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posted by martyb on Wednesday June 03 2020, @10:43AM   Printer-friendly
from the You-get-one-and-you-get-one-and-you-get-one,-too dept.

Mass production of individualized products:

"Right now, individualization in the automotive industry basically means preparing every vehicle for every possible version and then adding the specific features each customer has ordered at the end of the line. This means, for example, that every car has to be fitted with the entire wiring harness," says project manager Professor Thomas Otto. Professor Reinhard Baumann, who works at Fraunhofer ENAS and is in charge of coordinating the Lighthouse Project, explains the new concept: "By combining traditional manufacturing methods with emerging digital technologies and production processes, we have found a way to integrate product individualization within mass production environments. Our emphasis right from the start has been on product and production reliability—but we still have a long way to go."

[...] The basic concept is simple: Just like an inkjet printer in the office, the researchers use inkjet and dispensing technologies to print geometric patterns. But instead of using colored inks—in other words, inks that have the functionality of "color"—they use inks with functionalities such as electrical conductivity, semiconductivity and insulation. This technology can be used to create both single-layer and multilayer systems. Even sensors and transistors are feasible. "And I can do all this not only on smooth, level surfaces such as a sheet of paper but also, using robots, on three-dimensional curved workpieces such as deep-drawn car doors," says Baumann. The second digital manufacturing technology that comes into play is the laser. Researchers at the six Fraunhofer Institutes have combined the two methods. As a result, the laser beam follows exactly the line taken by the printer, allowing it, for example, to cure previously printed photopolymers or sinter nanoparticle inks. Numerous robots are already used for assembly purposes on the shop floor, yet the new method is very different. "We have achieved orders-of-magnitude improvements in the spatial resolution of the printing with line widths down to approximately 50 micrometers," says Baumann.

The teams at the Fraunhofer Institutes are focusing initially on sensors and circuitry.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03 2020, @02:56PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03 2020, @02:56PM (#1002737)

    I wouldn't use it in a car, but if can definitely see this technology being used for cellphones, tablets, handheld games, and other portable computing devices. If it gets good enough, conventional circuit boards could become a thing of the past, and repairability won't necessarily be worse - but it probably will be unless you have a $$$$$ proprietary tool from the manufacturer.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03 2020, @03:03PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03 2020, @03:03PM (#1002741)

    Replaceability would improve though.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03 2020, @03:46PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03 2020, @03:46PM (#1002761)

    > a $$$$$ proprietary tool from the manufacturer

    Can't you just print the special tool? I thought that was the point of a 3D printer in every house.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03 2020, @03:49PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03 2020, @03:49PM (#1002765)

      Sure, if the company that makes the stuff tell you how, or you design your own.