3D Printed Circuit Boards? Maybe with an Objet Connex..

Caleb Garling over at Wired just posted an interesting article about another new potential application for 3D printing - this time it's 3D printed circuit boards. He quotes David ten Have, CEO of Ponoko (a new breed of company similar in ways to Quirky's personal product development business model).

According to ten Have, we're rapidly approaching the point where 3D printers will be able to print circuit boards. The implications for mass-customization here are loud and clear. Manufacturers would then be able to quickly and efficiently produce different configurations for small batch runs or alternatively, offer many more standard products from a much larger product portfolio than is feasible today.

Judging by the content of ten Have's quote (and the photo of the Objet Connex 3D printed wheel at the head of the article) he may be referring specifically to inkjet-based 3D printing as the enabler of this innovation, maybe because of inkjet's unique ability to mix various material properties into a single 3D printed part.

Following this line of thinking then, we could reach a point not too far off in the future, (whether its two years as ten Have claims, or more I don't know), where inkjet-based 3D printing materials will be able to simulate substrate semi-conductive properties. We've already reached the point today where jetted resin photopolymers can simulate ABS-grade engineering plastics - so why not semi-conductors?

Using an Objet Connex multi-material 3D printer it would then be simplicity itself to rapidly manufacture the entire customized circuit-board - both the rigid board itself and the conductive circuitry - in a single integrated, simultaneous step!

GPS prototype printed on the multi-material Objet Connex 3D printer - could the map lines  become circuitry in future?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Below) Electrical wiring can already be integrated within Objet 3D printed shells - maybe we'll be printing the wiring along with the shell in a few years..

Comments

  1. Paul Pongratz says:

    Great! We're already using silkscreen processes to make photo voltaic cells - and simple circuit boards.
    It makes VERY good sense that we could print semiconductor materials - at the very least, print the substrate and the conductive traces! Cheers to a new era of rapid prototyping!
    I've been in the business since the 80's - a lot has been tried and learned. 
    This is a totally reasonable and possible application!

  2. This looks to be a great idea.    It seems very doable to integrate this type of functionality by using 3D printers.   You would need to be able to setup Ground and Power Planes, and then just print wires and semiconductor junctions.    Design software would need to be able to convert standard logic diagrams and schematics into the physical object just like a compiler translates a high-level programming language into assembly code.
    Initially sizes would be large, circuit complexity would be low. But as the printers gain more and more accuracy and precision,  more gates can be added.  Standard things like Vias would no longer be needed as signals could be hardwired directly to where they need to go.    They would now be used strictly for crossing multiple layers.

    At some point, maybe we reach the complexities of printing circuit boards with microprocessors, power supplies and even enclosures...  I think this will be 10-20 years in the future as much needs to be learned in materials and micro/nano-scale technologies, but it is very fun to think about.

  3. Gabriel Junqueira says:

    Meanwhile, pneumatic circuits and logic operators are becoming increasingly popular due to it's simplicity. Objet printers, specially the connex family, are just perfect to make them!!!
    I can't wait to get my hands on one!

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