3D Printed Circuit Boards What They Are & How Fast They're MadeDid you know that printed circuit boards (PCBs) may also be created via 3D printing? 3D printing has transformed the production of a vast array of goods, from toys and household goods to medical gadgets and aerospace components, and it’s so fast that it’s possible to get 3D printed circuit boards in fewer than 24 hours. 

PCBs are crucial components of many electronic devices, providing a foundation for mounting and interconnecting electrical components. PCBs may now be swiftly prototyped and customized using 3D printing, enabling faster design iterations and more agile manufacturing processes. 

In this blog article, we will delve into the realm of 3D printed circuit boards, addressing the various types of conductive materials utilized, the benefits and drawbacks of 3D printed PCBs, and the most interesting applications of this cutting-edge technology. Read on to explore the amazing potential of 3D printed circuit boards, whether you are an electronics enthusiast, a product designer, or a manufacturing specialist.


What are 3D printed circuit boards?

3D printed circuit boards (PCBs) are electronic circuits produced by a 3D printer. 3D printed circuit boards are made by depositing conductive ink layer by layer onto a substrate, such as a plastic or fiber substrate, as opposed to the conventional method of photolithography.

Typically, the creation of a 3D printed circuit board entails designing the circuit using computer-aided design (CAD) software, which allows the designer to construct a three-dimensional model of the circuit. This model is then loaded into the 3D printer, which uses conductive ink to print the circuit layer by layer.

3d printed circuit board

(Image source: Precious3d.com)

Using 3D printed circuit boards has a variety of benefits. Due to the fact that they can be made using a 3D printer, for instance, they may be rapidly prototyped, allowing designers to test and modify their designs in a timely manner. Moreover, because 3D printing facilitates the creation of complicated geometries, designers can develop circuit boards that are tailored for very specific uses, such as products with irregular shapes.

However, there are several constraints associated with the use of 3D printed circuit boards. For instance, the conductive ink used in 3D printing may not be suited for high-speed or high-frequency applications, and the printer’s resolution may not be adequate for producing circuits with very fine details.


PCB 3D printing technologies generally work in two ways

PCB 3D printing methods typically operate in one of two ways: either by printing the circuitry directly with conductive materials or by printing a circuit board with hollow channels or trenches that are later filled with conductive materials. Let’s examine what distinguishes these strategies in further detail.

1. Layering Methodology

Conductive materials are a critical component in the creation of 3D printed circuit boards. These materials are used in 3D printers to create circuitry by depositing layers of conductive ink or filament onto a substrate. There are a variety of conductive materials that can be used in 3D printing, including materials infused with silver, copper, or graphite particles.

Using conductive materials in 3D printing allows for the development of intricate, bespoke circuit designs. Because the printer can deposit conductive material layer by layer, designers may develop circuits with complex geometries that would be difficult or impossible to create using conventional PCB manufacturing techniques. In addition, 3D printing with conductive materials permits the development of circuits that can be tuned for certain applications, such as wearables or medical equipment.

Several distinct types of conductive materials can be utilized in 3D printing. Because they can be deposited by a conventional 3D printer nozzle, conductive inks are a common option, we will look at this in more detail later. 

Conductive filaments are an additional option and are often composed of conductive particles embedded into a plastic polymer, such as ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) or PLA (polylactic acid). These filaments can produce conductive objects with a range of conductivities when used in 3D printers that are intended to work with specialized filaments.

Aerosol sprays are another alternative for 3D printing with conductive materials. With specialized equipment, conductive particles are sprayed onto a substrate using this process. This method can be successful for building small, intricate circuits, but it might be challenging to obtain consistent results over huge areas.


2. Channel Fill Methodology

In addition to the conventional approach of depositing conductive material directly onto a substrate, there is another way for making 3D printed circuit boards that involves printing a substrate with channels into which the circuitry will be inserted. This approach includes printing the substrate using a non-conductive filament, such as ABS or PLA, and then depositing the conductive material into the channels after printing.

