Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the advantages of the EoPlex manufacturing technology?
EoPlex allows for volume manufacture of complex, multi-material devices that are difficult and expensive, if not impossible, to manufacture with conventional technology.
Q: What is the EoPlex process?
The EoPlex process is a novel, high volume manufacturing technique for creating relatively small, complex parts from multiple materials. It utilizes new deposition processes based on different print technologies. Micro-units of different materials are deposited in defined patterns to build successive layers and create complex 3-D shapes.
Q: Is the EoPlex manufacturing process a form of rapid prototyping (RP)?
No. The EoPlex process is a high volume manufacturing method for the production of low cost, complex structures often containing multiple high-performance materials. In contrast, most forms of RP produce an individual prototype from a single material (often a commodity plastic) and, usually, for demonstration purposes.
Q: How does cost compare with other manufacturing approaches?
In small to medium size devices requiring several materials, EoPlex can be significantly less expensive than any other commercial method. In some cases, where internal complexity is high, such as fluidic parts and electrical devices, the EoPlex method may offer the only way to produce a cost-effective component.
Q: Do materials formed with EoPlex techniques have different properties then those formed with other methods?
Ceramic and metal structures formed by the EoPlex process have the same properties as those formed with most conventional powder processing techniques. EoPlex polymer structures have properties that are very similar to other techniques.
Q: What type of materials can be combined?
Many ceramics and metals can be combined in products that will be heat treated. Polymers can also be used to build parts that are cured without high temperature processing. Reactions in the EoPlex process are primarily solid-state. As a result, many materials can be combined in the same structure, as long as they are compatible in processing. These steps may include: forming, curing, setting, sintering, heat treating, and other post-processing steps.
EoPlex faces the same challenges as everyone else in combining materials. For example, if two materials have widely different thermal expansion characteristics, it may be impossible to combine them in the same structure. However, the EoPlex process provides new ways to overcome some of the prior limitations and expands the range of materials that can be combined to a level never before available.
Q: How are customer designs converted to work with the EoPlex process?
EoPlex manufactures parts in an additive layered process. Panels of parts are then heat treated in various atmospheres and thermal cycles to convert the layers into monolithic parts. Customer designs can be submitted from any commercial 3D-CAD system. EoPlex uses SolidWorks™ to slice the design into appropriate layers. Often in this process an opportunity for a design improvement occurs and this is reviewed with the customer. After the design is approved, the SolidWorks™ files are used to create the photo tooling and printing masks that are used for our different types of print-forming equipment.
Q: What is the lead time for first prototypes?
Prototype manufacturing lead times are dependent on material systems and design. Printing masks and photo tooling can, typically, be available in about two weeks. Prototypes using our existing library of proprietary materials and our standard process can be produced in as a little as one week. Prototypes that require new materials development, typically, take a few months, depending on material characteristics.
Q: What is EoPlex’s business model?
EoPlex sells finished components that offer both design and cost advantages. Our factory is relatively small and low cost. We are prepared to locate anywhere in our customer’s supply chain, if volumes warrant it, to guarantee lowest total cost-of-ownership. We recognize that in some cases EoPlex may be the only way to effectively manufacture a particular device or family of components. EoPlex is prepared to work with its customers to assure the reliability of their supply chain through joint ventures, production guarantees or other models.
Q: We know EoPlex produces very small parts. Would you classify these as Nano?
No. Nanotechnology devices are typically in the size range of molecules. EoPlex devices are in the size range of 5 microns to 50 millimeters and are usually referred to as miniature. There are other techniques for creating parts in this size range, but they all have limitations in handling multiple materials in the same part or in degree of geometric complexity. EoPlex fills this gap.
Q: What are your target markets?
EoPlex is a platform technology that offers significant advantages to customers in many applications. Often we meet with a new customer to present the capabilities of this new method and then work together to find applications that provide the greatest opportunity in cost, design or both. Currently, EoPlex is working with customers to develop applications in cell phone antennas, other RF devices, energy harvesters, fluidic devices, fuel cell parts and sensors.