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Desktop 3D printer presages the future of multi-layer circuit board design

Lucas Mearian | May 11, 2017
Nano Dimension's Dragonfly 2020 can produce functioning circuit board prototypes in hours.

nano dimensions's dragonfly

An Israel-based provider of 3D printing technologies and nano-inks is now shipping a desktop machine to beta customers that can produce multi-layer circuit boards.

Nano Dimension's Dragonfly 2020 is a desktop 3D printer that can produce circuit board prototypes and small production runs, potentially reducing development time from weeks to hours, according to Amit Dror, co-founder and CEO of the startup.

The Dragonfly 2020 uses an inkjet-like material deposition method followed by a heat-based curing system to create the printed circuit boards (PCBs), and it has no limit to the number of layers beyond the mechanical height of the printer's z axis.

The printer works by first depositing a dialectic insulating material and a silver-based nano-ink for circuitry on top of it.

None of the nano-inks extruded by the 3D printer start at room temperature; before they are desposited on the print platform, they go through process called curing and sintering, which bakes the materials to get rid of solvents, then they are melted further before being extruded, Dror said.

Nano Dimension Dragonfly 2020 3D printer
A printed circuit board being removed from the Dragonfly 2020 3D printer.

"The nano silver particles get melted at very low temperatures -- something like 100 and 200 degrees Celsius," he said. "Once they're sintered, the nano-ink becomes solid silver. It won't melt again until the temperature hits 900 Celsius."

"In fact, to our best knowledge, we're only company that can print two types of materials -- dialectic and conductive -- that can withstand high temperatures with high resolution," Dror added.

The Nano Dimension Dragonfly 2020 can print conductive traces that are about 100 microns in width; the machine makes several passes to create the width required for one line.

When commercially available, the 3D printer will have cost around $200,000, Dror said.

Nano Dimension 3D printer circuit boards
Nano Dimension. The Dragonfly 2020 extruding melted silver-based nano ink.

Nano Dimension, founded in 2012, first unveiled the Dragonfly 2020 at the SolidWorks World conference in January 2016. That same year, Nano Dimension was added to Gartner's "Cool Vendors in 3D Printing" report. In that report, Gartner stated the company's printed circuit boards (PCBs) technology "potentially enables scalable production of custom products. This puts Nano Dimension's PCB printer at the convergence of electrical, mechanical and software design and manufacturing."

Gartner added that the PCBs could "have unique signatures that make counterfeiting of the item with a custom 3D-printed PCB difficult if not impossible."

 

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