Electronics devices have continued to witness massive reductions in their overall size in the past many decades. However, there are limitations to silicon technology that become blatantly obvious after electronic parts are further reduced after a point, making extra shrinking of size of electronic devices difficult. Nevertheless, as 3D printed circuits increasingly become a reality, a number of companies are investing in R&D activities in the field of this novel technology. The field is observing vast developments owing to technological advances in a number of related sectors such as conductive ink, printed circuits, printers that work on multiple substrates, and alloys that make 3D printing inks more effective and resistant to problems such as oxidation.
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3D printing technology is also becoming the key technology to print circuit boards, a trick that could help designers obtain prototypes to their works in a quicker manner. With 3D printed circuit boards available easily, designers are increasingly benefitting from not having to buy additional boards that are never used. Along with circuit boards, several companies across the globe are increasingly experimenting with printed sensors as well.
As 3D printed electronics achieve the level of conductivity, dielectric behavior, and thermal stability comparable with traditional electronics, the technology will witness a massive rate of adoption across a number of application areas. The minute scale of product dimensions achieved with 3D printed electronics could massively benefit a number of end-use sectors, such as wearable technology.
Three dimensional printed electronics or 3D printed electronics is one of the fastest growing technologies in the electronics sector. 3D printers enable printing of nano scale circuits on various substrates and materials, with high accuracy. The 3D printing of electronics requires 3D printers, tailored to the printing of electronic circuits. Hence these printers are different from those 3D printers which are used to develop prototypes of electronics and equipments among others. 3D printed electronics can be utilized to print on glass, plastics, ceramics and other materials including 2D and 3D substrates. 3D printing of electronics allows for interconnect printing on 2D and 3D substrates, multilevel interconnect printing by usage of dielectric material as printing material, and conformal interconnects on 3D surfaces among others. 3D printed electronics generally utilizes nano particle inks. The inks are placed on an atomizer which creates droplets of diameters 2-5 microns. When the droplets are released by the atomizer, a mist is formed. The mist is transferred to the deposition head with the aid of sheath gas, generally compressed air or dry nitrogen. The sheath gas also aids in preventing clogging of the nozzle. The nozzle sprays the mix of printing ink mist and sheath gas over the printing surface. The whole process is guided by the computer aided design (CAD) drawings of the circuits and electronics. The printed features can have a wide thickness range, ranging from 10 microns to even 3 millimeters.
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The market for 3D printed electronics is primarily driven by the various advantages offered by usage of 3D printers. 3D printed electronics have been proven to have higher efficiency and accuracy. Also, there is less wastage in production process, as the production is strictly controlled by the CAD drawing and precise deposition of materials occurs. Additionally, 3D printing of electronics don’t require masks or stencil outlines, has a wide range of thickness options, can be printed on various materials and doesn’t require the processes of plating or etching. Furthermore, the printing process is highly scalable and can be optimized for large scale production of 3D printed electronics. Such advantages have been positively impacting the growth of the market for 3D printed electronics. However, considering the huge demand for electronics globally, 3D printers for electronics are deemed to be slower than traditionally manufactured electronics and also require to have wider application scope, for the industry to adopt the same. Currently, end users of electronics demands highly efficient devices and higher functionality of electronics. 3D printed electronics can meet such requirements. Further research and development on 3D printers and 3D printed electronics can be expected to offer good growth opportunities for this market, during the forecast period.
On the basis of type, the market for 3D printed electronics has been segmented into moulded interconnects devices, circuits, antennas and others. 3D printed antennas segment has been growing at a fast pace and is expected to maintain its fast growth pace, during the forecast period. On the basis of printer type, the market is segmented into single material and multi material. By end-use, the market has been segmented into thin aerospace & defense, automotive, consumer electronics, research and others. The global market for 3D printed electronics, by region, has been segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific (APAC), South America and Middle-East & Africa (MEA). North America was the largest market in 2016, followed by Europe and Asia Pacific. The larger market share of North America can be attributed to the faster adoption of new technology.
The major companies of the 3D printed electronics market globally are Optomec (The U.S.), Nano Dimension (Israel), Neotech AMT GmbH (Germany), Voxel8 (The U.S.) and Sculpteo (France) among various other companies.