This technology permits the construction of circuit boards with a higher degree of precision and accuracy. Because the electrical material is deposited through pre-printed channels, smearing and misalignment are less likely than when the conductive material is deposited directly onto the substrate. Moreover, this technology enables the fabrication of more elaborate circuit designs, as the channels can be manipulated to follow various routes and geometries.

Yet, this technology of 3D printing circuit boards is not without its obstacles. For instance, it might be tricky to guarantee that the conductive material is properly aligned with the channels and to create uniform conductivity across the whole circuit board. In addition, because the conductive material is not deposited directly onto the substrate, the resistance of the non-conductive filament may result in a loss of conductivity.

The technology of manufacturing 3D printed circuit boards with hollow channels is an exciting advancement in the world of 3D printing despite these obstacles. As technology continues to evolve, we can anticipate increasingly sophisticated methods for producing circuit boards with 3D printers, thereby expanding the options available to designers and engineers.


Conductive ink – a closer look

Conductive ink is a crucial component of 3D-printed printed circuit boards (PCBs), as it enables the fabrication of the conductive paths that connect electronic components on the board. Typically, the ink consists of a base substance, such as a polymer or resin, and conductive particles, such as silver, copper, or graphite.

The selection of conductive particles relies on the specific application and the circuit board’s desired qualities. For instance, silver particles are frequently utilized due to their high conductivity, although copper particles are less expensive and also provide strong conductivity. 

Several approaches can be utilized to apply conductive ink, depending on the 3D printing technology employed. Ink may be ejected from a nozzle in certain instances, similar to how plastic filament is used in fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printers. In other situations, ink may be applied with a specialized inkjet printer or deposited with an aerosol spray.

Once the conductive ink has been added to the 3D-printed substrate, it is typically cured using heat or UV light, allowing it to solidify and establish a robust conducting channel. The resulting printed circuit board can then be populated with electronic components and inspected to guarantee proper operation.


Examples and applications of 3D printed circuit boards

Here are some examples and applications of 3D printed circuit boards:

  • Wearables – Customized circuit boards for wearable devices, such as fitness trackers and smartwatches, can be created via 3D printing. These gadgets require compact, lightweight electronics that may be tailored to the device’s specific form factor.
  • Medical – 3D printed PCBs can be used to construct medical devices, such as prostheses and hearing aids, with customized circuitry that can enhance functionality and reduce size and weight.
  • Robotics – The circuit boards can be used to manufacture unique circuitry for robots and drones, enabling more accurate control and enhanced performance.
  • Internet of Things – 3D printing can be used to produce customized circuit boards for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as smart home devices and industrial sensors. These gadgets require compact, lightweight, and inexpensive circuitry that can be prototyped rapidly and with ease.
  • Automobiles – These PCBs can be utilized to manufacture customized circuits for sensors and other components in the car industry. This can enhance functionality and reduce component size and weight.
  • Education – Students can learn about electronics and circuit design by designing and 3D printing their own circuit boards in order to gain knowledge of the electronics manufacturing process.
  • Rapid Prototyping – Due to the speed they can be made, 3D printed circuit boards can be used for rapid prototyping of electronic goods, allowing designers to rapidly iterate designs and test new ideas without the cost and lead time of traditional production methods.


Pros and Cons of 3D printed PCBs

If you’re considering using 3D printed PCBs here’s a breakdown of their pros & cons:


  • Greater design flexibility: 3D printing allows for the creation of complex, customized circuit designs that may be difficult or impossible to create using traditional manufacturing methods.
  • Faster prototyping: It can also help speed up the prototyping process, allowing designers to quickly test and refine their designs before committing to a final product.
  • Reduced material waste: Because 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process, it can help reduce material waste by only using the exact amount of material needed for each part.
  • Lower costs for small-scale production: For small-scale production runs, 3D printing can be a cost-effective alternative to traditional PCB manufacturing methods.


