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Following the announcement on 12 June that Hensoldt and Nano Dimension are to collaborate in applying advanced additive manufacturing (or 3D-printing) technologies to the defence and aerospace domains (see MON story at https://www.monch.com/mpg/news/ew-c4i-channel/5584-hensoldt-nano-dimension-to-collaborate.html), the companies announced on 24 July that the Israeli developer has launched the DragonFly LDM printer for continuous, lights-out digital manufacturing (LDM) of electronic components. LDM can best be defined as a manufacturing methodology in which systems run with little to no human intervention, around the clock.

The industry’s only comprehensive additive manufacturing platform for round-the-clock 3D-printing of electronic circuitry, DragonFly LDM’s initial deployment took place at Hensoldt’s Munich premises. The unique system is designed for Industry 4.0 and manufacturing for the Internet of Things and is the extension of the successful DragonFly Pro precision system, dedicated to printing electronic components such as multilayer Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs), antennas and sensors. It extends 3D-printing for printed electronics beyond prototyping to true in-house LDM, enabling one-off prototypes as well as low-volume manufacturing of printed electronics.

Features and benefits of the technology include:

• Long, uninterrupted printing with minimal supervision, for increased uptime and productivity;

• New automatic printhead mechanism and self-cleaning system;

• Simpler, faster operation, including new warm-up plane;

• Far fewer maintenance and operator interactions;

• Improved yield.

Hensoldt has been working with DragonFly systems since 2016 in order to examine the possibilities of 3D-printing electronics. The company’s experience demonstrates that a high degree of personal attention is required to keep the printer system operational. The implementation of the LDM system allows for a significant reduction in time and costs for manufacturing circuits, which are often needed as quickly as possible.

During the joint LDM campaign, Hensoldt contributed by generating reference circuits to outline the advantages of the new system. Comparison of actual printing times showed that the LDM system achieves more than 40% reductions.

The DragonFly LDM is a necessary evolutionary [step] up from the DragonFly Pro, enabling low-volume manufacturing of electronic circuits fast and easy to do in-house, with minimal operator time. It will be a great addition for Hensoldt, enabling us to develop innovative applications faster and with far better machine availability and lower maintenance than ever before,” observed Hensoldt’s project leader for 3D-printed electronics, Andreas Salomon.

The DragonFly LDM is designed to help our customers prepare for Industry 4.0. and stay competitive in a world that demands electronic devices with increasingly sophisticated features. Like its predecessor, the DragonFly Pro, it's the first of its kind on the market, carefully designed for both ease-of-use and even more agile, faster and affordable 3D-printing of functional circuitry […] We’re confident that the LDM system will provide best-in-class additive manufacturing of printed electronics on the market, making it possible for companies to be more innovative, improve productivity and reliability, lower costs and reduce time-to-market,” added Nano Dimension’s CEO, Amit Dror.

Hensoldt ALM project manager Andreas Salomon (left) and Nano Dimension’s Director of Sales EMEA, Valentin Storz, with the first PCB output. (Photo: Hensoldt)

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