Advantages of 3D Printing Consumer Electronics

There are several advantages of 3D printing for the consumer electronics industry:
1. In-house prototyping
The consumer electronics industry is competitive due to the demand for smaller, thinner devices with better functionality than previous methods. 3D printing technology now offers a competitive advantage because engineers can now prototype Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs), which is the core of any electronic device. The highlight of this improvement stems from the fact that the production of PCBs has been historically outsourced due to the required technical skill. As a result, manufacturing the PCBs internally decreases lead times, reduces procurement expenses, and eliminates any concerns about IP infringement. In addition, this simplified supply chain also benefits from reduced shipping costs, and decreased warehouse and distribution costs due to the opportunity to keep a digital inventory.

2. Faster time-to-market
Producing prototypes internally increases efficiency in product design, and it enables a faster turnaround of design iterations. As a result, engineers can speed up the design validation stage to develop products faster, and achieve more flexible manufacturing to increase their overall competitive advantage.

2 wires connecting to a 3D printed electrical board

3. Design flexibility
Additive manufacturing is capable of producing complex components that are not otherwise available through traditional methods, meaning that product engineers no longer need to limit their designs to the basics. For example, multilayer circuits can now be 3D printed on non-flat, flexible surfaces, offering more opportunity for components to fit where they normally wouldn’t be able to, allowing engineers to design for functionality instead of manufacturability. As a result, complex structures with embedded electronics, encapsulated sensors, and antennas can be more readily produced.

4. Customisation
3D printing expands the capabilities of producing highly customised electronics. 3D printing can be used to create personalised electronic enclosures, USB stick cases, keyboards, and more.

The Future of 3D Printing Consumer Electronics

The Miller 3D team is keeping a close eye on where this application for the additive manufacturing industry is going. Our partners, Markforged, 3D Systems, and Bigrep are constantly evolving the technology of their software and materials. As a result, we won’t be surprised to see 3D printed consumer electronics from start to finish as the industry evolves further. That said, it will be important for contract 3D printing services to develop with the changing technology, and to find an appropriate niche to continue offering these services. 

Small Onyx electrical circut