Another step towards 3D printed electronics was taken recently – Stratasys and Optomec have been working together to develop a method whereby conductive material is deposited in a design. This has been the holy grail of 3D printing for a number of reasons.

3D Printed Electronics

There are basically three factors pushing the development of printed, integrated circuits:

  • Self-replicating 3D Printers (e.g. RepRap)
  • Single print-and-customized consumer products (No factory assembly – design, print and ship)
  • Quicker CAD design workflows

Stratasys and Optomec concentrated on developing a 3D printed UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) because 3D printed metal wires embedded in the print would reduce the need for insulted wires, ties and glue, reducing weight without impacting design specs. Check it.

How Does it work?

It works like this. Optomec utilizes Aerosol Jet Deposition, a type of 3D printing that sprays on a variety of materials whilst following a pre-determined pattern. Stratasys prints the plastic piece and Optomec’s selectively deposits wiring and sensors. According to Jeff DeGrange of Stratasys, its not just one material, but a potential galaxy.

“The Aerosol Jet process is capable of handling the entire range of materials classes required for Printed Electronic manufacturing: conductors, resistors, dielectrics/insulators and semiconductors, and also combinations of materials printed layer-wise to create differing functionality.”

Excuse me, can you repeat that? There’s something crazy in front of my eyes.

“The Aerosol Jet process is capable of handling the entire range of materials classes required for Printed Electronic manufacturing: conductors, resistors, dielectrics/insulators and semiconductors, and also combinations of materials printed layer-wise to create differing functionality.

That is AWESOME. Simply put, the separation between components and form disappear. Imagine if you will, a watch with the electronic components that form the wrist band running the clock. Or the case of your phone forming the PCB board for your chipset. The unification of components that make up any design created with this technology is, very much, the future. However, the components may be adjustable in CAD software, yet a single, solid piece in the real world? Not so much. In such a case, repairing products would be difficult, recycling them would be more difficult and modding products would even more difficult. Where do you think this will go?

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