Rhys Jones has been working on 3D printing circuits using a RepRap printer. He has recently made enough progress to have a working circuit.
One of the main problems I previously had was solubility. Running molten metals were acting as solvents for my heated nozzle – resulting in the nozzle slowly dissolving during a print. At the end of my last post I’d just tried using anodising to create a strong oxide layer on the surface of an aluminium nozzle to protect it, and that the results were promising after little running – I’ve done hundreds of hours printing since and as far as I can tell no damage has been done and its still in its original condition.
Here is a stab at the Arduino compatible Sanguino board (albeit simplified). It’s pretty standard except we’ve removed the reset circuitry and alot of the pins. We still have 4 controllable pins, one for the LED and three spare for something fun in future. Once again the plastic was printed before dropping in pre-tinned components and finally printing the metal tracks.
While this method of making circuits is unlikely to be cheaper than other methods of circuit fabrication it offers some interesting opportunities not found in other methods. These include complex multi-layer circuits with components embedded arbitrarily at any layer.