Another approach to 3D printed circuit building from Thingiverse
Thingiverse user CarryTheWhat has taken a novel approach to building simple electronic circuits with his solder-free 3D-printed circuit board library. The library includes battery holders and pegs for other components, a few different printed switches, and uses conductive thread to make the connections.
Being able to create simple circuits on a desktop 3D printer would be a great boon to hobbyists. The first signs of development in this area came in 2009 when Bath University mechanical engineering student Rhys Jones revived the old idea of making circuit boards by depositing metal into pre-formed channels. He modified his RepRap 3D printer to extrude molten solder into a pre-printed ABS plastic channel.
More recently, Fab@Home have demonstrated the use of conductive and non-conductive silicone to print flexible objects with internally embedded circuitry laid out in three dimensions.
It is unlikely that hobby printers are going to be churning out complex circuits any time soon, but for simple circuits this could be a great tool in the maker’s toolbox.
In the professional realm, there are some impressive developments coming down the line too, as outlined by Ponoko CEO David ten Have in this Wired article from late last year.