Digital manufacturing

inkjet

The USP of iPrint is the sound knowledge, experience and network in the different process steps necessary for an inkjet-based digital production, from the material to the final product. Such digital production can be employed in a variety of domains and mainly depends on the possibility to formulate a suitable material and the availability of compatible printing and post-treatment technologies. The different process steps include the formulation of the ink, its rheological characterization, the pre-treatment of the substrate, the printing, the post-treatment of the printed layer and the development of a prototype printer to eventually demonstrate the feasibility of the process for the digital manufacturing of a given product. Not only iPrint can support its partners through the different steps, but we are developing new technologies to improve the potential of the digital production.

Materials

At iPrint, we develop digital printing processes with a plethora of different materials: pigments, silver, copper, gold or ceramic nanoparticles, graphene flakes, cells, proteins and photonic balls are just few examples. UV, solvent and water based or even e-beam inks are used on a daily basis. Depending on the custumer application requirements, existing inks can direclty be used or new ones can be formulated. iPrint can count on very strong partnerships with ink manufactuerers worldwide that allow us to dispose of the most suitable material and develop high-value products. Furthermore, we are also working with top Universities to develop innovative materials for future applications. It is worth mentioning that iPrint is also working with other materials that can be deposited with other digital printing technologies as direct ink writing, extrusion or FDM.

Conductive / Dielectric / Color / Biofluid / Metallic / Ceramic / Glass / Smart / Eco / Soft / Rigid

Ink characterization

The first step toward an inkjet-based digital production is the material characterization. iPrint is equipped with all the necessary devices required for an accurate analysis of the physico-chemical and rheological properties of the inks and substrates. Surface and interfacial tensions can be measured to ensure the right balance between polar and disperse parts and therefore the desired wetting and adhesion of an ink on a substrate. The dynamic surface tension analysis is key to investigate the surface tension at short surface ages and conclude therefore on the most suitable surfactant, for example. Regarding the rheological measurements, we work in very close collaboration with our external research associate, Dr. Tri Tulardhar. The TriPAV allows us to measure the complex viscosity at high frequencies and at different temperatures, which is key to optimize the ink formulation and find the potentially most suitable jetting temperature. The TriMaster on the other hand allows us to characterize the visco-elastic behaviour of an ink and optimize its formulation to avoid a too newtonian behaviour eventually resulting in many satellites or a too visco-elastic behaviour preventing the ligament breakup. Ink stability and compatibility tests as well as particle-size characteirzation complete our offer.

Complex viscosity / Extensional viscosity / Dynamic surface tension / Stability / Particle size / Compatibility

Pre-treatments

Depending on the physico-chemical properties of the ink and substrate, as well as on the desired contact angle, a pre-treatment step might be necessary prior printing. At iPrint, our platforms are equipped with most common technologies as plasma, corona or flame treatments. We are also working on new digital pre-treatment technologies.

Plasma / Corona / Flame / Surface energy

Printing

The heart of the process is the material deposition. iPrint has a unique expertise in inkjet printing, developed during the research activities of the last decade and the hiring of worldwide experts in this field. One of the strengths of iPrint is the availability of print heads from most of the manufacturers. Depending on the customer and process needs, we will select the most suitable print head. The experience we have developed with the different print heads, combined with the very close collaboration with several key print head manufacutrers, are true assets of iPrint. iPrint is currently also in charge of testing new print heads not yet on the market. We are always one step ahead and can support you with the best selection of print head. This is of course also true for customers working with the binder jetting technology, where new print head can unlock an hidden potential of this booming technology.

iPrint is also developing strong competences in hybrid advanced manufacturing processes, where we combine different printing technologies as inkjet, direct ink writing, extrusion or FDM together to overcome the limitations of each technology and allow new product to be digitally manufactured.

Inkjet / Binder jetting / Hybrid AM (DIW, extrusion)

Post-treatment

iPrint is equipped with the necessary devices to post-treat the printed layers and has significant know-how in this process step. Depending on the ink, UV, NIR, IR, photonic, e-beam or just oven can be used to cure, dry or sinter the layers. Combining different post-treatment steps to treat multimaterials is also a competence available at iPrint. Several lamps are available and can be mounted on our versatile research printer platforms.

UV / NIR / IR / E-beam / Photonic / Oven

Platforms

Over the past years, iPrint built more than 40 research platforms. Such platforms are very modular and can be modified for the specific need of a given process. Furthermore, the printers can accommodate multiple inkjet print heads and pre-/post-treatment devices on the same platform. New hybrid platforms combining several printing deposition methods are also been developed. iPrint disposes also of robotic arms for Direct-to-shape applications and is currently developing a technology for this domain. It is important to mention that strong competences in ink systems are available at iPrint. Finally, all of our platforms are equipped wih drop watching stations, to directly optimize the waveform on the printer.

It has to be stressed that iPrint printing platform are research platforms not suitable for industrial production. Once the process has been develop at iPrint, we work in close collaborations with machine integrators to realize an industrial machine for our clients, based on the process and equipment developed and selected by iPrint.

Linear axes / Robotic arm / Ink systems

Products

The digital printing processes developed by iPrint can be applied in a variety of application domains. Examples are: biomedical & health, automotive & transportation, chemistry & materials, earth & space, electronics & automation, fashion & design, manufacturing & construction, energy & environment. Given our strong expertise on inkjet, often times we can suggest new opportunities thanks to this technology to our clients.

Graphical / Sensors / Energy / Implants / Multifunctional structures / Integrated electronics / Biomedical / Consumer goods

 

  

 

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