We posted about the research at the University of Warwick regarding the printing of electronic sensors via inexpensive 3D printers before, but here is their scientific paper going into more the details about the process, via PLOS ONE. Here’s the abstract:
3D printing technology can produce complex objects directly from computer aided digital designs. The technology has traditionally been used by large companies to produce fit and form concept prototypes (‘rapid prototyping’) before production. In recent years however there has been a move to adopt the technology as full-scale manufacturing solution. The advent of low-cost, desktop 3D printers such as the RepRap and Fab@Home has meant a wider user base are now able to have access to desktop manufacturing platforms enabling them to produce highly customised products for personal use and sale. This uptake in usage has been coupled with a demand for printing technology and materials able to print functional elements such as electronic sensors. Here we present formulation of a simple conductive thermoplastic composite we term ‘carbomorph’ and demonstrate how it can be used in an unmodified low-cost 3D printer to print electronic sensors able to sense mechanical flexing and capacitance changes. We show how this capability can be used to produce custom sensing devices and user interface devices along with printed objects with embedded sensing capability. This advance in low-cost 3D printing with offer a new paradigm in the 3D printing field with printed sensors and electronics embedded inside 3D printed objects in a single build process without requiring complex or expensive materials incorporating additives such as carbon nanotubes.
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!
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