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The Intersection of Printed Electronics and 3D Printing

By David Savastano, Editor | 11.24.15

New 3D printers offer the capability of printing conductive materials.

I recently attended Printed Electronics USA 2015, organized by IDTechEx, in Santa Clara, CA. IDTechEx hosted a variety of co-located programs during PE USA 2015, including a two-day session on 3D printing that was well attended.
 
3D printing is a really fascinating technology that is drawing a lot of attention right now, and rightfully so. There are major advantages to the technology, particularly in the area of prototyping, which can be less costly and a lot faster.
 
I had not seen a tremendous amount of overlap between flexible and printed electronics and 3D printing until this year, though. The 2015 show was very different in this regard; consider these developments:
 
Nano Dimension showed both its AgCite silver nano inks as well as its new DragonFly 2020 3D Printer for multi-layer printed circuit board (PCB) prototypes.
 
Voxel8 showcased its 3D Electronics Printer, which can co-print materials such as thermoplastics and highly conductive silver inks,and the company reports that its first generation inks are 5000 times more conductive than conductive pastes and filaments that are being used in 3D printing.
 
PV Nano Cell received the IDTechEx award for Best  Development in Materials for 3D Printing for its Sicrys portfolio of single-crystal, nanometric, metal-based, conductive inks, which are being used in major 3D printers.
 
The ability to use conductive materials in conjunction with 3D printing has many benefits. I mentioned prototyping; printed circuit board projects can be done in-house in a day rather than much longer.
 
As 3D printing gains in performance, it will become more mainstream. The ability to print with conductive inks offers both 3D and flexible and printed electronics new avenues for growth.