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Sensors/MEMS  

New material allows 3D printing of electronics

Posted: 26 Nov 2012     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:electronic devices  3D  sensors  touch-sensitive  electronic circuit board 

Researchers at the University of Warwick have developed what they claim as an inexpensive conductive plastic composite that can be used to produce electronic devices, using low-cost 3D printers designed for use by hobbyists and even in the home.

The material, nicknamed 'carbomorph', enables users to lay down electronic tracks and sensors as part of a 3D printed structure – allowing the printer to create touch-sensitive areas for example, which can then be connected to a simple electronic circuit board.

The research team has used the material to print objects with embedded flex sensors or with touch-sensitive buttons such as computer game controllers or a mug which can tell how full it is.

"It's always great seeing the complex and intricate models of devices such as mobile phones or television remote controls that can be produced with 3D printing, but that's it, they are invariably models that don't really function."

"The next step is to work on printing much more complex structures and electronic components including the wires and cables required to connect the devices to computers," researchers said.

"In the long term, this technology could revolutionalise the way we produce the world around us, making products such as personal electronics a lot more individualised and unique and in the process reducing electronic waste.

The printed sensors can be monitored using existing open-source electronics and freely available programming libraries.

A major advantage of using 3D printing is that sockets for connection to equipment such as interface electronics can be printed out instead of connected using conductive glues or paints.





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