Skip to comments.3D Print Your Own Personal Electronics
Posted on 12/18/2012 3:30:43 PM PST by null and void
If it's possible to 3D print blood vessels, robots, and guns, then why shouldn't you be able to 3D print your own personal electronics? Well, now you can -- in the lab at least.
University of Warwick researchers have developed a conductive plastic composite material that can be used with unmodified, low-cost, hobbyist 3D printers to make functional electronic devices. The devices can even be custom-designed, such as tailoring a game controller to fit the shape of a particular user's hand.
The team, headed by Simon Leigh of the university's School of Engineering, says the inexpensive material, called "carbomorph," makes it possible to print out electronic tracks and sensors as part of a 3D-printed structure.
To date, the researchers have used the material to print objects with embedded flex sensors, such as a mug that can sense how full it is, or those with touch-sensitive buttons, such as a working computer game controller. The results were published in an article in the open-access journal PLOS One.
A conductive thermoplastic can be used with low-cost, hobbyist 3D printers to produce complete, customized electronic devices, such as this computer game controller. (Source: University of Warwick)
The printer can create touch-sensitive areas in the structure that can be connected to a simple, printed circuit board.
The computer game controller was printed using a Bits from Bytes BFB3000, Leigh told Design News in an email. "It's designed to interface with an Arduino board, then it can be plugged into a PC and used to play any game on your PC," he wrote. "The idea behind it is that you could in theory customize the layout of the controller hardware to your own specification."
Leigh and his team envision the technology being used to 3D print functioning electronic devices, making those devices more individualized. This could, he says, reduce electronic waste by customizing products to make them closer to what users want, and fitting their unique needs. Another application could be embedding sensors in products and monitoring how people use them, so designers could better understand how people tactilely interact with products.
The most immediate, short-term use Leigh envisions is giving the next generation of young engineers the hands-on experience of designing and producing electronic products in the classroom with advanced manufacturing technology like 3D printing. According to Leigh, existing open-source electronics and programming libraries can be used for monitoring the printed sensors.
One of the biggest advantages to 3D printing electronics is the fact that sockets for connecting the devices to equipment, such as interface electronics, could be printed out, rather than using conductive glues or paints. That's the research team's next step: to print more complex structures and electronic components, including the wires and cables that connect the 3D printed devices to computers.
3-D Printer ping!
Some day we won’t have to wait for delivery, we’ll just print our order. Of course there will always be those illegal file sharing programs and open source competitors.
but of course
This is probably the future of manufacturing. With a big enough printer, couldn’t one “print” sections of a house, boat, car or furniture?
With a big enough printer one could print a skyscraper or ship.
Pretty cool, can’t wait for my husband to come home from work and explain the stuff I didn’t get.
It would actually be kind of cool. I wonder if a tiny Enterprise model wasn’t one of the first things they made?
Yep, you just have to buy the pattern from the copyright holder, or check the Linux pages for an open source version.
Open source aircraft? or pay for the pattern? choices... choices...
With a big enough printer one could print a death star.
Cool. GPS-jammers, EMPers, microwave denial systems?
“print sections of a house, boat, car or furniture?”
as long as it’s made of plastic - or something that can be “printed”.
I am being proven right.
It will, but I think people should broaden their view a bit - 3D printing with plastics is just a very, very, very small part of the overall “additive manufacturing” revolution that is coming upon us.
Additive machining/manufacturing is going to revolutionize manufacturing and substantially lower per-unit costs. Now, instead of dragging in a huge block of material “X” and machining away 80+% of it into scrap, you’re going to have raw input material and you’re going to use only what you need.
Further, your need for tooling is going to go way down, as well as the cost for workholding devices (like vises, trunnions, clamps, tombstones, etc). All that stuff in a modern CNC shop costs big bucks and adds to the cost of equipment.
I'm still stuck on the "low cost hobbyist 3-d printer" ... where are these things hiding?
For hobbyists like railroaders it opens up a whole new world.
Why buy that specific HO scale part when you can make it at home? Why buy a plastic model kit? Just download the specs and make your own 1/48th scale B-17.
I am looking art the plus model.
as long as its made of plastic - or something that can be printed.
Can't find the video right now but I saw one recently where they were 3-D printing walls for a house in concrete. On site. Full scale.
“The printer can create touch-sensitive areas in the structure that can be connected to a simple, printed circuit board.”
Eventually, we’ll probably have small 3D printers that can print the circuit boards along with the things they’re designed to control. Then things will really get interesting. Print your own Playstation 6 :)
Imagine if you could 3D print a tank, or a helicopter. Instead of shipping an entire army’s worth of hardware to fight a war, you could infiltrate men, a few big 3D printers (or just build them with smaller printers), and a few shiploads worth of material. All of a sudden, there’s a tank division in the enemy’s capital.