Today, 3D printing or additive manufacturing (AM) is not a new word any more. Browsing through any technology news website, you will find 1 or 2 articles about 3D printing almost every day. This relative new technology has been undergoing rapid development since the early 2000s.
Now, there is a 3D printer that uses chocolate and sugar to make candies , a 3D bio-printer to create a liver which functions the same way as a real liver and NASA has sent a 3D printer into space to test 3D printing in the Zero-G environment . Canalys predicts that the size of the market, including 3D printer sales, materials and associated services will rise to $16.2 billion by 2018 .
Obviously, as the technology advances, 3D printing is going to have a profound impact on the manufacturing industry. But how is 3D printing going to influence the electronic industry? At CES this year, a startup company, Voxel8, sheds some light on this topic with their first 3D electronics printer . This groundbreaking technology uses ink made of silver particles, which has a resistivity of less than 5.00×10-7 Ω-m. The Volex8 printer is able to print the physical structure and circuitry simultaneously . Here is a video on the details of the printer:
Another area where 3D printing may impact the electronics industry is the PCB board.
According to David ten Have, CEO of Ponoko a 3D printing company, printing the actual circuit boards are probably only 18 to 24 months away . With the accuracy and flexibility of 3D printing, this technology will offer potential cost savings and endless options of shape in the PCB industry. One day we may be able to place individual components and then print the PCB board accordingly to match the design , which will change the design of electronics completely. Experts are expecting to see major cost savings, environmental impacts and faster production cycles .
It is possible to see future changes in electronics manufacturing with the 3D electronic printing technology. The low cost, flexibility and fast speed of 3D printers will help ODM with initial design and prototypes of new products. Someday, distributors in the electronics industry probably will not only source components but also ink for 3D printers. When will that day come? We don’t know, but we shall see.