Apr. 20, 2015 | By Simon

Although they may not be receiving as much attention as more traditional 3D printers that are focused on creating physical objects that replace a range of manufacturing processes ranging from injection molding and die casting, the potential for PCB-based 3D printers has generated a lot of excitement for those who would benefit from creating custom PCB boards with ease.  

Among others, Nano Dimension, an Israel-based public company, unveiled their new Dragonfly 2020 3D system at an event held in Tel-Aviv, Israel late last week.  

"We all wish that developing multi-layer professional PCBs was faster and more flexible," says the company.   "That's why we're making a 3D PCB printer and a suite of nano-technology inks specifically for PCB professionals."

The printer, which uses advanced 3D inkjet deposition technology and accompanying insulating and conductive nano-inks to create printed circuit boards (PCBs), aims to create some of the most advanced PCBs that the market has ever seen.  Currently, the printer (as presented last week) is still in the prototyping stage, however the company is expecting to release it in 2016 to the public.  

At its core, the system is able to print multi-layered electric circuits with ten or more layers in a matter of hours.  The company even has an exclusive license to use silver nano-particle processes that were developed by Professor Shlomo Magdassi, a nanotechnology expert from nearby Hebrew University of Jerusalem and were patented by the school’s technology transfer company.  

Similar to existing 3D printers that are intended to create physical objects quickly for prototyping and final method of manufacture purposes, the Dragonfly 2020 3D system is intended for use in the rapid prototyping process for those needing PCB iterations done quickly and don’t want to rely on larger breadboard systems or delayed development due to orders and shipments. 

In addition to cutting down the development time for multi-layered electronic circuits, the technology will also drastically cut down costs and allow developers to keep their entire prototyping process in-house for both intellectual property purposes as well as ease of development.

Among other user-friendly features of the printer and accompanying ink include the ability to be soldered after printing, can be used like existing copper based PCBs that exist today without the need to replace tools or existing development processes, no limit to the layer height and will function with all Gerber files regardless of their source.

"The Nano Dimension PCB printer is a highly-accurate and versatile inkjet deposition system for printing multi-layer circuit boards," added the company.  "The innovative hardware, dedicated nano-inks and novel software bring new possibilities to a wide range of R&D, prototyping and custom manufacturing projects."

Although the cost is yet to be determined, the company is expecting to open the pre-orders in early 2016.  For those with the need to quickly iterate with PCBs, the Dragonfly looks to be a highly-reliable system for rapidly speeding up development time.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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K.Rubin wrote at 4/21/2015 9:43:23 PM:

I have built many high-end boards, such as Andreas speaks. However, there are many cases where high performance is not required -- slow processors and clocks, low power operation, & prototyping. This printer is clearly not for production boards. There are times when you just need to test a circuit or a chip, or need to build a larger board with lots of test points and options, prior to a production design. There are also cases where you only need one or two boards, like test fixtures. Of course, everybody wants instantaneous turns. If this printer works, lots of people, like me, will buy one, unless there are too many peculiarities, or the price is ridiculous.

Andreas wrote at 4/21/2015 7:42:38 AM:

Interesting. Still not convinced about these pcb-printers tho. In state of the art multilayer boards there is more going on than just "connect A to B". Does that ink they print provide similar dielectric properties like we can see in FR4 TG135 or TG150? If not, then they are clearly not ready to go to market with it, as for me it is critical that you can have similar plane-to-plane capacitors and trace impedances on a prototype as you would get out of a glass-epoxy board, or the prototype might perform completely different (or not at all). If they however got that ink tuned to behave at least in the sub 1GHz domain like normal pcbs would, then they clearly have a bright future and a very broad market to work on.

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