Since the development of the first circuit board assembly, a lot has changed. The first printed circuit boards (PCB) revolutionized the electronics industry. Now, 3D printing is advancing it even further. A piece in All About Circuitsandnbsp;looks at the changes to the industry that are being brought about due to new 3D printing technology and techniques. Now, 3D printing is making the fast PCB prototype possible.
For most of the past century, most products with electronics have used wired circuit boards. Early electronics included radios that used wooden boards that had wires attached to them. These were very bulky and that system would never work for the kinds of electronic devices and appliances we use today. Today, fast PCB prototypes have multiple layers.
New PCB fabrications processes make it possible to make them en masse. This has also changed the way people interact with their electronic devices. No longer are they considered to be luxuries but are necessities that most people use each and every day. One issue that manufacturers struggle with is the detection of problems with PCBs before they hit the assembly line for the devices.
Often, problems with the PCBs are not identified until the device manufacturing process has begun. Sometimes, the issues are small and easy to deal with. The bill of materials (BOM) may need work. There may be changes that need to be made to the way the fabrication is accomplished. Regardless of the size and scope of the changes that need to be made, they always cost money and time.
Preventing these costly problems has been a goal of the fact PCB prototype process for the last four decades. As the technology has advanced, newer and more powerful computers have been used for handling fast PCB prototypes. Now, more and more companies are turning to 3D printing to handle their fast PCB prototype needs.
Pulse Electronics has now emerged as an industry leader. They have designed a printer, named the FluidWriter, that takes FluidAnt technology for printing and lets individuals and companies print directly onto three dimensional surfaces. The new kind of printer can create sensors, electrical circuits and antenna by printing conductors onto the 3D surfaces.
The printers created by Pulse Electronics can do a lot to fix problems that were discovered after the manufacturing process has been started. The example given by All About Circuits is what happens when a problem is found with the design of a smartphone. When the problem is discovered, rather than going through the manufacturer, the changes can be sent to the factory printers. If the problem is with the antenna, the changes that need to be made can be created by sending the information to the printers, which put the new antenna onto the case as needed.
There are other companies that are working on similar advancements for electronic parts to be printed. New printers that use aerosol printing to apply conductive materials onto a 3D surface. The company Optomec has designed printers that have been proven to effectively use the aerosol printing techniques for creating antennae and other kinds of sensors. Experts say the accuracy is first rate.
Printed Electronics Limited is another business that has thrown its hat into this ring. They have worked to develop electroluminescent displays and flexible PCBs. One real advancement has been the development of the Cambridge Graphene Centre graphene display. This product is the first to incorporated graphene into an electroluminescent and this was designed by Printed Electronics Limited.
It is hard to not see how much 3D printing is changing the landscape around the PCB fabrication and assembly process.This kind of printing has applications that go far beyond the PCB fabrication process. Medical researchers have been working on using stem cells to print new organs for patients who need them. These would require no immune suppression as the organs would be recognized as being healthy by the patient’s body.
As the technology becomes more commonplace and the price starts to drop, its utility will become more and more apparent. It will become more possible for people to take their design ideas and make them into products. These may be complicated projects but they will all be possible with new 3D printing processes.