Are You Ready to 3D Print Electronics on to Your 3D Printed Designs?

Using an aerosol jet technology, Optomec are able to 3D print electronics onto complex 3D printed structures with conductive nano particles. The potential to add 3D printed conductive components to your designs will be a massive step forward in 3D printing when you can add another level of complexity to the products you design.  

It will be interesting to see how 3D CAD software will approach this technology, because without the proliferation of software to design these electronic components, the adoption of the technology will be relatively limited.  Similar to the ability to 3D print mulit-materials with the Objet Connex machines, it is the software and file handling that is still retarding the adoption of the process at Shapeways.

3D Printed electronics on Shapeways

The demand for novel consumer and military electronic devices that pack more functionality into less space is driving the need for advanced manufacturing methods that tightly integrate electronic circuitry with physical packaging.  3D Printed UAV Wing The unique ability to print electronics directly onto 3D surfaces, for example on a cell phone case or an aircraft wing, makes Aerosol Jet an ideal solution for reducing device size and weight. Common electronic materials including conductor, dielectric, resistor, and semiconductor inks can be processed by the Aerosol Jet system to print conformal sensors, antennae, shielding and other active and passive components. Printing these electronic components directly on or inside the physical device eliminates the need for separate printed circuit boards, cabling and wiring thereby reducing weight and size while also simplifying the assembly process. Device performance can also be improved by eliminating protruding components such as antenna thereby reducing aerodynamic drag. 

When you can 3D print electronics, what will you design? How much is the ability worth to you? Do you think this will be another game changer?

11 comments

  1. Ben

    I am so so SO ready for this capability!! One of my main focuses in 3D printing is making RC aircraft parts. Having the ability to lay in connectors and wire pathways would greatly increase the level of component integration possible. For the longest time I’ve known that this is where 3D-printing was headed, it was just a matter of time. And make no mistake, this isn’t the end. As cool as this capability is, it’s not the pinnacle of what can be done with Additive Manufacturing. Keep pushing the envelope people!

  2. Stony Smith

    I would LOVE to print small motors!
    I’d also like to embed the circuitry for LEDs, etc into some designs.
    That’s just the beginning!

    1. Ayman Azmy

      I second that… The circuitry for LEDs integrated into the body of a model, plus other circuity for battery power, switch control etc… it would be fantastic!

  3. Oisin Conolly

    Bringing the ability to print our own circuits onto our 3D models really opens up the possibilities of what we can create, and prototype.
    This is bringing us so much closer to true ubiquitous computing!

  4. Tommi P. Laiho

    If 3D printer can print electronics it can then print 3D printers. When 3D printer prints another printer and these two printers print four printers following the sequence 2,4,8,16,32, 64, 128, 256, and so on we will have pretty soon enormous amount of 3D printers with a low cost.

    1. Duann

      YES, the RepRap will be 100% replicatable

  5. Luis

    I don’t know why this has taken so long, especially since electrically conducting polymers have been available for a long time.
    Emissive (such as OLED’s) are more recent, but not by much either.

    Cheers,

    Luis.

  6. T Rust

    Printed circuit boards are inexpensive, not difficult to make and a lot more batch oriented. The electronics industry has done a phenomenal job of shrinking geometries to pack enormous power in a tiny space for next to nothing.
    Back in 94 I built the first Nanochip – a device designed to use arrays of tiny needles to write data bits on an atomic scale. Grew to 40 people, partnership with Intel, $40m in funding by 2007, writing data bits down to 20nm (that nanometers or billionth of a meter, about 100 atoms across). I spent a lot of time fiddling with atoms – moved single carbon atoms, even made the first diamond wheel by blasting holes in diamond films. IBM had a similar project the Millipede melting pits in polycarbonate.
    Yes, you can use these tiny needles to draw conductors, insulators, and even semiconductor devices. You can etch, deposit, and analyse on an atomic scale. We also figured by using arrays, we could draw at speeds fast enough to make it a competitive technology to lithography.
    Right when Nanochip had working prototypes of a 30Gbyte on a chip device (without embedded electronics), and after getting another $25m in funding, the stock market crashed, and that same investor pulled out its funding. 6 months later Nanochip was gone.
    It typically took 3-6 months for each iteration of the Nanochip – imagine trying to reinvent the disk drive form the ground up – a painfully long time. The simplest version we ever made was 8 mask layers, the most complex was getting into the 20s of mask layers and multiple chips bonded together. One tiny mistake in a mask could mean months and tens of thousands of $ wasted. We used every modeling tool & trick in the book to save time & $. Full mechanical/electrical/thermal coupled etc simulations. In the early days I worked in the Stanford & UC Berkeley Nano and Microlabs and did all the semiconductor processing myself – and I have to admit it was cool and fun. It was a never ending race to keep up with the rest of the memory markets, yet we kept the compelling story going for 14 years.
    The objects we drew with atomic probes were so small optical microscopes could not see them. Even SEMs had a hard time seeing them – we typically used the same tools being used to MAKE the parts to SEE them.
    I have to admit its awfully nice to have something I can hold in my hands and work & play with, made by 3D printers, in a few weeks rather than many months, and for just a few $.
    THIS is the revolution.

  7. Darla

    Hi everyone.
    I am convinced that 3D Printing has much. But today I have a problem, I can not find a print-ready stl files. Help find. Share your experiences, where you take ready stl files? And also, sites where you can introduce edits to ready stl files.
    Gratefully Darla Grekhem

  8. Urika

    even sky is not the limit with 3d printing. You think it will be possible to print chargers? electric copper cables?

  9. George Wilson

    Just the model for Googles solar inverter contest. Print directly to surface of panel. Design for serial and parallel applications.

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