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32 The PCB Magazine • January 2015 phone itself, making them compact, robust, and low in signal attenuation. The Lewis Research Group at Harvard University, where Voxel8 spun out from, has demonstrated considerable performance benefits for 3D antennas. 3) Structural electronics. According to a recent report by IDTechEx, structural electron- ics—essentially, electrical components and cir- cuits that act as load-bearing, protective struc- tures—is predicted to be a $97 billion market by 2025. That means a world populated with ev- erything from smart bridges that have sensors embedded into the concrete, to buildings with integrated photovoltaics. What these use cases show is that designers will be in- creasingly manufacturing in- telligent integrated devices instead of components for a larger assembly. To take another exam- ple, the Mimo Smart Baby Monitor, a onesie-based baby monitor that sends breath- ing, temp, and sleep data in real-time to a parent's phone. Mimo can allow parents to have a warm bottle of milk ready when the baby wakes up, instead of having to wait. Because of its design, it's able to provide a much faster feedback loop. This may be a simple example, but it also ap- plies to other products where performance can be rapidly increased based on a signal being dis- seminated where it's needed. Mimo is a real-world case study of how a real product is benefiting from new manufacturing technologies. 3D printed electronics will push this benefit even further by decreasing itera- tion cycles. Robust, functional circuits can be created together with the object itself, entirely in-house. Democratization of Technology Products like the Mimo show how much an entrepreneur with a smart idea can accomplish now that technology around design and manu- facturing has been democratized. In the old days, someone trying to assemble all of the internal circuitry and all of the physi- cal components of a new product would likely need to hire a contract manufacturer to do that for them. When you can quickly and easily ac- complish the same thing with a printer, you've fundamentally changed the ability for a small entrepreneur to innovate, rapidly iterate proto- types, and produce a real product. Conclusion The fundamentals of how we fabricate elec- tronic devices are changing. The traditional ap- proach—manufacturing discrete components and then putting them together into a larger as- sembly of things—is giving way to new fabrication meth- ods like 3D printing. A platform like Spark can help accelerate innovation around 3D printing, and more importantly, to serve as a plat- form for making things. It connects digital content to the physical thing, incorporating not just additive manufactur- ing or 3D printing processes, but subtractive manufactur- ing, robotics, and circuitry. 3D printing is going to merge with the underlying circuit- ry to create things that have their inner working parts—including all of the electron- ics—embedded within the physical object. And we think that's going to fundamentally change what kind of products and devices can be cre- ated. With the proper platforms and building blocks in place, we are excited to see how inno- vation around electronic designs continues to unfold. PCB HOW 3D PRINTING WILL IMPACT PCB FABRICATION continues Karl D.D. Willis is principal research engineer at autodesk. mimo is a real-world case study of how a real product is benefiting from new manufacturing technologies. 3D printed electronics will push this benefit even further by decreasing iteration cycles. " " FEaturE

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