Using a specialized 3D printer, Harris Corporation, a leading communications company, has successfully created 3D printed radio frequency (RF) electronics in-house. Their printer, a Dragonfly Pro 2020, comes from Nano Dimension, a leading additive electronics provider.
Initial testing indicated that the performance of 3D printed RF printed circuit boards (PCB) is comparable to that of conventionally manufactured circuits. The results will be presented by Harris at the upcoming IEEE Radio and Wireless Symposium.
One of the printed items is a circuit board that will be used to make RF amplifiers. This PCB also features an integrated 3D printed antenna. Amit Dror, CEO of Nano Dimension, explains that this breakthrough facilitates faster prototyping while lowering research and development costs. This allows for creating more proofs-of-concept for testing.
There are also product-specific advantages. 3D printing the PCBs makes it possible to develop smaller and lighter antennas and circuitry. Packaging is also made simpler thanks to flexible circuits and fewer cables and connectors.
Nano Dimension has already received funding to further develop 3D printed electronics, or so-called 3DPE. In collaboration with Harris Corp, they will be working to demonstrate the 3D printing of double-sided circuit boards and multi-layer circuits. The intention is to reduce size, weight, power, and costs of circuits that distribute digital, power, and RF signals for Harris’ communications systems used in space.
Dr. Arthur C. Paolella, of Harris Corp., said, “The ability to manufacture RF systems in-house offers an exciting new means for rapid and affordable prototyping and volume manufacturing.” He went on to explain that the results of the study provided substantial motivation for further development of 3D printed electronics.