New-Age Electronics: How is 3D Printing Being Applied to Circuitry?

Monday, March 13, 2017

New-Age Electronics: How is 3D Printing Being Applied to Circuitry?

3D Printing

The dream of technology engineers and consumers alike is to create an entire electronic device on-demand using a 3D printer. While the technology is still a ways off from this lofty goal, the use of 3D printing technology has expanded rapidly in recent years.

Companies are now developing 3D printers capable of creating a PCB from scratch.

Printed Circuit Board Production Reimagined

Printed Circuit Boards or PCBs are a standard part of almost every electronic device. They consist of several layers of material, usually a plastic base upon which the circuits are printed in metallic ink. The use of computers and micro, or even Nano, scale controls of the printing head allow for some of our most complex and advanced and compact electronics to be produced. Using a 3D printer to create the PCB adds another layer of control to the process. The 3D printer could conceivably construct all parts and layers of the PCB including the base, the circuits and possibly other components as well.

Industry Pioneers

Nano Dimension is a company that has already pioneered a 3D printer capable of producing a multilayer PCB. They have named this device the Dragonfly 2020. It uses advanced Nano inks and specialized design software. Optomec has taken a slightly different approach to the same concept by printing embedded electronics. While not usually called 3D printing in the traditional sense, the company’s design uses the same principles of depositing and curing a printed material. This process could reduce electronics cost and waste involves in electronics production.

Related articles

The Advantage to Research and Development

The revolution in 3D printing a complete circuit or electronic component has a huge potential impact on research and development teams. In the past, projects often had to be delayed while a PCB was manufactured off-site. The team would then have to wait again if they needed a different iteration for testing. Since all PCBs must be custom designed for each product, the constant back and forth and waiting greatly slowed design and increased development costs. Printing the circuit on-demand and on-site would eliminate this waste and cost. Some companies, like Streamline Circuits, know that the ability for a business to print its own circuits is also a huge issue for intellectual property. Many companies outsource their PCB production to third parties in Asia. This forces them to reveal proprietary product information and discoveries. The design of a PCB is often a major part of a product’s innovation, which is surrendered to questionable overseas manufacturers with less stringent laws. A company could protect its designs and property by not having to outsource or reveal this information during development. They could fully design the product and bring it under formal patent protection before involving a large-scale third party or PCB manufacturer.

Limitations and Goals

Using 3D printers for electronic circuits is still in its earliest stages. Currently, it is only feasible to print prototype boards and components for research, design and testing. Mass production of circuits and boards for consumer production must still be done traditionally. The next major goal in the industry, however, is to decrease the cost to the point where mass production with 3D printers would be feasible. A smaller company would no longer have to rely on third party manufacturers or foreign companies to create their products.The future is very bright for 3D printers and electronics industry. There many come a time when you can order a custom designed electronics device from a local store and pick it up within days. For now, the use of 3D printers will continue to drive electronics innovation and development.

By  Rachelle WilberEmbed


Post a Comment