Adding internal antennas to portable electronic devices can sometimes be a challenge. Using circuit board traces as antennas takes extra space and using discrete antenna components adds cost. Optomec, a supplier of adaptive manufacturing systems based in Albuquerque, N.M, has another option: Print a conformal 3D antenna onto standard plastic inserts and enclosures for smartphones and mobile devices.
Optomec claims their aerosol jet process eliminates the need for the chemical plating and hazardous nickel content used in existing manufacturing processes and allows new antenna placement options, potentially improving performance and reducing the thickness of the device.
Optomec's technology could be useful as devices need to span even wider frequency ranges to take advantage of new spectrum and add new functions. The company said it has demonstrated successful printing of antennas for uses including LTE, NFC, GPS, WLAN and Bluetooth but did not mention antenna for FM or TV.
Dave Ramahi, President and CEO of Optomec, commented, “Optomec's antenna printing solution represents a landmark achievement in our long-standing commitment to transition additive manufacturing technologies into mainstream mass production applications. With SmartPhone production on pace to reach 2 Billion units per year, this market represents a significant and growing business opportunity that we are well poised to pursue.”
The company is engaged with a number of handset manufacturers and their OEM manufacturers about using the technology. Optomec's first generation production printer is capable of producing 1 to 2 million units per year, depending on the antenna design.
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