With the latest advancements in additive manufacturing, it is now possible to 3D print insulative and conductive material together, enabling the rapid on-demand production of printed circuit boards (PCBs), antennas, flexible electronics and other functional freeform electronics. In this article, Simon Fried, President of Nano Dimension USA, answers the top five frequently asked questions about this new technology. You will learn about the benefits of 3D printing electronics in-house, understand how inkjet deposition technology works, examples of how to design parts for electrical prototypes and watch examples of 3D printed parts being created using the DragonFly 2020 Pro electronics 3D printer.
1. What Are the Advantages of Prototyping Electronics In-House?
PCB prototyping can be a long and expensive process. By having this technology in-house, your engineers and designers can quickly move from concept verification and design validation to testing fixtures. This helps to reduce production time to hours and not weeks and production costs to tens or hundreds of dollars instead of thousands. Additionally, you’d have complete control over who has access to your proprietary designs since all production remains in-house.
2. How Do You 3D Print Electronics Using the DragonFly Pro System?
The DragonFly system is a multi-material, contactless, inkjet deposition printer. This system deposits a dielectric material or a conductive material to replicate the image from your electronic design automation (EDA) design. In traditional electronic manufacturing, you must manufacture your electronic board in many stages, going back and forth through different steps such as plating, drilling or pressing. With an additive manufacturing contactless inkjet system, you have the ability to add layers as you go. You can print any feature without drilling, pressing, plating or etching.
3. What Are the Best Applications for This Technology?
Usually, electrical engineers benefit from the reduced time needed to prototype electronics regardless of the application. Some of the most popular uses of this technology are high-frequency and RF antennas. This technology is also being used in the automotive industry to protect or position different auto parts. In industries such as research and academics, this technology provides the ability to explore formats or geometries that have been difficult to prototype in the past.
4. What Design Freedom can 3D Printing Provide?
With the DragonFly 2020 Pro System, manufacturers can achieve form factors that are very different. For example, you can make shaped parts and non-planar circuitry, and embed parts within a structure. You can change mechanical properties, electrical effects and embed components to create a relationship between function and electrical components.
5. What Can I Do With 3D Printing for Non-planar Electronics?
The DragonFly 2020 Pro 3D printer gives you the ability to create non-planar geometries for parts that are non-traditional. You can create and change different shapes with different mechanical properties within the same parts. Through the printing process, you can generate electrical effects or capabilities of the printed part such as sensors or coils. This system has a high-resolution capability to produce different shapes such as holes and cavities. You can create form factors that are not possible with traditional electronic printing.
Nano Dimension’s award-winning DragonFly 2020 is being used across different industries to produce functional electronic prototypes. The system’s technology allows you to design and create complex functional electronic devices and components and 3D print polymers and metals together. You can now have a high-quality end-product with as many features as you need right off the printer tray. Having this technology in-house will allow you to test and make on-the-spot design changes to your model, therefore reducing your time to market.
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