Faster production of 3D printed electronics

Recently manufacturer have used 3D printing to make powerful electronics more compact, cheaper to make and faster. A team of researcher at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) are no exception, developing a method to produce electronics nearly faster than the conventional method.

The team at UCLA has a simple two step method, first taking a 3D print and lining it with electrostatic charges and dipping them repeatedly into a resin mixed with electronically conductive materials. Each time the part is dipped into the resin it adds another layer of conductive material, and since the whole process is one technique, unlike existing methods that require switching techniques, it can save a lot of time.

A lot of electronics now a days like phones and laptops have two-dimensional electronic components such as sensors and antennae, but if we implemented 3D printing into the manufacturing of the electronics, we could make curved electronics to save space or improve the electronics and internal components. The current problem that is preventing this at the moment is that multi-process manufacturing methods require print-pausing to change technique, and each ink used has to be optimized for the 3D printer requiring significant development time for new materials which all adds to the manufacturing time.

This is why UCLA’s Samueli School of Engineering has developed it’s two step method to increase the production time of 3D printed electronics. The researchers produced devices such as electronic fingertips and a 2-inch-tall detailed model of the Eiffel Tower with electrodes running throughout its structure, to show how the method can be used to produce electronics with a complex structure.

According to assistant professor Xiaoyu Zheng, who led the research team that specializes in combining additive manufacturing techniques with smart materials, the new method could be used to create a range of products containing tactile sensors.

“Our much faster and simpler method can open the door to integrating new classes of 3D electronics, such as lighter, more compact antennas for the next generation of smartphones and 5G communications, or new classes of sensors and smart materials for wearables,” said assistant professor Xiaoyu Zheng.

 

Essop, Anas, et al. “UCLA Researchers Develop a More Efficient Method of 3D Printing Electronics.” 3D Printing Industry, 1 May 2020, 3dprintingindustry.com/news/ucla-researchers-develop-a-more-efficient-method-of-3d-printing-electronics-171277/.