Welcome! Log In Create A New Profile


PCB Printing add-on: Is it worth it to develop a drop-in filament replacement (or additional head) that prints "wires", resistors, inductors, etc. from scratch?

Posted by Simba 
I've read that this is the holy grail of 3D printing - to print both physical structure and electrical wiring - i.e. to print a PCB! I thought this would be super exciting but I got no response from my post in the general area.... [forums.reprap.org]. Perhaps it's been talked to death, but I haven't seen ANY progress that I would consider adaptable to today....Obviously, printing wires would be a fundamental element of the reprap of the future (Structural supports, high temperature materials, conductive materials, printable magnets, and soft/rubbery materials) as the 5 fundamental elements of a non-food replicator!

Anyways, is this NOT something that is needed? I thought it would be super valuable if the replacement was a drop-in, meaning you print like you print ABS, just switch filaments and print wiring direct. The mechanical properties would be similar to ABS, such that you could rely on adhesion to previous layers, and even coat the wires with non-conductive ABS so it is insulated properly. With a dual extrusion nozzle, speed and 3D wiring is also possible.

What do you think? Is it worth spending some time innovating here? The lab where I got my degree works on conductive polymers and I might be able to achieve this goal, but now that I've graduated I may do a kickstarter (obviously) if there is traction so I can source the parts. Is anyone game?

Measure once, Cut twice, Print 3 times.
Is it worth doing? Yes! But it will be a while before the circuits or motors built by a reprap can compete with conventional pcbs or motors.

If someone needs a motor or a pcb it is faster and cheaper to use the traditional methods for obtaining them (i.e. buy an off-the-shelf motor or order a conventionally made pcb). The quality-to-price ratios for these pieces of modern technology are very high.

There is little interest in this because many people do not see the point in working hard to get a reprap to produce functional but inferior electronic components. These processes are at an early stage in development so naturally the results will be inferior. But one of the characteristics of disruptive innovation is that the initial products are inferior by comtemporary standards. This work is eventually going to pay off.

There is good reference information in these links:
A new approach to printing metals
Automated Circuitry Making
Conductive Materials

I have done some work with printable stepper motors and printable solenoids. You can find some of it here:
Castable Motor
Castable Solenoid
PCB Motor

In the long run I don't think the low temp metals are the right way to go. I really like things like the SpoolHead

This is really great work. I looked at all your links and though I agree it is super preliminary to be comparable to off the shelf parts, imagine where we would be at if the same level of industrialization that went into commercial parts went into making 3D printed copper wire, magnets, and plastic or metal housing?

Just to clarify, my goal isn't to make lame "conductive" ABS that you can run LED's off of. My goal is to make an ABS polymer that conducts about on par with Lead, Tin, and Platinum (conductivity = 5e6 S/m) or even closer to copper. I don't know if you see it, maybe I'm too early on this one, but I believe with this level of ABS printing, we will be able to make the first ONE pound hold torque stepper from scratch, where all you'd have to do is add the magnetic core. Mathematically speaking, you only need to print 8 m of coils with a wire cross section of 1mm^2, and thats not unfeasible in 3D. With almost no additional work besides the design, this becomes very competitive with existing stepper as far as overall performance, however it will be different:

-3D printed ABS steppers would need bearings and the magnetic cores could fall out unless they are encased in ABS - may need a pick and place machine for the magnets.
-Conductive ABS would still become too soft around 80 deg C, and may cause warping of the surrounding structure
-Bearings are needed, but non-bearing designs are possible.
-Power to weight ratios would kill any existing stepper on the market
-Overall efficiency and force would be weaker than a market stepper

But given those limitations, I can very easily see someone printing AND selling $10 steppers, in the next 5 years that can compete with an average Kysan Nema 17. The overall cost might be $0.50 for a stepper, now how cool is that? Because of this you can make much cheaper repraps and begin a field where people believe in and experiment with printed electromagnetic actuators. Today, I think the overwhelming opinion that they won't be useful soon enough is a little too pessimistic, especially if I can make the kind of plastic composite conductor I aim to create.

Also cool: Speakers, header pins, PCB holders, female wire clips, endstops, solenoids, etc... all printed with great ease (Except for the neodymium component). It's more than a game changer. We are talking about getting close to printing something like a cheap Segway, from scratch, in say, the next 5-10 years. It might even work more than a few dozen uses.

Actually I think printing PCB's should be on the later things we focus on. The pick and place devices and soldering mechanisms out there are extremely, ridiculously fast in comparison to a reprap. Plus, I don't believe Pick and place is a fair reprap device because you really seriously consider something as sophisticated as an IC package to count as a "raw" feedstock. What is cool is when we start printing doped conductor next to undoped, or print high resistance and low resistance conductive ABS, with all those possibilities, we'll have a re-evolution of the microfabrication era where we start with 0.1mm resolution and work our way back down to the nanometer era, following moores law, with continuing reprap speed improvements, this community could seriously be printing a basic PCB + some electronic components (diodes, transistors, resistors, inductors). That's a lot more "replicator" than pick and place. But if the hobbyist really wanted to make PCB's, using a reprap format make sense, it just doesn't make too much sense to integrate it with a 3d structural dispenser, does it?
... we discussed and tried some of this over the years - read through the SpooHead-Wiki ... and especially through the discission-page (click there on the "dicussion" tab, as it seems to be not linkable)

... and/or read through the links in my posts to 'reprap without steppers ...'

Some years ago I was experimenting with high conductive 2K-glues (mostly Polyimide filled with silver-flakes), US- or laser-bonding of gold- and platinum wires to small pads and mixing gold-tin microspheres with Dexpanthenol to a dispensable paste, I've placed single droplets of maybe 50 microns diameter over thin wires (10µ and 1µ) and fused them with a IR-diodelaser to the pads.

The conclusion - its working with conducting polymers, but way to expensive for DIY compared to the 'oldstyle' wire-wrapping and some tinkering with placing/cutting heads or cheap high power IR-diodelasers ...

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/17/2012 02:39AM by VDX.

Aufruf zum Projekt "Müll-freie Meere" - [reprap.org] -- Deutsche Facebook-Gruppe - [www.facebook.com]

Call for the project "garbage-free seas" - [reprap.org]
I've seen very little mention of it on here, but check out this study on using silver nitrate with ascorbic acid as a reducing agent to produce highly-conductive electronic components from an inkjet.
Your efforts are very welcome.
I was thinking about a polymer paste applied on PLA or ABS, maybe in printed grooves. Later i would apply a layer of solder on the whole issue.
Unfortunately i have no experience with polymers. Could be possible from what i have heard about polymers.

How conductive are those polymers? Could you blend them with metal powder? Do they degenerate fast? Are there polymers which bind with solder? What does bind with PLA/abs?
I have played around a little with ideas for a stepper that could be printed, but I took the easier route of printing moulds first.

I tried FIMO with embedded stainless steel wool fragments, but it's probably not "magnetic" enough. FIMO got a bit too fragile with more than about 50% metal powder embedded in it, so probably some sort of glue as a binder would be better. There are also commercially available polymer coated metal powders.

I found that soy wax was a good release agent for printed ABS moulds and FIMO parts btw.

The design I have in mind is a NdFeB ring magnet stacked between a pair of "printed" notched rings for the rotor and printed notched "heads" for soft iron electromagnets. I don't think the steps per rev will be very high, but maybe planetary gears can make up for that.
Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.

Click here to login