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Thursday, August 28, 2014

UK Researchers Develop Plastic Composite for 3-D Printing

Engineers who developed a plastic composite that can be 3-D printed with embedded sensors used this game controller as an example of potential applications. Credit: University of Warwick

Scientists at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom have created a plastic composite that could pave the way for 3-D printing of personal electronics, the university’s news service reports.

Engineers led by Dr. Simon Leigh of the School of Engineering developed “carbomorph,” an inexpensive conductive plastic composite that can be printed with embedded objects, such as electronic tracks and sensors. The researchers theorize that with further development, the material could be used to 3-D print objects with wires and other electronic components. In other words, operational electronic devices.

“In the long term, this technology could revolutionalize the way we produce the world around us, making products such as personal electronics a lot more individualized and unique and in the process reducing electronic waste,” Leigh told the university. “However, in the short term I can see this technology having a major impact in the educational sector, for example, allowing the next generation of young engineers to get hands-on experience of using advanced manufacturing technology to design fairly high-tech devices and products right there in the classroom.”

In the copy of the team’s research paper published by online journal PLOS ONE, they express their hopes for using this new technology to circumvent more expensive manufacturing processes.

“This advance in low-cost 3-D printing will offer a new paradigm in the 3-D printing field with printed sensors and electronics embedded inside printed objects in a single-build process without requiring complex or expensive materials incorporating additives such as carbon nanotubes.”

Brian Lane

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