Harris 3D Prints RF Circuits Using Nano Dimension DragonFly Pro

Harris Corporation, in a major breakthrough for additive manufacturing for printed electronics, conducted tests showing that 3D printed RF circuit performance is comparable to that of circuits developed using conventional manufacturing techniques. Harris selected Nano Dimension, a leading additive electronics provider and its multi-material DragonFly Pro 3D electronics printer to produce the functional circuits in a single print. The study on the advantages of using additive manufacturing to develop RF circuits for wireless systems is part of a joint project between Harris, Israel Innovation Authority and Space Florida Foundation, a partnership promoting research, development and the commercialization of aerospace and technology projects.

Harris is a leader in the development of RF circuits for electronic warfare and communications systems. In recent years, developing these circuits and systems used for conveying information such as data, video and voice across long distances, has focused on improving mobility and performance. The company also has focused on reducing development time and cost which typically is a long, complex multi-stage process when using conventional manufacturing methods. 

Harris looked at the applicability of 3D printing for developing RF systems, and then designed, simulated and tested the 3D printed RF amplifier and compared it with an amplifier fabricated using conventional manufacturing techniques. The results showed similar RF performance between the 3D printed version and the baseline amplifier, clearly demonstrating the viability of 3D printed electronics for RF circuitry.

The use of in-house 3D printed electronics to make antennas is a breakthrough, in terms of the time and cost of prototyping and proofs-of-concept, according to Amit Dror, CEO of Nano Dimension. In addition, 3D printed electronics makes possible development of even smaller and lighter antennas that have rigid packaging integrated with flexible circuits, without the need for cables and connectors.

The Nano Dimension DragonFly Pro is a multi-material, extremely precise inkjet deposition 3D printing system that incorporates conductive silver inks and dielectric inks to create functional electronic parts in a single print. It transforms electromechanical development by empowering companies to take control of their entire development cycle. The system enables the 3D printing of functional electronics such as encapsulated sensors, conductive free-form geometries, antennas, molded connected devices, printed circuit boards and other innovative devices.

In June 2017, Nano Dimension received an Israel Innovation Authority grant approval to finance a project to develop 3D printing of electronical modules for space applications in collaboration with Harris. The grant project was designed to demonstrate potential that 3D printing double sided, multilayer circuits that distribute digital, power and RF signals could reduce size, weight, power and cost of space systems. Harris will present the full details of its findings at the IEEE Radio and Wireless Symposium in January.

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