All You Need To Know About 3d Printed Circuit Board In Electronics

3d Printed Circuit Board

We don’t mean to imply that the circuitry itself has three dimensions when we refer to it as a “3D PCB”. A printed circuit board made with a 3D printing machine is known as a 3D PCB. To save cost, the circuits on this board get printed directly onto the plain board using a 3D printer. Making circuit boards with a 3D printer eliminates the need for copper traces. The copper traces need to be etched into the substrate.

3D inkjet printing creates the circuitry for a printed circuit board. This printer makes use of a conducting substance or gel. The extruder head is another component of the 3D printer. The printer is capable of printing the circuit directly onto a blank PCB board.

Additionally, 3D-printed circuit boards are a superior option for PCB production. This is due to their ability to decrease flaws and produce fewer waste products. They have a number of advantages over the current fabrication techniques. Also, 3d PCBs have a tremendous impact on the production of electronic components.

One or both sides of a PCB can be used, thanks to the versatility of 3D printing. Another advantage is that 3D printing directly onto a flex PCB is very simple. However, it is rather difficult to create a multilayered board. Using PCB design tools can make this process simpler.

Advantages of 3D Printed Circuit Boards


1. Simpler to Make

Instead of spending hours carving out a PCB to use as a prototype, designers may simply use a 3D printer.

2. Creative Layouts

3D printers are versatile. Therefore, manufacturers can create 3D-printed circuit boards in any shape. Besides this, they can be of any size or layout manufacturers can imagine. These printed circuit boards are available in a variety of ways to accommodate various carriers. They will also keep the necessary electrical parts. That is to say, their size is flexible, depending on the requirement of the job at hand.

3. Efficiency

Less material gets wasted during the 3D printing method of making circuit boards. Because of how polished printing is, it wastes only what it needs to. Additionally, human error can be minimized in the design and manufacturing of circuits. It is possible by the use of an automated printing procedure.

4. Green

With 3D printing, there is less waste when making circuit boards. Thus even cheap, recyclable materials can be used.

Shortcomings Of 3D Printed Circuit Boards

There are benefits to using 3D printing for PCBs. But, the technology is not without limitations. Among these are:

· Problems with Software Support

The CAD software required for making circuit boards is difficult to learn and use. You’ll need extensive experience with electronic circuit design before you can begin construction.

· Conductivity of Materials

The empty trace technique uses a substance that is not as conducting as metal. The design procedure becomes more difficult by the material’s electrical resistance.

How are 3D Printed Circuit Boards Manufactured?

Making a 3D PCB is a fascinating procedure. The two most common approaches are:

1. Conducting Filament

When employing conductive filament, a 3d printing technology deposits the material following paths. The paths get planned in advance in computer-aided design software. This produces a line pattern that is reminiscent of a conventional PCB. This approach facilitates the usage of multilayered circuits. Designers are not limited to the usual shapes.

2. Hollow patterns

By using this technique, conducting material is addable to the 3D-printed voids in the traces at a later time. It’s likely that this substance will be conducting epoxy or electric paint. However, intricate patterns with many parts are beyond the scope of this technology.

A designer’s choice of approach depends upon the client’s available resources and experience, as opposed to using hollow traces, which can get quite pricey. The conductive filament method may find its implementation for much less money. The first method, however, is sometimes more involved.

Flex PCB 3D Printing Materials and Processes

3d circuit board

There is a wide range of everyday items that use printed electronics that we may not even be aware of. Displays, sensors, textiles, and RFid are examples of novel devices. Also, they may show the potential of incorporation into ordinary flex PCB substrates. These days, designers working in flex are turning to 3d printers. This seems to be an unrelated production method to create complex parts.

Resistors, transistors, and capacitors are important electronic components. They can be printed in 3D using a 3D printer and an electrically functioning ink. Producers of 3D printers are already commercializing ink droplet deposit technologies or aerosols. It helps fabricate stiff PCBs in a manufacturing setting. But, the same technique can be helpful in constructing flexible printed circuits. The article explains the printing processes and m

Why Flexible Printed Electronics?