  • Limited conductivity: While conductive materials can be used in 3D printing, the conductivity of these materials may not be as high as those used in traditional PCB manufacturing, leading to potential issues with signal integrity and reliability.
  • Limited scalability: 3D printing can be time-consuming and may not be practical for large-scale production runs.
  • Limited material options: While there are a variety of materials that can be used in 3D printing, the range of materials suitable for use in PCBs may be more limited than those used in traditional PCB manufacturing methods.
  • Limited resolution: Depending on the 3D printing method used, the resolution and accuracy of the resulting circuitry may not be as high as those achieved with traditional manufacturing methods.


Why PCBs made via 3D printer are ideal for rapid prototypes

3d printer

As previously mentioned, 3D printed PCBs offer a variety of advantages, including the ability to swiftly prototype designs and construct unique circuits. This makes them suitable for a wide range of applications, including small-scale production and one-of-a-kind electronic products.

One of the primary benefits of 3D printed PCBs is that they enable electronics businesses and designers of new product development projects to make circuit boards in-house, as opposed to outsourcing manufacturing to a third-party manufacturer. By fabricating PCBs in-house, designers and manufacturers have greater control over the design and manufacturing process, enabling them to rapidly iterate designs and validate them with greater ease.

This is especially beneficial for rapid prototyping, when turnaround times and the flexibility to make changes on the fly are crucial. With 3D printed PCBs, producers can create and test new designs without having to wait for a third party to generate and transport the circuit boards.

In addition to their application in quick prototyping, 3D-printed PCBs can be advantageous for small-scale production runs, too. Traditional PCB fabrication processes may need huge minimum order quantities, while 3D printing enables more flexible production runs, enabling firms to generate only the number of boards they require without having to order in bulk. It must be said, though, that for the manufacture of large quantities of PCBs, 3D printing won’t be as cost-effective.

A 24-hour turnaround!

The time required to manufacture a 3D printed PCB might vary based on factors such as the design’s size and complexity, the 3D printing technique employed, and the printing parameters selected.

Depending on the 3D printing technology employed, a relatively simple design, such as a small circuit board with a few components, may take anything from a few hours to two days to print.

In general, it is difficult to provide an accurate estimate of how long it will take to manufacture a 3D-printed PCB of “average size” due to the large amount of variation based on the design and printing parameters employed. However, you can expect to see a production turnaround time of fewer than 24 hours.

However, for designs with extensive circuitry that are more complex, it may take longer to manufacture the 3D printed PCB. It is also crucial to remember that manufacturing a 3D printed PCB entails numerous phases, such as designing the circuit board, developing the 3D model, and preparing the file for 3D printing, all of which might add to the overall duration of the process.



3D printed circuit boards (PCBs) are created using additive manufacturing techniques, which allow for the rapid prototyping and customization of electronic components. Conductive materials, such as inks or filaments infused with conductive particles, are used to form the circuitry of the board. This can be done using a variety of 3D printing techniques, including extrusion, inkjet printing, and aerosol deposition.

There are a number of benefits to adopting 3D printing for PCBs. The capacity to rapidly prototype and iterate on designs is a significant advantage, allowing for shorter development cycles and more agile manufacturing processes. Moreover, 3D printing enables the fabrication of one-of-a-kind, customized designs that may not be viable with conventional manufacturing processes. 3D printed PCBs can also be manufactured in-house, allowing for greater design and manufacturing process control.

However, there are restrictions to the use of 3D printed PCBs. One potential downside is the limited material selection, as the employed conductive materials must be compatible with the particular 3D printing process. A further difficulty is the scale and complexity of the circuitry that may be printed, as some 3D printing processes may struggle to manufacture intricate designs with high levels of precision.

Despite these obstacles, 3D printed PCBs are finding use in a variety of industries, including aerospace, the military, and medical equipment. By enabling faster prototyping and customisation, 3D printing is driving innovation in the electronics industry and facilitating the creation of new cutting-edge goods.


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