A printed circuit board factory-in-a-box, or . . . how an Israeli tech company is pioneering a revoluation in electronics manufacturing.
Great inventions are successful when they drive some combination of improved speed and/or ease of use, better quality, or greater ability compared to the preceding product or service.
We have seen this all around us — whether we know it or not. eCommerce is laughably easy in allowing us to get what we need in less time at a better price.
Surgeries that were once punitive, eight-hour ordeals requiring extended hospital stays are now safer, same-day outpatient procedures. Automobile manufacturing is now largely automated, enabling greater production volume with fewer faulty productions than ever before.
One area that hasn’t seen similar grand leaps forward in the last 30 to 30 years is the printed circuit board (PCB) industry and electronics.
This makes the innovation happening in this space all the more special with a giant leap forward taking place with the advent of additively manufactured electronics (AME). AME, being a part of the larger 3D printing family, is set to solve three major issues around the manufacturing of three-dimensional High Performance Electronic Devices (Hi-PEDs™): supply chain constraints, chemical and environmental pollution, and stopping counterfeiting and IP theft.
Traditional PCB manufacturing is a complex, multistep process, including layering, photolithography and drilling, electroplating, and repeatable chemical etching. With over 70 steps, not including assembly, the PCB industry is where the regular paper printing industry was prior to the emergence of digital printing and desktop publishing.
Critically, AME also unleashes many design constraints associated with traditional manufacturing. This is a huge and underestimated innovation enabler with new high-performance designs of 3D-layered electronic devices, time-saving measures that bring forward downstream assembly processes into the printing stage, and the manufacturing of high-frequency RF antennas not usually possible.
Nano Dimension (NASDAQ: NNDM) an Israeli tech company headquartered in the U.S. with operations in Germany and Hong Kong, is a pioneer in AME.
Their DragonFly LDM™ printer technology is a factory-in-a-box that uses an inkjet system to inject a specialized polymer and conductive inks simultaneously.
The object is built up, layer by layer through full-stack thickness.
This revolutionary one-step manufacturing process allows users to 3D-print more functioning electronic circuitry faster, cheaper, and more cleanly than traditional PCB manufacturing, and add higher repeatable quality.
At the touch of a button, a functional 3D printed smart device is produced in just a few hours from a computer-aided design. With a significantly faster production and optimization process, contacts, inductors, capacitors, coils and other sensors, transformers, RF antennas up to 6 Gigahertz components, and much more can be printed simultaneously.
So why is this technology so revolutionary? Consider what it enables:
- On-site proofs-of-concept and prototyping in a matter of hours versus weeks or even months in traditional development.
- The printing of Hi-PEDS™ in long, uninterrupted runs around the clock with minimal supervision.
- The creation of new designs that are not otherwise possible.
- Retention of sensitive IP in-house during development.
- ·Greatly reduced environmental impact, limited waste, and worker safety.
This all comes together to equal a factory-in-a-box that is smarter, cleaner, and faster.
According to IDTechEX, the total market for 3D printed electronics will be worth $2.3 billion by 2029 and will be dominated by the professional PCB prototyping market segment.
The manufacturing market dynamics should not be underestimated, especially in our climate of geopolitical tension. Currently, around 90% of all PCBs are manufactured in the APAC region.
China is the largest producer with around 43% of the market share followed by Japan and South Korea with 15% and 13%, respectively. The advantages of companies bringing their prototyping in-house, especially their core production runs of Hi-PEDs™, only become more and more self-evident.
There are also more domestic considerations. While the offshoring fad hollowed out America’s supplier ecosystem across multiple industries, with significant economic and national security consequences, AME provides an innovative solution in the effort to “re-shore” manufacturing.
Moreover, intellectual property theft is a major cause of concern. Hardware design companies regard their PCB designs as core intellectual property (IP) and some are reluctant to send them to Asia for prototyping. By keeping the manufacturing process in-house, innovative companies can substantially mitigate IP theft.
According to the report by The Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, a bipartisan study by leading Americans in the private sector, public service, foreign affairs, and academia politics, "The scale of international theft of American intellectual property is unprecedented — hundreds of billions of dollars per year."
You get the picture.
Nano Dimension’s technology allows research institutions to produce cutting-edge technology in their labs — and quickly. The ability to rapidly print new prototypes, in-house, powers the tinkering and experimentation critical to innovation.
Aerospace applications can enable users to reduce the weight and to miniaturize electromechanical components; the defense industry can keep their IP in-house and not involve external manufacturing for critical components; AME optimizes electromechanical parts for smart products, IoT, sensors, autonomous driving, electric vehicles and 5G networks. But this is only the beginning.
Led by Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Yoav Stern, Nano Dimension accomplished something extraordinary over the last 18 months.
He has raised approximately $1.5 billion and forged key partnerships with research institutions and industry leaders in aerospace, defense, medical, and automotive.
Three Nano Dimension customers are multi-billion-dollar U.S. defense manufacturers, one is a multi-billion-dollar technology conglomerate. Other clients include multiple Secret Service Agencies and leading research institutions around the world.
What we have here at Nano Dimension (NASDAQ: NNDM) is Israeli tech at its finest. In 2019 the Bloomberg Innovation Index ranked Israel as the 5th most innovative country in the world and 13th in the world for scientific output.
All this with a population of 8.8 million, which for comparison is less than half the population of Florida. An article appearing in TechCrunch earlier this year titled, "Israel’s startup ecosystem powers ahead, amid a year of change," (January 21, 2021) provided some insight into why Israel is a tech guerilla and spawns companies like Nano Dimension: "Israel’s heady mix of questioning culture, a tradition of national military service, higher education, the widespread use of English, appetite for risk and team spirit,” these are driving factors behind Israeli tech dominance. Enough said.
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