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3d printing PCB

Posted by Matthijsb00 
3d printing PCB
April 10, 2017 05:51AM
Hello everyone,

I am going to make a 3d printer which can print PCBs. I would like to ask you what it must be capable of to be of use to you. So far we have come up with these:
The time it takes to print a PCB should be within a reasonable amount of time.
People with basic knowlegde of electronics and programming must be able to use it with reasonble ease.
The maximum voltage of the PCBs must be 5V or more.
The PCB should have reasonable temperatures during the printing process
The printer must also be able to print the materials a normal 3d printer uses.

Please note that were students and that we dont have acces to a unlimited amount of money.

Thank you for replying
Matthijsb00
VDX
Re: 3d printing PCB
April 10, 2017 06:33AM
... a normal PCB is mainly made of conductive tracks - the base material is only selected for non-conductivity, so can be of any (nc.) material.

Are you planning to build a metal printer?


Viktor
Re: 3d printing PCB
April 10, 2017 08:30AM
At this moment, we want to print solder on a non conductive material, because it has a meltingpoint between 200 an 250 °C and a low resistance. With the solder we want to print tracks, just as on a normal PCB.

Matthijsb00
VDX
Re: 3d printing PCB
April 10, 2017 10:11AM
... solder tends to form blobs and to "avoid" thin gaps ... it's too not trivial to place and solder the electronic components on solder pads, as they "retract" when remelted again.

Better look into a sort of laser-sintering with solder coated copper powder instead of solder paste or such ...


Viktor
Re: 3d printing PCB
April 10, 2017 10:27PM
I will definately have a look at that, thank you for the tip.

We wanted to solve the problem of soldering the components on the pcb by letting the printer do it, so just taping them to the upper side of the pcb and letting the printer solder them while he is laying the tracks of solder on the bottom side. But maybe this problem is solved with the copper powder.

Matthijsb00
VDX
Re: 3d printing PCB
April 11, 2017 06:36AM
... another related idea (discussed some 5+ years ago) is to place the electronic components (and nails/pins) backside down onto a printed plate (top housing part), print/fill the gaps between them with plastic (mainly for stability), then use the stone-old "wire-wrap" technique (with soldering assistance) to draw wire connections between the pins, and last cover/close the wire layer with plastic to get a stable basis or even the bottom housing part, so the complete module will be ready to use, when removed from the print bed winking smiley


Viktor
Re: 3d printing PCB
April 11, 2017 08:59AM
It is definately a smart idea, but I'm not sure if its the perfect idea for us. What we want is to make it less time consuming for the custormer. This is definately a way to do that, but you're other idea, with the copper powder and the laser, is less time consuming.

Thanks for all the great ideas,
Matthijsb00
Re: 3d printing PCB
April 13, 2017 06:17PM
There is some potential here but a LOT of challenges. Probably the biggest one is that solder isn't attracted to plastic. It takes flux just to get it to stick to metal. Maybe a flux impregnated substrate would work but I wonder what the costs would be to the end user. Another problem is that most PCBs are at least two layer. You would have to figure out printing vias. Although, if you can figure out how to allow two traces to cross you might be able to put everything on a single side. I could see using a dual extruder, one with conductor and one with an insulator. Another problem is about accuracy. While zits, blogs and other errors are ok with a simple print, there is no tolerance for that - a lot semiconductors have leads that are .5 mm apart. I'm not sure what the max nozzle size would be but I bet it's at most .25mm.

But why are you using solder at all? It's not a terribly good conductor and you can get conductive plastic. For a large class of application, you don't need much current capacity at all so conductive plastic might be fine.
Re: 3d printing PCB
June 21, 2017 06:27PM
I think that anyone is enough volume for a printer like this to be appealing would much rather buy machines meant to this

[voltera.io]
Re: 3d printing PCB
August 09, 2017 01:04AM
Quote
Qdeathstar
I think that anyone is enough volume for a printer like this to be appealing would much rather buy machines meant to this

[voltera.io]

And what's stopping us from attaching a small paste extruder to our printer and print the PCB with silver ink with the same technique as the product in your link ? It's already working, the silver ink is sticking well to the PCB and after drying, you can solder your components manually or even lay solder paste with the printer itself if you work with SMD components.

The silver ink paste extruder will have to be small and precise, but nothing impossible to achieve ! The 0.2 or 0.3 airbrush nozzles are perfect for laying down the paste as they don't smear or flatten it.

Conductive Silver paint is not cheap though ..
VDX
Re: 3d printing PCB
August 09, 2017 01:28AM
... if you find old infos about the fab@home project (started at same time as RepRap, but didn't get same attention) -- they used dispensers instead of extruders and too tested "printing" with conductive pastes to create PCB's.

I'm using "jetting" dispensers for glues and solder-paste too ... but it's pretty pricey, so not suited for DIY eye rolling smiley

Here a sample, printed with solder paste on paper:



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/09/2017 01:28AM by VDX.

Viktor
Re: 3d printing PCB
August 22, 2017 02:33AM
I like the idea very much and it reminded me on what I found at a german company called "Multec" and I liked the idea of integrating this in my designs to let away the cables. I hate cables.
They sell or sold conductive PLA, at the moment it is not available - perhaps there are others that can deliver similar filaments? Did not do a research in this.

Here is the link:
[www.multec.de].
Re: 3d printing PCB
August 23, 2017 09:00AM
Two thoughts on this:
1. Have you seen CNC PCB milling machines? A lot of similarities: but they are subtractive, rather than additive.
2. Conductive Epoxy is starting to make inroads into commercial PCB technology instead of solder. This might be a better medium to print with.

To be frank, you've got no chance of 3d printing solder and getting it to stay put: solder is sociable: i.e. it prefers the company of other solder. Although you could easily jet out solder paste, the moment the board is heated, it'll gloop together and break your tracks.

Mat
VDX
Re: 3d printing PCB
August 24, 2017 01:12AM
... for this "sociable solder" (as I've written in my second answer):

Quote

... Better look into a sort of laser-sintering with solder coated copper powder instead of solder paste or such ...


Viktor
Re: 3d printing PCB
October 04, 2017 03:28AM
I am experimenting with printing PLA, two layers, on a full copper top PCB and etching away everything that is not covered by the PLA. Seems to work, but getting the PLA to grip to the copper is not easy. I rough the copper with fine sandpaper (1000 grid) and apply hairspray. It sticks during printing, but it sometimes comes loose during etching.

Hugo
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