Scrona AG, a spin-out of ETH Zurich, raised $ 9.6 million to develop a new, high-resolution approach to electronic 3D printing devices.
Unlike conventional inkjet, the company’s multi-nozzle electrostatic printing process uses a piezoelectric field generated just outside the tip of a print nozzle to inject more materials onto substrates with sub-micron accuracy. potentially allowing the creation of PCBs, semiconductors and is displayed in 100 times higher resolution than before.
Having gained first-class support from AM Ventures, TRUMPF Venture, Verve Ventures and Manz Management Consulting and Investment, Scrona now aims to “accelerate the industrialization” of its technology as it seeks to bring it to market.
“Scrona enables customers to digitally print the impossible, on any material, on a large scale, improving the speed, accuracy and cost of production,” said Dr. Patrick Galliker, CEO of Scrona. “We are very excited to be supported by this union of experienced investors who understand the disruptive potential of Scrona’s scalable printing technology, which has the ability to reduce production steps tenfold, while also significantly reducing the consumption of materials, energy and water”.
Multi-nozzle electrostatic printing
While electronics 3D printing has made great strides in recent years, Scrona says existing technologies “still face limits” when it comes to meeting the growing demand for multimaterial devices with small footprints. In large part, the company blames the disadvantages of current inkjet approaches, on their reliance on nozzle-based jet, which only allows for the deposition of narrow droplets.
To overcome this perceived drawback, Scrona has therefore devised multi-nozzle electrostatic printing, a process in which a piezoelectric field is instead used to “pull” the inks from a nozzle. In doing so, the technology effectively concentrates all the jet energy right at the tip of the nozzle, enabling the deposition of smaller droplets ten times faster, with resolutions down to 0.5 μm, layer by layer in objects.
With further research and development, the company believes it may be possible to condense thousands of these nozzles into MEMS systems, capable of depositing metals, dielectrics, biomaterials and organic inks that existing processes cannot handle. The programmable nature of the microfabrication technology behind these nozzles also allows for their complete customization, lending them various potential applications.
“There is huge potential for Scrona technology in additive manufacturing because its technology can process materials that are simply not processable with other printheads today,” said Johann Oberhofer, Managing Partner of AM Ventures. “The combination of the highest resolution and the ability to overcome the high performance material restrictions of current processes is unique.”
“I expect Scrona’s technology to enable entirely new applications and we are delighted to accompany them on their journey along with solid investor training.”
$ 9.6 million Scrona funding increase
The bulk of Scrona’s newly raised funding comes from a $ 6.7 million Series A funding round led by AM Ventures, a company with a proven track record of helping emerging companies bring their technologies to life. market. In the past, the company has supported DyeMansion, now an industry advocate, and after establishing a € 100 million venture capital fund last year, it continues to support start-ups across the industry.
Likewise, fellow lender TRUMPF Venture has an eye for emerging technologies, as he recently acquired TRUMPF SISMA, a joint venture he founded together with SISMA in 2014 to refine the laser metal smelting process, while the Swiss Secretariat for education, research and innovation (or SERI) also lent its support to Scrona, pledging to provide the remaining $ 2.9 million in the form of a grant.
Using the capital raised through these investment channels, Scrona expects to be able to bring its technology to market much faster and test its effectiveness in new applications such as the creation of micro-LED displays and AR glasses. Although the company hasn’t set a timetable for its commercialization, it is said that it will seek partnerships with Tier 1 equipment manufacturers by 2024.
“Thanks to Scrona’s cost-effective technology it is possible to print a wide range of materials on an industrial scale,” adds Michael Blank, head of the investment team at Verve Ventures. “This is a quantum leap for a wide range of industries, from semiconductors to molecular printing in biotechnology.”
Interest in 3D printed electronics increases
With 3D printing starting to emerge as a viable alternative to traditional electronic manufacturing processes, those developing such technologies are also starting to attract the attention of investors. Earlier this month, Q5D Technology secured a $ 2.5 million grant to support the development of its CU500 5-axis electronic and cabling 3D printer.
Likewise, on the military front, BotFactory has secured funding from the US Air Force to develop a fully automated desktop electronic 3D printer. Designed to be able to 3D print and assemble printed circuit boards (PCBs) on site and on demand, it is thought that when ready, the system could save the U.S. military millions on procurement costs.
As one of the first leaders in the electronic 3D printing industry, Nano Dimension has also poured a huge amount of funding into research and development of related technologies. In one such initiative, the company co-founded the $ 6 million JAMES venture with sensor specialist HENSOLDT in June 2021, which saw the creation of a community of designers, working to advance electronics. additively produced (AME).
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The featured image shows a set of integrated circuits. Photo via Magnascan, Pixabay.