Today, PCBs are still made using a traditional subtractive process, in which the entire surface of the PCB is typically coated with copper and areas that are not needed are etched away from the board. It’s like taking a lot of material out of a piece of wood to get the desired shape and structure, and there’s a lot of waste in the process.
The 3D-print-additive manufacturing approach is the opposite of subtracting. Instead of etching the copper off the FR4 substrate, you start with a thin FR4 substrate and then use conductive ink to add copper traces. This leads to material savings, where 3D printing-additive manufacturing can reduce material costs and waste by up to 90%, and frees up the freedom to design and innovate.
It is precisely this characteristic that makes 3D printing PCB have the potential of paradigm shift.
– Save materials, more environmental protection
– The circuit board manufactured by additive manufacturing process can provide:
– Higher board density, smaller area of routing.
– Consistent path definition and path width can improve signal integrity.
– Thinner, more flexible circuits are ideal for wearable applications.
– More consistent electrical and mechanical properties.
– Electronics with flexible/rigid circuits and varying trace thickness have better quality control.
There are two additive manufacturing solutions for electronic products -3D printing and 2D printing.
In 3D printing, circuit boards are printed layer by layer from scratch using a variety of conductive inks, gels and a substrate made at the nanoparticle level.
Electronic printers include inkjet technology, material extrusion technology and Aerosoljet technology.
Hardware and software evolve together
3D printing of PCB is still very new, mainly due to material complexity and extrusion requirements. In 2019, DragonFlyPro3D Printing has produced the world’s first 3D printed PCB side assembly technology. Dragonfly’s precision additive manufacturing system enables 3D printing and welding of components on top, bottom and sides of the PCB. This manufacturing capability adds valuable space to the PCB, essentially meaning that the design engineer can increase the board’s functionality by adding components when they are mounted on the side of the board without increasing the size of the PCB itself. DragonFlyLDM printing technology is a breakthrough system launched by NanoDimension on 24 July 2019. DragonFlyLdm leverage the capabilities of the award-winning DragonFlyPro system with the latest proprietary technology to enable 24/7 non-stop 3D printing.
Improvements include a new advanced print head software management algorithm and the ability to automatically clean the print head every few hours. On the other hand in additive manufacturing, there is 2D inkjet printing. These machines use print heads that print conductive traces on flat, horizontal substrates. It’s important to note that these desktop PCB3D printers need to work seamlessly with the design. AutodeskFusion360’s Eagle software is a powerful and practical PCB PCB design software, software includes schematic editor, PCB editor and automatic cabling module.
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