High performance electrical circuits conduct 10 times more electricity inside 3D-printed plastics

This is an example of simple light-sensing electronics with an LED (light-emitting diode), a light-sensitive diode (semiconductor) and power connected by a high-performance circuit inside polymer. The LED is on when exposed to light and off when light from the diode is blocked. Image: Md Naim Jahangir

Rutgers innovation could lead to better drones, satellites, biomedical devices

Rutgers engineers have embedded high performance electrical circuits inside 3D-printed plastics, which could lead to smaller and versatile drones and better-performing small satellites, biomedical implants and smart structures.

They used pulses of high-energy light to fuse tiny silver wires, resulting in circuits that conduct 10 times more electricity than the state of the art, according to a study in the journal Additive Manufacturing. By increasing conductivity10-fold, the engineers can reduce energy use, extend the life of devices and increase their performance.

“Our innovation shows considerable promise for developing an integrated unit – using 3D printing and intense pulses of light to fuse silver nanoparticles – for electronics,” said senior author Rajiv Malhotra, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in the School of Engineering at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

Embedding electrical interconnections inside 3D-printed structures made of polymers, or plastics, can create new paradigms for devices that are smaller and more energy-efficient. Such devices could include CubeSats (small satellites), drones, transmitters, light and motion sensors and Global Positioning Systems. Such interconnections are also often used in antennas, pressure sensors, electrical coils and electrical grids for electromagnetic shielding.

The engineers used high-tech “intense pulsed light sintering” – featuring high-energy light from a xenon lamp – to fuse long thin rods of silver called nanowires. Nanomaterials are measured in nanometers (a nanometer is a millionth of a millimeter – about 100,000 times thinner than a human hair). Fused silver nanomaterials are already used to conduct electricity in devices such as solar cells, displays and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags.

Next steps include making fully 3D internal circuits, enhancing their conductivity and creating flexible internal circuits inside flexible 3D structures, Malhotra said.

Learn more: 3D-Printed Plastics With High Performance Electrical Circuits

 

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Electronics or solar cells directly 3D printed on your skin

One of the key innovations of the new 3D-printing technique on skin is that the printer uses computer vision to track and adjust to movements in real-time. Credit: McAlpine group, University of Minnesota

In a groundbreaking new study, researchers at the University of Minnesota used a customized, low-cost 3D printer to print electronics on a real hand for the first time. The technology could be used by soldiers on the battlefield to print temporary sensors on their bodies to detect chemical or biological agents or solar cells to charge essential electronics.

Researchers also successfully printed biological cells on the skin wound of a mouse. The technique could lead to new medical treatments for wound healing and direct printing of grafts for skin disorders.

The research study was published today on the inside back cover of the academic journal Advanced Materials.

“We are excited about the potential of this new 3D-printing technology using a portable, lightweight printer costing less than $400,” said Michael McAlpine, the study’s lead author and the University of Minnesota Benjamin Mayhugh Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “We imagine that a soldier could pull this printer out of a backpack and print a chemical sensor or other electronics they need, directly on the skin. It would be like a ‘Swiss Army knife’ of the future with everything they need all in one portable 3D printing tool.”

One of the key innovations of the new 3D-printing technique is that this printer can adjust to small movements of the body during printing. Temporary markers are placed on the skin and the skin is scanned. The printer uses computer vision to adjust to movements in real-time.

“No matter how hard anyone would try to stay still when using the printer on the skin, a person moves slightly and every hand is different,” McAlpine said. “This printer can track the hand using the markers and adjust in real-time to the movements and contours of the hand, so printing of the electronics keeps its circuit shape.”

Another unique feature of this 3D-printing technique is that it uses a specialized ink made of silver flakes that can cure and conduct at room temperature. This is different from other 3D-printing inks that need to cure at high temperatures (up to 100 degrees Celsius or 212 degrees Fahrenheit) and would burn the hand.

To remove the electronics, the person can simply peel off the electronic device with tweezers or wash it off with water.

In addition to electronics, the new 3D-printing technique paves the way for many other applications, including printing cells to help those with skin diseases. McAlpine’s team partnered with University of Minnesota Department of Pediatrics doctor and medical school Dean Jakub Tolar, a world-renowned expert on treating rare skin disease. The team successfully used a bioink to print cells on a mouse skin wound, which could lead to advanced medical treatments for those with skin diseases.

“I’m fascinated by the idea of printing electronics or cells directly on the skin,” McAlpine said. “It is such a simple idea and has unlimited potential for important applications in the future.”

Learn more: 3-D print electronics and cells printed directly on skin

 

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Voxel8 Offers Breakthrough in 3D Electronics Printing

Voxel8 3D Electronic Printer

Voxel8 3D Electronic Printer

We can already 3D print math aids, prosthetic jaws, fashion shoes and chairs…but when will we be able to print integrated electronics? According to the creators of Voxel8, late this year.

Voxel8 is the first 3D printer that allows makers to co-matrix (print together in the same batch) thermoplastics and conductive materials.

Printing basic electronics has been a reality for over a year, but the Voxel8 offers two improvements that position it as the 3D electronics printer that changed the game.

Voxel8 “Silver Ink” is 5,000 times as conductive as the next best printable conductor, conductive paste. It’s 20,000 times as conductive as 3D conductive filament. Beyond that, where previous 3D printing of electronics required multiple stages, each for different materials, the Voxel8 allows whole-cloth printing of an entire device ready to work as soon as you add a power source.

In theory, you could print any electronic device that fits inside the printer bed, and doesn’t require specialized materials. Voxel8 has made a bit of a show of flying their fully-printed quadcopters when demoing the device.

Read more: Voxel8 Offers Breakthrough in 3D Electronics Printing

 

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First 3-D printed Consumer Electronic Loudspeaker

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Jason Koski/University Photography Graduate student Apoorva Kiran holds a 3-D printed, fully functional

Cornell researchers have 3-D printed a working loudspeaker, seamlessly integrating the plastic, conductive and magnetic parts, and ready for use almost as soon as it comes out of the printer.

It’s an achievement that 3-D printing evangelists feel will soon be the norm; rather than assembling consumer products from parts and components, complete functioning products could be fabricated at once, on demand.

The loudspeaker is a project led by Apoorva Kiran and Robert MacCurdy, graduate students in mechanical engineering, who work with Hod Lipson, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and a leading 3-D printing innovator.

“Everything is 3-D printed,” said Kiran, as he launched a demo by connecting the newly printed mini speaker to amplifier wires. For the demo, the amplifier played a clip from President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech that mentioned 3-D printing.

A loudspeaker is a relatively simple object, Kiran said: It consists of plastic for the housing, a conductive coil and a magnet. The challenge is coming up with a design and the exact materials that can be co-fabricated into a functional shape.

Lipson said he hopes this simple demonstration is just the “tip of the iceberg.” 3-D printing technology could be moving from printing passive parts toward printing active, integrated systems, he said.

But it will be a while before consumers are printing electronics at home, Lipson continued. Most printers cannot efficiently handle multiple materials. It’s also difficult to find mutually compatible materials – for example, conductive copper and plastic coming out of the same printer require different temperatures and curing times.

In the case of the speaker, Kiran used one of the lab’s [email protected], a customizable research printer originally developed by Lipson and former graduate student and lab member Evan Malone, that allows scientists to tinker with different cartridges, control software and other parameters. For the conductor, Kiran used a silver ink. For the magnet, he employed the help of Samanvaya Srivastava, graduate student in chemical and biomolecular engineering, to come up with a viscous blend of strontium ferrite.

Read more . . .

 

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