Researchers at the University of Warwick’s School of Engineering have discovered a way to manufacture working electronic devices using 3D printers. To date, the electronic inner workings of products have been manufactured separately from their outer plastic shells, but with the use of a new carbon-rich material called Carbomorph, researchers were able to 3d print working electronic devices including a computer game controller, a motion-sensing glove, and a smart mug that knows how full it is.
Carbomorph is a simple, low-cost conductive material that enables designers to lay down electronic tracks and sensors as part of a 3D printed structure, creating touch-sensitive areas which can be connected to a simple electronic circuit board. By using Carbomorph along with regular plastic, designers can create complex electronics like mobile phones and remote controls using a single 3D printer. “In the long-term, this technology could revolutionize 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,” says Dr. Simon Leigh, who led the research team.
The research team is already working on more complex structures and electronic components – including the wires and cables required to connect the devices to computers. One challenge facing this new technology, pose experts, is its durability. Will Carbomorph 3D electronics and sensors be able to endure multiple uses and cycles, dishwasher use, and the wear and tear that consumer electronic devices have to handle?