Photonic curing has been successfully adopted in consumer electronics as a means of curing and sintering high-temperature materials such as metallic inks on low-temperature substrates such as polymer folks, and is now being introduced for 3D/additive processing. In this method, unique flashlamps and control systems are used in millisecond pulses to preferentially heat the surface materials, at a faster rate than the underlying materials. In this way, peak temperatures as high as 1200C have been attained, and temperature gradients in excess of 300C or greater are possible. Layer thicknesses as great as 50 microns have been processed, and ongoing work is focused on building relationships between cured surface properties and adhesion to underlying layers. Equilibrium-based processing methods, such as traditional ovens, heat both the thin film and the substrate to uniform elevated temperatures. The maximum temperature is often limited by the substrate. In contrast, photonic curing makes it possible to thermally process films and depositions on plastic and paper that previously required more expensive, rigid, high temperature substrates such as glass or ceramic. Typical processing times are about one millisecond or less, meaning that a quality photonic curing system can cure a wide range of films and depositions near instantly. Photonic curing, as a non-equilibrium process, also allows oven-capable materials to be processed much faster than with equilibrium-based oven heating.
- Expand the scope of materials used for 3D/additive manufacturing.
- Decouple the limits of simultaneous material utilization, such as metals and polymers in heterogeneous construction.