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A Fully Automated, Hands-off Machine for Fabricating and Assembling Printed Circuit Boards Directly from Digital Designs

Award Information
Agency: Department of Defense
Branch: Air Force
Contract: FA8649-20-P-0652
Agency Tracking Number: FX201-CSO1-0210
Amount: $49,971.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: J201-CSO1
Solicitation Number: X20.1
Solicitation Year: 2020
Award Year: 2020
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2020-03-09
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2020-06-09
Small Business Information
29-10 Thomson Ave, RM C760 STE 11
Long Island City, NY 11101-1111
United States
DUNS: 079422078
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Carlos Ospina
 (917) 327-4211
Business Contact
 Nicolas Vansnick
Phone: (917) 705-7599
Research Institution

BotFactory proposes a fully-automated, desktop machine that is capable of fabricating and validating complex circuit boards by printing, extruding paste and pick-and-placing components, probe-testing and correcting each layer. Created directly from a digital design with no human interaction during the entire process, this device lends a hand to USAF Airmen and Engineers, providing a way to rapidly iterate new electronic devices, reverse engineer existing ones and provide a means to replace broken, aged or legacy systems to sustain Air Force Assets Why would this sort of tool matter to the USAF? Prototyping Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) is an expensive, time-consuming endeavor for the average airman/engineer involved in R&D, Repair, Sustainment or Reverse Engineering. Creating circuit cards requires noxious chemicals to plate the highly conductive traces, stencil and dispensing systems for placing solder paste, placement of the parts requires advanced machinery and skilled workers, and a carefully monitored and managed reflow oven system for connecting parts to traces. Each board needs to be validated, with each trace tested for conductivity and repaired, if needed. All of these processes need a high utilization to provide a reasonable return-on-investment, not to mention careful storage and disposal of materials and chemicals. Thus the USAF prefers to contract third-party vendors, a process that requires reams of ITAR paperwork, purchase orders and vendor vetting. Regardless of the simplicity or complexity of the board, or the number of units fabricated, each 'spin' requires the same amount of work - even specialized procurement officers - to manage the technical data rights along with ensuring quality control.  For an airman or engineer, our tool would take up a small footprint of roughly one square meter, with materials being kept at room-temperature nearby. Electronic design layouts and parts lists would be sent to the machine directly from their computer, and the airman/engineer directed to load parts, materials and ink into it. At this stage, the machine would print the traces and insulating layers, swapping out heads and inks for cleaning and printing as needed. Each trace layer would be tested with probes, closing the validation loop and guaranteeing the Airman a functional PCB. After the final layer, the machine dispense solder pastes with another dispensing tool-system, then swaps it for a pick-and-place vacuum tip. For assembly, each part is picked up from a tray or reel and then oriented and corrected by camera, then placed on the board. The entire space is heated up, reflowing the parts onto the circuit and creating continuity between parts and circuits. From start to finish, we expect a four-layer, 100x100 mm PCB with 50 parts to take 4 hours to be made.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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