Industry share for printed electronics is projected to increase by almost 20 billion dollars between 2020 and 2025 as the market expands fast. Automotive, medical, textile, aerospace, Internet of Things, and Industry 4.0 are important industries. They have all benefited from the advent of flexible printed circuits. As new manufacturing methods become more commonplace, designers may have easier access to the equipment. The equipment is necessary for prototyping or low-volume production.

We’ll start with the broad category of materials utilized in 3d printing technology. Both conducting inks and insulating substrates exist to facilitate the creation of flexible printed circuits.

· Substrates

The usefulness and characteristics of flexible circuits are contingent on the substrate material. The substrate needs to be flexible, of course, but it also needs to be able to both insulate and support a layer of conducting material. The substrate for three-dimensional printed flex PCBs can be polyimide, a material previously utilized in flex PCBs. Even after being thermoset, the polyamide film retains its pliability, so it can be used in a variety of applications.

Other substrate options for flexible printed circuits besides polyimide include:

  • PTFE
  • Polyesters
  • PEN
  • Semi-conductive polymers are just one type of solvent-soluble polymer.

· Inks for Printing

Additives, solvents, binders, and other functional ingredients are the typical components of printing inks. While silver is by far the most frequent conductive functional ingredient used in printing inks, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide are examples of semiconducting inks. Electronic device 3D printing requires specialized inks that may not work in many printers. Instead, consistent depositing and device yield must be designed by tailoring the aerosol jet features and viscosity of these substances.

· Flexible Electronics Printing Processes

The methods used in 3d printers must be adjusted for each material and device used in the process. Both non-impact and impact 3D printing technologies are common in electronics production.

· Impact Printing

To transfer an image from a printing plate to the substrate, as the name implies, impact printing makes use of a printing plate. Here are some applications of impact printing:

An easy method of 3d printing, screen printers use a stencil, rubber squilgee, and a screen printed with the final design. The screen might be constructed from synthetic plastic or metal fibers, or even real silk. Low-cost circuit boards (PCBs) for electronics are printable using screen printing. It results in minimal waste when compared to other printing methods. Ink with a heavy proportion of solid functional elements is essential for the process of screen printing because the ink needs to be extremely vicious.

Flexography, essentially a larger-scale variant of screen printing, is a roll-to-roll rotating indirect impact printing technology. When printing at a fixed resolution, it can produce text and images with a wide range of ink thicknesses. Unfortunately, inks having compatibility with flexography are scarce. Therefore, this printing method is rarely useful when producing flexible electronics in large quantities. The majority of work on this method is on research and development.

Printing with low-viscosity inks is no problem for gravure printing. The copper-coated iron gravure cylinders bear the etched circuit design. To coat the cylinder with ink, it is immersed in a reservoir. The ‘doctor’ blade, made of steel, is used to clean the gravure cylinder of any excess ink before it is used to transfer the picture to the substrate. The ink is pressed onto the surface at a rapid velocity by the gravure cylinder.

The aforementioned applications are amenable to using prefabricated polyimide or producing a suitable substrate material on a 3D printer.

· Non-impact Printing

In these processes, just the depositing material contacts the substrate; no image carrier or printing plate is useful. This makes the pattern alignment more accurate while decreasing the possibility of contamination and substrate damage. There are two primary printing methods for flexible circuits such as aerosol printing and inkjet printing.

Inkjet printing is a method of printing that does not require any physical image carriers. A movable print head pours ink drops directly onto the substrate. The ink used is of low viscosity. Inkjet printing excels at tasks that call for inks made of organic semiconductors or nanoparticles. Printing an entire product with any structure is possible, but the procedure is time-consuming, and throughput is minimal unless the substrate is printed with dielectric ink.

