Swiss startup Scrona AG has received $ 9.6 million in Series A funding from AM Ventures, TRUMPF Venture and others, including the Swiss government. The infusion will help the company in commercializing and scaling up its potentially revolutionary electrostatic printhead technology. Capable of 3D printing multiple materials on a submicron scale, patented multi-nozzle technology can reduce semiconductor circuit production from 22 steps to one or two.
Scrona technology differs from 3D inkjet printing by combining high bandwidth with ultra-high resolution. Unlike other methods of printing conductive materials at a scale of about 10 microns and standard inkjet processes that reach a resolution of about 50 microns, the Scrona technique is capable of reaching 0.5 microns. And, unlike other, new machines capable of applying inks with the same high resolution, Scrona printing technology is capable of achieving high throughput along with industrial 2D inkjet printers.
The key to technology is to avoid the use of piezoelectric systems, a standard process in which jet heads operate. HP, Xaar, Stratasys and others rely on piezoelectricity inside nozzles for printing ink on the substrate. This limits the viscosity or fluidity of the printed material to less than 50 cps (similar to engine oil), and the droplet separation is somewhere in the 50 micron range.
“Just imagine you’re blowing liquid out of a very thin straw that requires a lot more pressure in your mouth than blowing out liquid from a very, uh, wide tube. So in our process we do it, I would say, more elegantly, more with the physics of nature or in a more natural way. So we use the liquid itself to stimulate the release. So we no longer have anything, any element inside the print, but then it really creates strength, that is, it pulls the liquid out of the liquid itself.
In contrast, Scrona has developed its own method that simply generates an electric field outside tip of the nozzle. It attracts fluid from the outside like a magnet, causing the fluid to stretch, forming a pointed cone on the nozzle, ejecting and accelerating droplets only from the tip of the cone with a resolution of less than 0.5 microns. The drops are not only smaller than in standard piezoelectric printheads, but the material can be much more viscous at speeds in excess of 10,000 cps, much like a stream of chocolate syrup.
The ability to process higher viscosity inks opens up Scrona printing technology for a much wider range of much more functional materials, including conductors, insulators and semiconductors. And because the printhead can stack multiple materials at once, it means combining all of the above materials into one part in one process. Their high-resolution printing allows you to achieve the quality needed to produce electronics, such as sensors, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and microchips. The startup has demonstrated this capability by producing test schemes and is currently preparing component demonstrations.
Theoretically, the Scrona team believes that it is possible to reduce the 22 steps required to reduce the redistribution layers in the integrated circuit to one or two. Creating these layers usually requires applying photoinitiators to the substrate, baking in the oven, UV curing, electroplating and more. However, with the Scrona printing system, each of these layers can potentially be applied within a single print job that has built-in annealing or UV curing.
Although there are firms trying to achieve this type of separation for the electronics industry, the 3D printing industry may not be fully aware of them. These include Exaddon, Enjet, SIJ and XLPL. However, Scrona argues that they cannot reach the bandwidth needed for mass production, which is where the Swiss startup is heading.
The company is currently producing a Gen10 printhead on a laboratory scale for research units to explore opportunities. In the next phase, Scrona will work with Notion-Systems to develop an industrial-grade Gen100 printhead for the next two years. By 2024, the startup wants to work with Tier 1 equipment manufacturers to commercialize their ready-to-manufacture printheads in the high-end equipment of its partners for digital printing, semiconductor manufacturing and displays.
Helps drive that growth – a round of funding for the A-Series startup, which is led by AM Ventures with union partners including TRUMPF Venture, Verve Ventures and Manz GmbH Management Consulting and Investment. These groups contributed $ 6.7 million, while a grant from the Swiss Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) brought in more than $ 2.9 million.
Launched by the Langer family, which is the leader in EOS 3D printing, AM Ventures has a wide range of 3D printing companies in its portfolio. Although they range from small-scale 3D printing to the use of new materials and the management of all parts of the additive manufacturing workflow, Scrona seems to have been its first 3D printing company in the field. electronics. And if he can keep his promises, it could not only put Langers in the lead for the next industrial revolution, but Scrona could break the way we do almost everything.