. Aerosol jet manufacturing builds components by depos- iting materials layer-by-layer following a computer-aided design, or CAD, drawing. The difference is that instead of melting and fusing plastic powder or some other mate- rial in precise locations, as in the case of many 3-D printers, aerosol jet printing uses a car- rier gas and printer heads to deposit a fine aerosol of met- al particles, including silver, gold, platinum, or aluminum, onto a surface. Aero- sol jet printers also can deposit polymers or other insulators and can even print carbon nanotubes. These attributes make the technology ideal for detector assemblies, particularly those that need to be shaped differently or are very small, yet dense because of the large number of tiny components that must be electrically wired or linked together on a circuit board. The technique's use isn't limited to detector electronics. Technologist Wes Powell, who special- izes in electronics at Goddard, envisions a time where instrument developers could use aerosol jet technology to print antennas, wiring harnesses, and other hardware directly onto a spacecraft. NASA Investigates 3-D Printing for Building Densely Populated Electronic Assemblies

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