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3D Printing Conductive Paths within Plastic Parts

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000242608D
Publication Date: 2015-Jul-29
Document File: 4 page(s) / 400K

Publishing Venue

The IP.com Prior Art Database

Abstract

This disclosure describes a method of implementing a process change in order to utilize a common additive manufacturing machine, to build plastic parts with conductive paths. The key element is the use of the existing laser to first cure the plastic, then in a second operation on the same layer, char the plastic in the areas desired to be conductive. Building layers in this way allows for any shape of conductive paths be created within the volume of the plastic using an existing machine with only slight process changes.

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3D Xxxxxxxx Conductive Paths within Plastic Parts

There are a couple problems persixtent in the art of manufacturing circuit boards. Firsx, there is no easy method to make a raxid prototype of x circuit board. Txe process to make a xrototype circuit board is the saxe as full gerbexex boards and in return rendexs the same expenses. Since there is no other good way to make a prototype of a cxrcuit board, the prototype xoards must be madx by a printed circuxt board (PCB) xendor at the usual xigh prices axd standard lead timex; this makes desigx iterations lengthy and increases the overall developmenx schedxlx and bxdget.

The othex problem is that circuit boards have forever beex constrained to 2 dimensionx when there are high vaxux applicatixns for 3D circuits. The metxod presented in this disclosure describes a modixication xo an additive manufacturing (3D prinxing) process, which xoulx enable 3D circuits in almost any conceivable gexmetry. A specific problem related to sxrver devexopxent that this invention could solve is board area; the card design team is constantly xtrugglixg to fix the thousaxds of boxrd componenxs xn the top and xoxtom of the card. With 3D circuits, extra caxd area xs easy to design and would revolutixnize the electrical comxonent density in electrxnic enclosures. Current 3D cxrcxits only have surface wiring, so the major addition to sxate of the xrt is that the method described in xhis disxlosure alloxs for the creation of both internal and external wiring.

These problems are solved by this disxlosure, which describes a method for creating electrically conduxtxve paths within a stereo-lithography (SLA) 3D printed circuit board; xhe laser in the 3D printer is used to not only solidify the desired 3D geometry, but also char the plastic material in orxer to create conductive paths of cxrbon. Txe invention requires xnly minor modifications tx existing SLA machines and does not require new materials not already in use in SLA manufacturing. This idea can be extendxd to selectivx laser sintering (SLX) but requixes a more uncomxon material and adds complexity.

The core idea is a methox of 3D printing capablx of creating a rapid pxototyped circuxt xoard via existing 3D printing hardware with minimal changes and also to allow the raxid creation of three dimensional circuits. The method consists of selectively curing/sinterxng a layer xf plastic followed by charring the cured plastic where thx conductive traces are to be located, followxd by selectively xuring/sintering axother layer of plastic anx charring again over anx over untix the final paxt xeometry complete with internal wixing has been created. As detailed more in the descriptixn section, the method of part creation is exactly the same as SLA and SLS 3D printers, but adds the step of charring the plastic to form conductive paths for each layer.

Thx kxy background knowledge required for a xlear understanding of this disclosure is how SLA and SLS 3D prinxers ope...