You can etch flexible circuit boards using a 3d printer. They can be made of very thin copper clad board material or even conductive fabric.

Standard copper clad circuit board material (FR4) of any thickness, can also be etched using this method.

Step 1: How It Works

PLA, Nylon, ABS and most common filaments used for 3d printing do not stick to copper well enough to lay down a pattern that can be etched to create a circuit board. A fairly new elastomeric rubber filament is now available that sticks quite well to copper. It is called Ninjaflex. In fact, it sticks quite well to almost anything including acrylic, blue painters tape, and glass.

A circuit board pattern can be drawn in a free program like 123D Design and then extruded to a thin thickness and saved as an STL file. It can then be printed on top of a thin copper clad board or plated conductive fabric: step 1 pic. It can then be etched in the standard way with a Ferric Chloride solution.

The circuit board shown was printed at standard breadboard and perfboard spacing of traces at .1" centers. This fits standard through hole components and some surface mount ones. Pic 2 shows the finished circuit, a Picaxe microcontroller.

If you want a thin and light circuit, this layout works well. To get more flex, the components would have to be spaced further apart.

<p>Would it be possible to make a replacement for an old JVC tweeter diaphragm?</p><p>I have one that it was plugged in the wrong channel and now has a little hole on it, due to the amplified bass who got caught in the middle x)</p>
It might be possible to 3d print a diaphragm with ninjaflex.<br>It would most likely change the sound characteristics of the speaker.<br><br>You might be better off if you cover the hole by gluing a similar material to the diaphragm using a flexible glue.
<p>I definitely going to try this with my m3d. Awesome.</p>
<p>Really cool, but still loving PCB toner transfer paper from ebay: the quickest, easiest and cheapest way.</p>
<p>Very impressive and helpful!</p><p>Recently FD has released another flex filament: <strong>Semiflex</strong>. It's announced with better <strong>resolution</strong>. Do you think it might work well in this situation for some chips with small footprint?</p><p>Thanks again for your inspiring article.</p>
<p>It could happen.</p><p>Why don't you try it and see if it works?</p>
<p>An engineer of FD has just told me that SemiFlex does hold better detail than NinjaFlex. I can imagine that it wouldn't attach the surface very well. So, don't try it.</p><p>Thank you for your opinion.</p>
<p>Have you given any thought about what might happen if you use sodium persulfate as an echant? Wondering how it would react with NinjaFlex, as the chemical is a strong oxidizer.<br></p><p>Very cool Instructable btw (and a fan of some of your other ones too)!</p>
<p>This is awesome</p>
<p>wats the most complex ciurcut u have done so far?</p>
<p>I like the concept and the inventiveness of using 3-D printers in yet another new and creative way, but I hope people realize the easier and more efficient way of making printed circuit boards is through the proven methods of a CNC milling machine. You simply etch straight onto the circuit board with a spindle. It allows for quicker and more elaborate prints.</p>
<p>There are many good ways to make circuit boards and a CNC machine is certainly a good way. If you notice the title, this is about making flexible circuit boards.</p><p>The Adafruit material is less than .001&quot; thick. No way you can mill that without cutting through it. You also cannot mill a circuit with conductive fabric.</p>
I was unaware of that, so is this a contest entry? A possible cheaper and quicker way to make circuit boards would be using an average desktop printer and there are many projects out there that show you how to print your design in toner and then use etching chemicals to etch the circuit. However the reason I like the CNC over those methods is because it doesn't harm the environment. Etchants are corrosive and therefore not eco-friendly. Milling eliminates the need for chemicals. Maybe if someone could invent an eco friendly etchant, that would be quite the contest. More chemical engineering but I haven't seen a challenging contest for a chemist anyways.
<p>While I think your instructable is well done and very clever use of a 3D printer, I think the title needs to be changed. I jumped at the link to this instructable because I had thought you were using some sort of conductive filament to &quot;make flexible circuit boards using a 3D printer&quot; but discovered you are using a to &quot;make a PCB etching mask with a 3D printer&quot;. </p><p>As I said, this instructable is well done and clever, so keep up the good work.</p>
<p>Do you think you can make a strain gauge with this?</p>
very nice, I did wonder a while back if this would work so really glad someone has put in the effort! how fine can you make the traces?
<p>The thinnest traces I have etched so far are .03&quot; on .05&quot; centers. This spacing will fit a SOIC sized surface mount IC.</p>
<p>This is an ingenious idea! I like the idea of the spacer making the rest of the circuit print above the level of the circuit board, but surely the makerbot will try to print support material under the floating parts? You probably need to disable support material in your print settings, which you have probably done but I didn't see mentioned in the instructable. Not doing this sounds like a sure fire way to get the extruder to crash into your PCB.</p>
<p>Good point.</p><p>I have added no support to the replicator settings.</p><p>In practice with thin circuit boards, it turns out not to be a problem. The extruder just pushes down on the spring loaded base and moves on.</p><p>With thicker boards, it could definitely be a problem if supports were on.</p>
<p>Why not just use a laser printer and the toner transfer method to create the resist pattern?</p>
<p>Yes, that works fine.</p><p>This method is slightly faster than toner transfer and produces cleaner and more consistant traces than any other DIY method I have used.</p>
<p>Please correct me if I'm wrong, but what you've done is provide a way to mask portions of a PC board from etchant using a 3D printer. Any flexibility in the final board is a product of the underlying board you printed on top of. Would it not be easier to tape an ink resist pen to your printhead and use it like a pen-plotter (some some software changes would be needed of course).</p>
<p>It is not that simple.</p><p>You need a make a spring loaded pen holder with just the right amount of pressure.</p><p>The software changes would not be trivial.</p><p>I have also gotten sloppy and inconsistant results when using a resist pen.</p>
You need to take this article down and patent this, this is awesome
<p>A little too late to patent it since it has been exposed to the public domain, sorry. Fantastic idea though. Bravo.</p>
<p>Tell that to Amazon and their patent on &quot;taking photos in front of a white background&quot; :)</p>
<p>It's all in the claims mate. No you have to tell that to firstly a ptent examiner and then a judge in any final stage of patent validity.</p>
<p>Imagine the applications!</p>
<p>Awesome spin on making pcb's!!! Well done! Great sources of thin PCB too!</p>
<p>This is awesome. Now people can make replacement ribbon cables for small electronics and such!</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: I believe that the purpose of life is to learn how to do our best and not give in to the weaker way.
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