The sooner, the better!
26 JUN 2021
Speed is often crucial. This also applies when developing new material combinations – whether innovative solutions for the semiconductor industry or the latest liquid crystal mixtures in display technology.
The quality of the materials must also be correct and consistently high. That’s why we at EMD Electronics rely on prototyping and testing in many areas.
Technologies of the future
The right materials are essential for creating the technologies of the future. This is becoming particularly clear in the semiconductor industry, which has a high demand for powerful and energy-efficient processors. The fact that this demand can be met is thanks in part to the material innovations of the Electronics business sector of EMD. For example, the three-dimensional microchip architecture 3D-NAND enables significantly higher performance than 2D architectures. This has been enabled by electronic chemicals that we produce at EMD. However, for them to work properly, the production process calls for the highest quality and purity, for instance during dosing and mixing. Already, when developing the materials, the procedures and products must be thoroughly tested and investigated. And this has to be done as quickly as possible. After all, time is valuable and its availability is only limited – both for us and our customers. Prototyping and testing are therefore essential elements in our development and production processes.
Different types of prototyping
A prototype is usually a functional model of a planned product or component, which is used for trials or function tests. The objective is to thoroughly check the material properties of a product in order to ultimately start series production. After all, errors and weaknesses are expensive and can be recognized early and prevented through testing.
The most important aspect of rapid prototyping is the manufacture of a sample or model of a component. 3D printing is the byword for rapid prototyping. A 3D printer is used to simply print out models of the components or system usually out of plastic. Accordingly, it has various potential uses in the electronics, aerospace and automotive industries, for example. A particular focus is placed on long-lasting yet flexible materials, which has led to the development of innovative designs in these industries. These designs are suitable for a variety of special applications. There is good reason why market researchers predict that the global market for rapid prototyping materials will increase to around US$ 1 billion by the end of 2027.
However prototyping takes place not only through analog methods but also, predominantly, digitally. To shorten the development time of new products and, at the same time, increase product quality, various aspects are initially investigated through computational processes. But digital prototyping requires data to be available across all production steps.
However, pure calculation and simulations in a computer are frequently not sufficient. In addition, supporting experiments that confirm the model must be carried out. After all, every decimal place matters in the production of specialty chemicals. For this purpose, the prototype of an equipment module is produced in the workshops of EMD. The aforementioned 3D printing process is often used here; this makes it possible to test the process on a small scale.
Testing, testing, testing
In my view, prototyping and testing are indispensable for ensuring the quality of materials and solutions of EMD. However, early testing is also a crucial factor for our customers in the electronics industry, for example. That’s why we acquired California-based Intermolecular two years ago. The company has materials expertise and strong analytics infrastructures.
With the aid of the experimentation platform and the simulation tools of Intermolecular, our customers can, for example, immediately test material combinations in applications such as in semiconductors. And that’s without having to bring new materials to their own production facilities. This is how Intermolecular supports material innovations using the latest modeling techniques and delivers crucial information about the most important material properties. Another benefit is that identifying and developing potential material candidates that ultimately meet the customer’s desired specifications is made considerably more efficient.
Fundamentally, it can be said that prototyping and testing are the basis for success when it comes to the development and required quality of materials and solutions. We rely on this – whether within the Electronics business sector itself or at our customers’ premises.