Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Nathan B. Crane, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Craig Lusk, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Amanda Schrand, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas M. Weller, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Paul I. Deffenbaugh, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jing Wang, Ph.D.


additive manufacturing, conductive inks, harsh environmental testing, printed electronics, qualification, smoothing, standards


Today’s state of the art additive manufacturing (AM) systems have the ability to fabricate multi-material devices with novel capabilities that were previously constrained by traditional manufacturing. AM machines fuse or deposit material in an additive fashion only where necessary, thus unlocking advantages of mass customization, no part-specific tooling, near arbitrary geometric complexity, and reduced lead times and cost. The combination of conductive ink micro-dispensing AM process with hybrid manufacturing processes including: laser machining, CNC machining, and pick & place enables the fabrication of printed electronics. Printed electronics exploit the integration of AM with hybrid processes and allow embedded and/or conformal electronics systems to be fabricated, which overcomes previously limited multi-functionality, decreases the form factor, and enhances performance. However, AM processes are still emerging technologies and lack qualification and standardization, which limits widespread application, especially in harsh environments (i.e. defense and industrial sectors).

This dissertation explores three topics of electronics integration into AM that address the path toward qualification and standardization to evaluate the performance and repeatable fabrication of printed electronics for resilience when subjected to harsh environments. These topics include: (1) the effect of smoothing processes to improve the as-printed surface finish of AM components with mechanical and electrical characterization—which highlights the lack of qualification and standardization within AM printed electronics and paves the way for the remaining topics of the dissertation, (2) harsh environmental testing (i.e. mechanical shock, thermal cycling, die shear strength) and initiation of a foundation for qualification of printed electronic components to demonstrate survivability in harsh environments, and (3) the development of standardized methods to evaluate the adhesion of conductive inks while also analyzing the effect of surface treatments on the adhesive failure mode of conductive inks.

The first topic of this dissertation addresses the as-printed surface roughness from individually fusing lines in AM extrusion processes that create semi-continuous components. In this work, the impact of surface smoothing on mechanical properties and electrical performance was measured. For the mechanical study, surface roughness was decreased with vapor smoothing by 70% while maintaining dimensional accuracy and increasing the hermetic seal to overcome the inherent porosity. However, there was little impact on the mechanical properties. For the electrical study, a vapor smoothing and a thermal smoothing process reduced the surface roughness of the surfaces of extruded substrates by 90% and 80% while also reducing measured dissipative losses up to 24% and 40% at 7 GHz, respectively.

The second topic of this dissertation addresses the survivability of printed electronic components under harsh environmental conditions by adapting test methods and conducting preliminary evaluation of multi-material AM components for initializing qualification procedures. A few of the material sets show resilience to high G impacts up to 20,000 G’s and thermal cycling in extreme temperatures (-55 to 125ºC). It was also found that coefficient of thermal expansion matching is an important consideration for multi-material printed electronics and adhesion of the conductive ink is a prerequisite for antenna survivability in harsh environments.

The final topic of this dissertation addresses the development of semi-quantitative and quantitative measurements for standardizing adhesion testing of conductive inks while also evaluating the effect of surface treatments. Without standard adhesion measurements of conductive inks, comparisons between materials or references to application requirements cannot be determined and limit the adoption of printed electronics. The semi-quantitative method evolved from manual cross-hatch scratch testing by designing, printing, and testing a semi-automated tool, which was coined scratch adhesion tester (SAT). By cross-hatch scratch testing with a semi-automated device, the SAT bypasses the operator-to-operator variance and allows more repeatable and finer analysis/comparison across labs. Alternatively, single lap shear testing permits quantitative adhesion measurements by providing a numerical value of the nominal interfacial shear strength of a coating upon testing while also showing surface treatments can improve adhesion and alter the adhesive (i.e. the delamination) failure mode of conductive inks.