NovaCentrix Automotive Interview
Based in Austin, TX, NovaCentrix has been manufacturing the PulseForge® pulsed light thermal processing systems to the printed and flexible electronics ecosystem for sinteringnanopowders and curing conductive inks since the 2000’s. The company has recently developed a pulsed light system that can reflow SAC 305 and other solders in less than a second, and on low-temperature substrates like plastic. We recently spoke with Rudy Ghosh Ph.D., NovaCentrix’ Director of Technology and Sales, to find out more about the company’s technology and what application it has in theautomotive electronics industry.
We understand that NovaCentrix applies advances in electrical materials and processing to enable new options for vehicle design and function. Can you explain what that means to our readers?
There are a few factors that are driving innovation in the automotive sector. These include (a) improvements in customer experience – such as personalized user interfaces, lighting and climate control for every passenger, (b) energy efficiency – using lightweight materials such as plastics, fabrics and integrating electronic components on to them and (c) improvements in manufacturability – using additive processes and energy–efficient methods to streamline manufacturing operations while moving closer to being truly carbon neutral.
By offering NovaCentrix’s PulseForge® thermal processing tools and Metalon® electrically-conductive inks, automotive manufacturers are able to address all of the above factors while exceeding the expectations of their customers andbeing great stewards of the environment.
It sounds like two of the company’s products, the PulseForge tools and the Metalon® conductive inks play an important role in this industry. Why are thePulseForge tools important and what benefits do Metalon inks bring?
The PulseForge thermal processing tools bring unique advantages to the automotive sector. Because they operate in a way as to heat only the targeted materials, and do so only in a few seconds or less, material and design constraints brought on by traditional heating processes are removed. Novel low-temperature materials and novel combinations of materials can be used, giving product designers new creative freedoms. When the new materials are chosen because of their light weight, vehicle weights can be reduced, impacting fuel efficiency. Because the tools only use a fraction of the energy needed by traditional ovens, the entire process becomes more energy–efficient. We call saving energy in both the build and utilization of products made with PulseForge tools the Green Advantage.
Our Metalon electrically-conductive inks provide a path towards additive manufacturing processes that then open completely new applications while also solving current manufacturing challenges. The use of Metalon conductive inks can add conductive traces to non-traditional structures such as interior or exterior panels, molding, and covers. Cars today don’t have room for more wiring harnesses. Printing conducting inks directly on structural or aesthetic materials in lieu of using additional harnesses provides designers with new options for enriching the passenger experience and for modernizing vehicle interface and control.
Why is speed such an important aspect?
The high-speed nature of the PulseForge tools’ thermal process in heating target materials and not the adjacent or underlying materials is why they are much more energy–efficient than traditional ovens and heaters. Additionally, the automotive sector depends on high–volume manufacturing to drive down unit prices. In these environments, high throughputs become essential for cost savings. Our tools and materials provide high throughput performance without making any sacrifices in terms of quality and versatility.
How can printed electronics technologies advance automotive capabilities?
There are multiple key areas in which printed electronics can provide significant advantages to the automotive sector. As we move towards an automotive sector that requires more electronics in general, both for passenger safety as well as aesthetics, it becomes necessary to be able to add those electronics and conductive pathways to previously untouched areas of the automobile. Printed electronics provide designers with the ability to add increasing functionality, while reducing or maintaining weight. While printed electronics technologies have been applied to consumer electronics for years now, their introduction into the automotive space is still early.
Do you see NovaCentrix’s role in the automotive market growing over the near future, especially as vehicles become smarter?
Absolutely! With our unique combination of materials, tools,and expertise we expect our involvement in the automotive sector to mirror our participation in consumer electronics, growing significantly in both the near and long term. We have been working with leading automotive brands and suppliersfor some time, and our conductive inks are in production vehicles right now having met stringent quality and performance testing. Our applications team is working with additional companies as they explore the capabilities our products provide.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about NovaCentrix’s technology and how it can help in the automotive industry?
At our core, we are an innovation–driven company. We are here to partner with our customers whether they areconquering the next great challenge or solving today’s engineering design obstacle. In the automotive sector, this is an especially exciting time with various technologies, markets and possibilities opening up simultaneously. We would like to inspire new ideas, innovate new products and deliver groundbreaking solutions for our customers. Our applications team is here to answer questions and to help in implementing our Green Advantage of reduced energy consumption in manufacturing and on the roads.