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Technique allows ink-based circuits to be printed in seconds

Researchers in the US have developed a technique that enables ink-based electrical circuits to be created using a standard desktop printer, in as little as 60 seconds.

Using about $300 worth of off the shelf equipment, the Georgia Tech team was able to print arbitrary shaped circuits onto rigid and flexible materials, including resin coated paper, PET film and glossy photo paper, using silver nanoparticle ink.

"We believe there is an opportunity to introduce a new approach to the rapid prototyping of fully custom printed circuits," said Gregory Abowd, Regents' Professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech. "Unlike existing methods for printing conductive patterns, conductivity in our technique emerges within a few seconds and without the need for special equipment."

Abowd believes the technique could make it cheaper and faster for professionals and hobbyists to create prototype electronics.

"Everything we introduced in our research is available in the market and makes it possible for people to try this at home," he continued. "The method can be used to print circuit boards, sensors and antennas with little cost, and it opens up many new opportunities."

To make the technique possible, the researchers optimised commercially available tools and materials, including printers, adhesive tape and the silver ink.

Once printed, the circuits can be attached to electronic components using conductive, double sided tape or silver epoxy adhesive, allowing full scale prototyping in mere hours.

"Using this technology in the classroom, it would be possible to introduce students to basic electronics principles very cheaply, and they could use a range of electronic components to augment the experience," said Steve Hodges, a team member from Microsoft Research who helped developed the technique.

Laura Hopperton

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