DefenseIndustrial Additive Manufacturing

DARPA explores the potential of AM for futuristic microsystems

The AMME program seeks to redefine next-gen microsystems production

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DARPA the US DoD’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, played a seminal role in establishing materials science as a discipline. One of the latest disruptive efforts in new materials and applications, the Additive Manufacturing of Microelectronic systEms (AMME) program, seeks to launch microsystems manufacturing far beyond today’s state of the art.

AMME aims at revolutionizing the manufacture of microsystems through technological breakthroughs in producing novel, multi-material microsystems at incredible speeds, volumes, and resolution. This additive manufacturing process would enhance commercial devices with innovative add-on technologies and create the ability to rapidly respond to mission requirements – innovations similar to additive manufacturing’s transformation of complex prototyping. With AMME, DARPA aims to overcome fundamental limits specifically for microsystems.

DARPA explores the potential of AM for futuristic microsystems via The AMME program to redefine next-gen microsystems production

DARPA seeks groundbreaking advances in additive manufacturing by achieving a trifecta of material quality, high resolution, and massive print throughput. The goal of AMME will be to make it possible to create microsystems with new geometries that would be able to integrate mechanical, electrical, or biological subcomponents.

“AMME is inspired by new insights from selective material synthesis and volumetric additive manufacturing that would enable a new class of microsystems,” said Michael Sangillo, AMME program manager. “We want to remove design rules imposed by traditional manufacturing tools and demonstrate novel microsystem technologies that create new opportunities for national security and emerging applications.”

Today’s methods are hamstrung by the inherent tradeoffs between resolution and throughput of traditional manufacturing: such as precise 3D printing that may be ultra-high resolution but subject to low throughput, or volumetric printing that’s high throughput but limited to lower resolution and one material at a time. AMME researchers will work to synthesize high-quality multi-materials at unprecedented resolution levels and throughputs simultaneously.

This will require AMME performers to invent radically new approaches for 3D additive manufacturing of complex geometric microsystems. This includes creating precursor material combinations that allow for rapid, multi-material printing that is not possible today. An additional challenge will be creating a fabrication process capable of printing at sub-micron resolution and extremely fast speeds. If successful, AMME will print a penny-sized microsystem (with 500 nm resolution) in about three minutes.

“Our objective is to demonstrate a novel, functional microsystem that achieves additive manufacturing advances not possible today – advances like the ability for astronauts to make on-demand repairs in space,” Sangillo said. “AMME will also focus on the commercialization approach, so we can produce a manufacturing system that can be quickly adopted by the broader industrial community, including DOD and other U.S. government organizations.”

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