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The printed electronics and 3D printing industries are colliding to produce 3D printed electronics, a new market that will create the next wave of hype around 3D printing over the coming year and grow to exceed $1bn in equipment sales alone by 2025, finds IDTechEx Research.
Early crowdfunded projects such as Cartesian Co’s EX¹, the Voltera and Botfactory’s Squink have mimicked the early 3D printer projects starting with Printrbot in 2011, raising almost exactly the same total funding just 1025 days later. Just as media hype subsequently grew around 3D printing so too will a wave of hype around 3D printed electronics emerge over the next year, thrusting all of these early players into the limelight. Consumer-level machines such as these will be the basis for the hype, at least to begin with, as they give ordinary people the opportunity to get into electronic engineering and start creating simple circuits of their own for fun and education, just as early consumer-level 3D printers did.
The next phase will be the emergence of significant commercial markets. The $15bn antenna market is under increasing strain to produce more customised three dimensional structures without the environmentally unfriendly chemicals required for plating. Millions of antennas are already being printed each year and this number will continue to grow thanks to a variety of advantages over both the incumbent and competing technologies.
The real game changer will be fully 3D printed electronics that can be achieved only by 3D printing electrically conductive and insulating materials into the same object. Voxel8, a spin off from Harvard University that was launched in January of this year, are bringing the world’s first 3D electronics printer to market. This offers the potential to manufacture a variety of electromechanical parts right on your desk. The company have already demonstrated 3D printed electromagnets and are now trying to 3D print an electric motor for the first time.