Chad Jackson

Nano Dimensions: Is 3D Printing for Electronics Feasible?

April 15, 2019

Nano Dimensions provides 3D printing solutions for electronics. It is early but they are getting some traction and making this concept real. This post reviews what they can do.

Nano Dimensions: Is 3D Printing for Electronics Feasible?

Nano Dimensions: It’s a new type of 3D printing for electronics. 

Tiny Boards, Huge Possibilities

This discussion might be difficult to separate from the application of 3D printing to electronics because Nano Dimensions is one of the first companies offering a product in this space. The fundamental idea here is being able to print conductive material (like metals) alongside non-conductive material (like plastics), but with properties that kind of mirror the substrates that you see in printed circuit boards.

By putting down multiple layers, you can essentially build up a 3D circuit board over time. There are some advantages in having the capability in-house. It enables you to build a prototype very, very quickly. It supports the concepts of Scrum and Agile and minimal viable products to validate, in design, that you’re going in the right direction.

But the bigger advantage here is that it can fundamentally change how you design electronics, like circuit boards. Traditionally you’ve had a circuit board which goes in an enclosure that protects it, and maybe assists with structural aspects. It can aid in sweeping away the thermal and high heat air. Now start thinking about 3D printing. There’s some real potential here. Maybe the board and the enclosure become one part. Maybe you have the electronics start to take a 3D shape.

We already know that circuit boards are being jammed into all sorts of difficult spaces today. With Nano Dimensions, you can design those electronics to go in these unusual spaces. Additionally, you can address the thermal issues found in circuit boards in new and unusual ways.

Ahead of the Game

There’s a ton of potential for circuit boards and 3D printing here. The outstanding challenge is how you design for it. Today, with many EDA or ECAD solutions, you’re designing in planes. You have layers. It assumes you’re going to manufacture the item in a traditional way, not through 3D printing.

Here’s something else to consider. When will the software providers of those ECAD solutions (like Mentor, Cadence, and Zuken) support a tool set that can automate the process? Today, almost everyone uses auto routing for traces. They do a large amount of design rule checking to make sure it conforms to the specifications.

Because circuit boards are getting so complex, it has become increasingly hard to design them manually. To really enable 3D printing for circuit boards, you need some capabilities to automate the process for engineers. Nano Dimensions is one of the few companies exploring this, although some others are looking at it right now. To really enable this capability, you must have the software.

Last point. A lot of companies will look at this and say, “Hey, it’s not ready,” right? The software isn’t ready, and the technology overall is still in the early stages. But for the right company that is willing to experiment and explore, maybe use some duct tape to make it work, there’s a huge opportunity to differentiate that company’s products. You can be truly innovative with this approach, and that can make a huge difference in the market.

That would be my one take away. If you’re one of those companies that is really good at adopting new technologies, and making it work for you, then this might be a really good fit.

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