Aerosol jet printing involves the atomization of ink in an evaporator and its subsequent deposition onto a substrate by a directed jet stream. It’s a low-temperature procedure that works with a wide variety of substrates and materials. The procedure is increasable in size to accommodate mass production. Since the stream of a particle can be directed and manipulated along the z-axis, this method can also be utilized for 3D printing.

· More on Additive Processes for PCBs

Advances in 3D printing are just one example of additive manufacturing technology. They help to create flexible printed circuits. Fabricating flexible and rigid PCBs with high line densities and narrow spectral widths requires the employment of other chemical techniques, such as semi-additive manufacturing. Some of the most cutting-edge manufacturers now provide these processing functions. But, they will trickle down to more conventional fabrication service providers in the not-too-distant future. This makes them accessible to a wider range of designers.

OrCAD software from Cadence has everything you need to establish your design specifications. You can generate your PCB layout. After that, you can utilize it when you’re ready to begin building flexible printed circuits. OrCAD is the greatest PCB analysis and creation software on the market. It comes equipped with flex PCB features. Users of OrCAD have access to a wide variety of tools, including strong CAD capabilities, combined signal simulations in Pscad, and more.

Future of 3D Printed Circuit Boards

Although 3D PCBs are now only useful for prototypes, technology can advance rapidly. To ensure their designs work, engineers today use 3D PCBs. The potential is exciting. Because 3d printers will cut costs and shorten lead times, a more inventive business climate may result.

There are some potential applications, such as:

· Board Cameras

Putting a camera on a PCB is a viable option. There are no flaws in their operation, and they are useful for recording and taking still images. Smaller than a quarter, yet still equipped with an image sensor, aperture, and lens. To the consumer’s benefit, cameras of this size might be installed on almost every gadget.

Think of all the applications that could benefit from a board camera:

· Consumer Electronics

Imagine if every electronic gadget had a built-in camera. In recent years, the use of camera-equipped tablets and smartphones has increased. They are widely adopted as viable alternatives to traditional board cameras. As consumer interest in these gadgets remains high, companies will race to reduce their size. It will also assist in increasing their performance.

· Medical Equipment

Board cameras have become increasingly popular in recent years as they are useful to aid in the performance of minimally invasive operations. In addition to this, it also helps in non-invasive operations. They’ve shown to be useful tools for enhancing diagnostic precision. Pills containing these onboard cameras are useful to help doctors, such as they allow doctors to detect gastrointestinal issues and spot other abnormalities in patients. Board cameras are useful for surgeons as a form of wearable technology.

· Surveillance

Board cameras are an excellent surveillance option due to their small size. They are concealable in a variety of settings. Also, they aid law enforcement by recording videos of criminal activity. They are useful for the security of homes and businesses alike.

The potential applications of onboard cameras are extensive. Smaller, reliable board cameras are expected to become the norm as technology advances.

Advantages of 3D Printing in Medical Device Production 

Designing PCB Prototypes is simpler, quick, and inexpensive with 3D printing. It also requires no elaborate production processes. By preventing design errors in the early PCB manufacture stages. Flex PCBs are best for 3D printing. Modern layout programs make it possible to create multilayered PCBs. Increasing production technologies and software are making 3D printing more than a prototyping tool. But, a real possibility for mass production components. Hearing aids, surgical treatment, and other medical devices all had their final components made by 3d printers in recent years. More specifically, it is useful for low-volume projects.

Miniature medical gadgets are in high demand. 3D printing is the most efficient method of producing them. 3D-printed circuits have several important uses in the medical field. It includes biomedical sensing devices, surgical implants, and medical helping devices. In the future, 3D printing can aid in the development of novel treatment procedures. It also helps in supplying the pharmaceutical industry with low-cost health services.

3D Printing Technologies in Medical Device Manufacturing 

Fused deposition modeling, selective laser sintering, and stereolithography are the most popular types of 3D printing for plastic components. SLM or DMLS techniques are useable if the device’s construction involves metal. For complicated structures like prosthetics, SLS is the ideal solution, whereas SLA is best for prototyping low-volume items with tight tolerances and smooth surfaces, such as medical and dental finished parts. FDM printing is useful for rapid prototyping in metal-based applications. Strong and long-lasting components, such as orthopedic implants, are creatable using SLM or DMLS printing.

