Carbomorph Plastic Lets 3D Printers Print Electronics: Rapider Prototyping
December 13th, 2012
The 3D printing projects we’ve seen are usually made of plastic material. We’ve also seen ones made from chocolate, sandstone and even living cells, but we haven’t seen a 3D printed electronic gadget. Until now. Researchers at the University of Warwick have invented a plastic composite that can be used to do just that.
The material is made of carbon black and polymorph, hence the name carbomorph. The researchers were able to use carbomorph to print simple electronic products like a computer game controller with touch-sensitive buttons, a glove that can sense when it’s flexed and a mug that can sense the amount of fluid it contains. Note that these products were made using unmodified 3D printers and in one build process, i.e. the non-electronic and the electronic parts were printed at the same time.
The researchers are optimistic that someday we might be able to print complex electronic products in one go – say, an entire cellphone – instead of part by part or just a non-functioning model. Compare that with the 3D printed headphone, where its most important parts – the speaker, the RCA jacks and the cables – still needed to be bought. The technology could lead to highly individualized gadgets as well. Perhaps it could lead to longer lasting gadgets too if it allows us to print replacement parts. So in the future we’ll be able to print food, toys, houses, medical equipment and gadgets. Delivery companies are going to go out of business – or have to get into the 3D printer business; how can they beat zero-day delivery?