3D printing has gained much attention in the past few years. The main reason is traditional method of designing printed circuit boards takes up a lot of time and resources. They are less accurate and result in reasonable material loss. You cannot ignore this when it comes to precision and accuracy in designing circuit boards.
If you want to print a custom printed circuit board but are tired of dealing with all the complicated and time-consuming steps. You dont need to worry with 3D printing technology. Now you can print circuit boards in minutes! This guide will show you how to create and print a circuit board using a 3D printer. So don’t spend another minute struggling with complex printed circuit boards designs – let’s get started!
3D Printed Circuit Boards
The term 3D in printed circuit boards does not refer to the 3 dimensional boards. Instead 3D Print circuit boards are the one which refer to the printed circuit boards that you can design using 3D Printer.
Additive Manufacturing For Printed Circuit Boards
Another name for 3D printing is additive manufacturing. The process of creating objects by associating different layer periodically is refer to the additive manufacturing. Designers first create a digital file using a software. This file later converted into STl file. STL file format specially useful for 3d printer. This way you can create 3D printed circuit board.
You can perform the additive manufacturing using two different processes. These two methods of aditive manufacturing are as follows:
- Inkjet Printing
This methods serves best in two dimensions printing process. It applies conductive filaments/ conductive material on more than one point specially on even surface using additive manufacturing. This method suits when high resolution and seamless finish on device is the end goal.
- 3D Printed Circuit Boards
In this additive manufacturing technique you can use extruder header which deposits conductive metal directly on the board device. This entire process develop a link between 2D PCB by utilizing 3D PCB through electrical connectors. It leads to prevention of circuit constraints in your device. This method is best for printing uneven layer surfaces.
Regardless of these two techniques the standard way of manufacturing multiple layer PCB have a subtractive nature. In these processes you usually use drills, chemicals, or etching lasers to create traceson layer. On the other hand additive manufacturing build your PCB device from scratch.
Why There Is A Need For 3d Printing?
3D printing is beneficial in developing custom pcb layers design. The final product is remarkable beucase of following benefits:
Higher Design Flexibility
A great flexibility than cnc router, 3d printing offers. You can build personalized content either on flat surface or uneven surface. You can also practice various material, shapes, layers, traces, metal, and forms in pcb design. This is also beneficial if you practice flip side of different materials.
Leads to Less Waste
3D printing pcb design/ 3D printed circuit process make use of less material in terms of board, copper, metal, ink etc. On the other hand the conventional pcb process utilize more material in board formation. In creating traces on pcb components the waste material generates. This increases the cost association in conventional pcb production.
3D printing of pcbs is truly cost effective in making new project. It utilizes less components to create pcbs. Thus, less components means low cost incorporation even in complex circuitry.
Faster Production Time
The time which your 3D printing technique takes in building complex circuitry is very low. This way you can create pcb board with less metal and ink using 3D printer or 3D printing with complete automation. This way you can also increase your pcb board production capacity.
How do 3d printers print the circuit on PCB?
The main element of a 3d inkjet printer is Gel or a Conductive material. 3d printer contains an extruder head which helps in shaping the circuit board components according to your desire. It allow you to create complex circuitry or fill up points. You can print your desired circuit on the base of any shape’s PCB, or the flat printed circuit board. The 3d printing process is similar to that of the Conductive pen. You can create traces using 3d printer on pcb board components.
It gives you more options on 3d printed circuit. However, 3d PCB printing can be done by two methods.
- Conductive filaments method:
Using conductive filament is the most obvious way to generate a 3d printed circuit board. 3d printer lays down a conductive filament first to generate a pattern of lines similar to a regular PCB. Moreover, designers can also make different shapes for PCBs by assigning multiple layers on 3d printed circuit.
Among different components, the most common component of conductive filament is conductive ink. Conductive ink are made from silver particles. The Nano dimension is used for creating the conductive ink on 3d printed circuit. The print head of 512 nozzles is used for ink jetting purposes. This way it utilize the ink effectively.
The filament is a coil of thermoplastics that comes in various diameters. This filament is the context of fused deposition modeling. That filament material filled in the printer and after this filled filament subjected to melting at a melting point of around 200 degrees.
- Hollow traces method:
The second way of printing a circuit board is the hollow traces method. It is quite opposite of conductive filament filled printing. Initially, a solid block is printed with the conductive traces to create hollow traces. After that, use conductive material to fill the slots. The conductive material can be conductive paint or epoxy resin.
Examples of electronics designed with 3d PCB printers
Different 3D PCB printers design different electronics. The following are examples of electronics designed with 3D printers.
- Example #1: Vertically Stacked Integrated Circuit board
- Example #2: Circuit boards with antennas
- Example #3: Printed inductor with Nano Dimension
- Example #4: Multiple layer Printed circuit board
- Example #5: Components mounting by Nano Dimension
3D print PCBs: applications
With the help of 3d printing, you can create 3d printed circuit board components that are ideal to use for many applications. 3D priting help you produce mass production for electronics and variety of industries. Among many applications following are the applications where 3d printed circuit board is providing its services:
Since the invention of multilayered PCBs or double-sided PCBs, there is a huge growing jump in the aerospace industry. 3d printing process utilizes high quality material in board to create fine traces (metal/ink (conductive inks)). This will make them suitable in radaition, satellite components fuel through printed pcbs production.
Creating printed boards using 3d printing allow you to develop coomunication systems, defense navigation systems. 3d printing help you make traces in boards automatically which you can use in robotics, artillery, satellite subsystems, and security components. With the help of 3d PCB printing, materials used for the military become more efficient and the manufacturers can produce lightweight prototypes.
Drawbacks of 3D PCBs
3d printed circuit boards composed of multiple holes, metals, and multiple layer offers number of drawbacks. Some of the main limitations are as follows.
Lack of Software Support:
A variety of software you can install for making printed circuit boards. No single software in pcb circuit boards printing process serve the purpose. They are not free to use, they lack guidance, and they lack proper functioning.
Less Effective Materials:
During hollow trace printing, conductive paints paint the electrical pathways for conductivity. However, the conductive materials used in this process are not as effective as copper metal. Therefore, the whole circuitry drives low conductivity.
If you’re looking for a way to speed up the prototyping process or create tested custom circuits, 3D printing is the answer. With just a couple of clicks, you can have a complex circuit in minutes – and it doesn’t stop there. You can also use 3D printing to create custom housings, connectors, and more. So what are you waiting for? Start experimenting with 3D printed PCBs today!