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Additively Manufactured Electronics for Severe Volume Constrained Applications


Scope Title:

Additive Manufactured Electronics for Severe Volume Constrained Applications

Scope Description:

The field of Additively Manufactured Electronics (AME) has been evolving and can provide enabling capability for future NASA missions that have very severe or unique volume constraints. Several concepts for NASA missions or mission concepts in the decadal survey where these volume constraints can be major technical constraints are advanced mobility concepts [1], atmosphere probes, and Instruments/Subcomponents of Ocean World Landers. Some of the electronics in these missions will likely need to go below cold survival temperatures associated with warm electronics boxes (i.e., colder than -35 °C). Methods of using AME to create circuits in a compact 3D structure or involving nonplanar surfaces (such as a cylinder) are both of interest [2,3]. There have been multiple works that demonstrate the capability of AME for 3D and nonplanar circuitry but limited work that demonstrates its effectiveness for space applications. The AME approach should address the following technical and mechanical challenges:

  1. AME methodology should include integration of a variety of standard electronics package types including ball grid arrays (BGAs), quad flat pack nonleaded (QFN)/land grid array (LGA), and chip components.
  2. AME circuit should show the capability of surviving the thermal requirements needed for space missions with -35 to 100 °C nonoperational as a minimum criterion and ability to survive extreme cold (such as -125 °C) as a desired capability.
  3. The AME approach should show the capability of favorable cost and schedule compared to equivalent approaches using traditional electronics manufacturing and demonstrate repeatability/accuracy. 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 2 to 3

Primary Technology Taxonomy:

  • Level 1 12 Materials, Structures, Mechanical Systems, and Manufacturing
  • Level 2 12.4 Manufacturing

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II:

  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Prototype

Desired Deliverables Description:

  • Sets of materials and manufacturing techniques that are able to create robust circuitry using printed electronics for volume constrained applications. Material sets and methodologies should be readily available for NASA centers to use on application-specific designs to meet future packaging needs.
  • The Phase I deliverables should be fabrication of standalone critical structures and demonstration of approaches to scale to fully functional compact circuits.  
  • The Phase II deliverables should include the design and fabrication of full circuits. Testing should demonstrate the reliability of AME structures as well as functional performance of the structures. Materials and manufacturing techniques should be formulated and available at small scale for application-specific designs.

State of the Art and Critical Gaps:

Numerous published works have shown multiple material and manufacturing methods able to print conductors and dielectrics at needed resolutions. There are also multiple published examples where nonplanar or 3D circuits have been fabricated. The current set of work shows lack of data demonstrating the reliability of these circuits in environments relevant to NASA. Also, the current body of work shows circuits with small numbers of parts and does not demonstrate the repeatability/reproducibility desired for more complex 3D/nonplanar circuits.  

Relevance / Science Traceability:

Use of AME is relevant to Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate (ESDMD), Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD), Science Mission Directorate (SMD), and Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), all of which have extant efforts in additive manufacturing. Several efforts involving NASA and aerospace companies have used AME on the space station (including major work from NASA centers on fabrication of circuits in space). Future AME missions where there are extreme volume constraints include components of landing systems, probes, and mobility systems that are needed to meet SMD and STMD goals.





[2] MacDonald, Eric et al.: "Multiprocess 3D printing for increasing component functionality." Science, 30 Sep. 2016, DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf2093

[3] Daina V. Baker, Chao Bao, and Woo Soo Kim: ACS Applied Electronic Materials 2021 3 (6), 2423-2433,



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