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The days of producing a PCB prototype with a 3D printer may not be as distant as you think. I spoke with Simon Fried of Nano Dimension about how 3D printing is becoming a reality, and how this disruptive technology will change the way designers produce rapid prototypes.
Barry Matties: Why don’t you first tell us a little bit about what Nano Dimension does?
Simon Fried: Nano Dimension is a company that is merging the worlds of printed electronics and 3D printing. It’s taking printed electronics, which was a 2D space, putting conductor materials down onto films, and adding that additional material so that you can start building multi-layered circuits. What we’ve developed is a 3D printer that prints multi-layered PCBs right on your desktop in an overnight process.
Matties: Obviously you’re targeting the prototype market—people who just want to produce working prototypes in their office.
Fried: Absolutely. This is for that engineer who’s developing a PCB who needs to do rapid development, quick iterations, has a broad range of different PCBs, and can adapt on the fly to the developments as the development process progresses. It minimizes the risk of changing the PCB design. It allows you perhaps to be more innovative because you’re not going to have to sit around waiting to find out if that great idea you just had is actually going to work. It saves you time, it’ll save you money, but it will also change the way that people work when they’re developing PCBs. It’ll allow you to do things that you otherwise wouldn’t. If you compare that to the way 3D printing affected the prototyping of other objects, like engineering and design, what’s happened in those spaces once 3D printing arrived is they did significantly more prototyping. They found that at the end they were getting better products more rapidly because exploration and innovation became that much easier.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of The PCB Magazine.