The Harvard-based Voxel8 team has created a 3D printer that makes fully functioning electromechnical assemblies. The printer uses special software that allows users to design objects with working circuitry and space for electronic components. Voxel8’s printer is the first of its kind, and marks a substantial advancement in functional 3D printing.
Voxel8 demonstrated the amazing feats of their dual-head machine at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show, better known as CES2015, happening this week in Las Vegas. They showed off their machine’s fancy footwork by printing a fleet of working microcopters. Watch the printer in action here:
The machine works like most other 3D printers, except that it has a little something extra. A conductive paste extruder makes it possible to print working circuitry, and incorporate working electronic components into your design. The printer uses a special silver conductive paste developed in Voxel8’s research lab at Harvard University.
Voxel8 worked with Autodesk to create software that brings this nifty advancement to life. Makers get to design pathways for circuitry, as well as identify where electronic components are needed. The really cool part is what happens next; the machine prints a cavity for the necessary components, complete with conductive traces, and then pauses while you remove the work-in-progress and install the components. Once you return the piece to the machine and click continue, the 3D printer picks up exactly where it left off and completes the process, encapsulating the electronic components. In effect, this machine actually works cooperatively with the designer to build the finished product. The future is here, folks.
Now that the world has seen Voxel8’s new electronics-capable 3D printer, the company has put them on sale. They’re accepting pre-orders for the developer’s kit, and the price is $9,000.