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.
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?