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Composite could enable low cost electronic devices through 3d printing

Dr Simon Leigh

Researchers at the University of Warwick have developed a simple and inexpensive conductive plastic composite that can be used to produce electronic devices using low cost 3d printers.

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 pcb.

So far, the team has used the material to print objects with embedded flex sensors, computer game controllers with touch sensitive buttons and a mug which can tell how full it is.

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.

Dr Simon Leigh, pictured, from the Department of Engineering, said: "We set about trying to find a way in which we could print out a functioning electronic device from a 3d printer.

"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.

"However, in the short term, I can see this technology having a major impact in the educational sector for example, allowing the next generation of young engineers to get hands-on experience of using advanced manufacturing technology."

Graham Pitcher

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