Mar 11, 2019

How Do We Use Additive Manufacturing For LED Circuits?

By Robert Even, Nano Dimension 

Additive manufacturing is already a proven technology in many fields where its agility and low costs make it valuable in production processes. Now, 3D printing of electronics is opening many new possibilities for manufacturers and designers because it can be applied to numerous products and ideas. Energy-efficient LEDs are a good example

Regulations around the world are encouraging companies to move toward more energy efficiency with their lighting, and LEDs are a good solution. The result is that high performance LEDs are found in pretty much everything that has lights – from automotive and consumer solutions to medical devices.

Let’s look at LEDs and how additive manufacturing can help engineers have more freedom working with them. A LED circuit is an electrical circuit used to power a light-emitting diode (LED). The LED circuit must provide enough current to light the LED at the required brightness. The circuit also must limit the electrical current to prevent damaging the LED. The voltage drop across a LED is approximately constant over a wide range of operating currents; therefore, a small increase in applied voltage greatly increases the current*.

3D printed board with 9 LEDs on the DragonFly System.
3D printed board with 9 LEDs on the DragonFly System.


                              3D printing of LED Matrix with DragonFly Pro System

A prototyping challenge

Prototyping LEDs means testing for physical fit and functionality. In traditional prototyping, it’s not unusual to wait days or even weeks for a LED prototype from an external service provider. In addition, designers generally feel constrained by time pressures and costs, so do everything in their power to avoid going back to the prototyping facility for revisions. Those constraints often lead to highly conservative designs – which usually is not the best process for creating the optimal LED design.

Now, additive manufacturing of electronics can help designers iterate more quickly and design better by using Nano Dimension’s DragonFly IV and conductive and insulating materials for printed electronics.

3D Print a functional LED Circuit

Nano Dimension’s DragonFly Pro System for additive manufacturing of printed electronics can be used as a powerful development tool to accelerate prototyping and development of LED circuits and a wide variety of PCBs.  With the DragonFly, it is completely possible to 3D print LED circuits.

Nano Dimension Branded Board
Nano Dimension Example Circuit Board

3D Printed board with 9 LEDs

Nano Dimension’s application team created this board illustrated here with nine LEDs. Using the DragonFly Pro System, we printed five of these boards overnight, simultaneously, within the same print job. We showed how we could use two different methods to complete the board population: we manually soldered the components in about 10 minutes. We also showed how we use epoxy soldering to fix the LEDs and components. The LEDs were 3D printed using our conductive and insulating inks. Within 24 hours, our team completed a functional LED board.


The functional board printed with the DragonFly Pro showed excellent thermal stability with a power consumption of 1.6W without any deformation. The input power is 9-15V.


New design freedom

Just as in our testing, the DragonFly Pro system enables designers to rapidly produce end-to-end solutions   from design and production to assembly — allowing for rapid prototyping of functional electrical parts for accelerated concept development. No matter how complex the LED design to be 3D printed, an in-house additive manufacturing system provides engineers complete design freedom. Moreover, the fast turnaround enables designers to test and choose the best of multiple LED designs, and even revise designs and 3D print the same day. This rapid iteration cycle allows for more design ideas, a much higher confidence in the design going forward to the next prototyping stage and, ultimately, reduces the cost and time constraints of prototyping.  

Reduce your prototyping time from weeks to days. What would you do with additive manufacturing? Please share with us!

In a growing number of applications for the Internet of Things (IoT), radio frequency (RF) applications and different PCB applications, Nano Dimension is demonstrating its ability to print functional boards in just one day or less, fulfilling the same application needs as conventional methods. With the speed of the DragonFly Pro System from Nano Dimension, engineers can drastically reduce the time constraints in functional testing without the product being restrained in design or budget, all while creating better products and getting to market faster.

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