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3D printing a complete circuit

A mini robot, complete with the required electronic circuits 3D printed. Credit: University of Nottingham

For a few years now, researchers have been able to use 3D printing for printing electronic circuits components. These components could then be assembled to create an electronic device.

Now in an article on Wiley Online Library a team of researchers at the University of Nottingham are describing an innovative process they have created allowing the 3D printing of a complete device, like a little robot, including the required electronic part.

3D printing works by printing layer after layer of material creating 3D structures. Normally only one type of material is being used. For printing a device, and its electronic components, several materials need to be used in each layer and in subsequent layer. The problem is not just of having a 3D printer able to manage different materials, it is also the consolidation of the different materials as they are printed.

The researchers have discovered that mixing silver nanoparticles in the various inks (one for each material) and exposing them to UV light lead to a quick solidification of the printed layer allowing the creation of precise structures (if the ink doesn’t get solid quickly enough it mixes with other inks). The silver nanoparticles adsorb the UV energy converting it into heat that evaporates the solvent keeping the ink in its liquid state.

The interest in this news is the invention of this method to quickly solidify the ink. This can be applied to a variety of 3D printing needs further promoting the range of potential applications.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.