Finally, let’s put down the 3d printed plastic and take a swing over into electronic games to take a gander at what The Cartesian Company is doing with their EX1. They’ve successfully Kickstarted a 3d printer that’s cranking out circuit boards on a variety of substrates: paper, glass, kapton, and plastic.
Cartesian has already demonstrated a proof-of-concept interactive game: Simon Says, printed on paper. Shortly after these printers are commonplace you’ll be playing Tetris on your pants.
Breadboards or sewable circuits are great ways to get into electronics but where do you go after that? Sure etching a PCB is a fun project the first time, but anyone who has done it more than once will tell you how time consuming and frustrating it can be. The barrier to entry into the world of complex circuitry is just too high for many people; not exactly an environment conducive to experimentation.
Touch sensitive “Simon Says” game printed on paper
In addition to more conventional circuit board materials the EX¹ can print on a variety of different substrates you might not associate with circuits. Materials we have been able to print on include plastic (many types), glass, wood, ceramic, silicone and even fabric and paper. In fact it is possible to print on most surfaces. If that’s not enough, we are developing coatings that can allow virtually any surface to be printed on.
Cartesian Co. wants to change the way you think about electronics in the same way that 3D printers fundamentally changed the way we think about making physical objects. Imagine the freedom to instantly test your ideas without the monotony of making a PCB by hand, the time spent wiring it on a breadboard or the days spent waiting to get your design back from a board house. With the EX¹ you can make complex circuits as easily as if they were printed on your desktop printer.
Note that while aspects of this technology are definitely ramping up from novelty proof-of-concept to something practically useful — and much better formulations of conductive filaments are finally reaching desktop FFF printers — we aren’t necessarily there yet. But keep watching this space for developments!