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.