Applications of 3D Printing in Medical Devices 

· Rapid Prototypes Production

Prototyping medical PCBs is an important yet time-consuming process that requires many revisions. The versatility of 3D printing allows for the rapid prototyping of electronic circuitry. It finds application in medical equipment. Its properties, such as durability, use, and thermal resistance, may be rapidly verified. The proof of principle or investor proposal in a new design might both benefit from the utilization of a 3D prototype. The advent of 3D printing technologies has allowed for the creation of effective and individualized medical equipment.

· Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering

Regenerative medicines make use of cells, biomaterials, and other components. The purpose is to make blood vessels, synthetic skin, synthetic organs, and bones. These tissues can mimic natural organs in place of them entirely. Tissue engineering may one day replace the need for organ transplants in humans. It also helps in 3D printing. In the years to come, these advancements will have a profound effect on healthcare.

· Manufacturing of Customized Drugs

The advent of 3D printing in the pharmaceutical industry allows for the production of individualized pharmaceuticals. Based on the weight, medical history, and age of the patient, doctors can prescribe more targeted medications. Because of this, money and other resources are conversable to a great extent. Medical trials using bio-printed organs. Animals used in drug testing are experiencing less pain and suffering. This is possible as a result of this development. It boosts medication production rates.

· Inexpensive Organ Models and Prosthetics

Synthetic organs are crucial to the advancement of medicine. Since they may be used as both prostheses and models of real organs at a fraction of the cost, surgical procedures can be better understood, and patients can be better informed. It has become possible with the help of these organ models. Sadly, many people cannot afford prosthetics due to their high cost. However, thanks to 3D printing, these kinds of resources are now more affordable. Besides this, they are more widely available.

· A better lifestyle for Old People

The senior population’s quality of life has improved. Chronic diseases have long been a burden on healthcare systems. The aging of the population has increased the demand for novel therapies. The therapies help in minimizing adverse consequences. 

· Innovative Healthcare Services

Biocompatible, custom medical dressings are now within reach. The credit goes to advances in 3D printing and other cutting-edge healthcare services. These materials’ adaptability aids in rapid wound recovery. As a result of 3D printing, surgical equipment is now more precise than before. One cutting-edge method employs 3D-printed microfluidic chips to create a miniature “lab-on-a-chip.” These chips have the potential to be employed for on-the-spot diagnosis. This is possible due to their ability to spot abnormalities in the human body.

Regulations in 3D printing 

Using 3D printing technology, medical gadget production has become simpler. 3D printing has been increasingly popular in the medical device industry. This is due to its adaptability and ability to create individualized goods. It is crucial to weigh the benefits against the risks posed by medical technology. As a result, 3D-printed medical equipment requires regulatory clearance.

Based on the level of danger they pose. The Drug and Food Agency divides surgical instruments into three distinct classes. However, the FDA does have rules for 3D-printed medical equipment. Depending on the type of medical equipment, the level of scrutiny by regulators varies.

  • Handheld surgical equipment and bandages are examples of category one components.
  • Devices like blood transfusion kits and syringes fall into category 2. It has a moderate risk level.
  • Category 3 medical equipment is those that serve as life support systems. Implantable medical technology includes devices including prosthetic limbs, ventilators, defibrillators, or pacemakers. Clinical trial data in great detail is necessary. It guarantees the security of class 3 medical devices.


The ability to 3D manufacture PCBs has facilitated the increased speed. Most electrical manufacturers also report that 3d printers have helped them gain control of their manufacturing procedures. The use of 3D-printed circuit boards (PCBs) comes with many advantages.

Constructing medical gadgets via 3D printing technologies, healthcare providers give patients a better experience. The potential for growth in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries is enormous. 

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