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‘Fully functional’ circuits can be 3D printed in single process

Researchers at the University of Nottingham have pioneered a breakthrough method to 3D print fully functional electronic circuits.
The circuits, which contain electrically-conductive metallic inks and insulating polymeric inks, can now be produced in a single printing
process in which UV light solidifies the inks.

Professor Chris Tuck said: “Being able to 3D print conductive and dielectric materials in a single structure with the high precision that inkjet printing offers will enable the fabrication of fully customised electronic components. You don’t have to select standard values for capacitors when you design a circuit; you just set the value and the printer will produce the component for you.”

According to the team, the breakthrough has been speeding the solidification process of the conductive inks so that it takes less than a minute per layer.

Professor Richard Hague, director of the Centre for Additive Manufacturing (CfAM) added: “Printing fully functional devices that contain multiple materials in complex 3D structures is now a reality. This breakthrough has significant potential to be the enabling manufacturing technique for 21st Century products and devices that will have the potential to create a significant impact on both the industry and the public.”

CfAM researchers found that silver nanoparticles in conductive inks are capable of absorbing UV light efficiently. The absorbed energy is converted into heat, which evaporates the solvents and fuses the silver nanoparticles. The researchers also used LED-based UV light to convert polymeric inks into solids in the same printing process to form multi-material 3D structures.

Author
Graham Pitcher

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