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3D Printing of Custom Personal Electronics Arrives

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the print-all-the-things dept.

Hardware 72

Zothecula writes "Researchers at the University of Warwick have created a cheap plastic composite that can be used even with low-end 3D printers, to produce custom-made electronic devices. The material, nicknamed 'carbomorph,' is both conductive and piezoresistive, meaning that both electronic tracks and touch-sensitive areas can now be easily embedded in 3D-printed objects without the need for complex procedures or expensive materials."

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Bye, bye iPhone (4, Insightful)

Toe, The (545098) | about 2 years ago | (#42147815)

I just printed out a better phone.

(Or is that still a ways off? Ahem.)

Re:Bye, bye iPhone (0)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | about 2 years ago | (#42147925)

I have no idea - but can I get them to print me a new screen for my Galaxy S2? It had an unfortunate meeting with a cement floor yesterday and the LCD is toast (but the glass is still mint!). Hopefully I can get it replaced on the relatively cheap but still...

Re:Bye, bye iPhone (1)

wiedzmin (1269816) | about 2 years ago | (#42149639)

Sounds like an excuse to upgrade to the SIII ;)

Re:Bye, bye iPhone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42149217)

You may have to raise your game reguarding electronics design and microwave tranmitters, I'm pretty sure that by the time you have that down you'll be able to print out the results.

Re:Bye, bye iPhone (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 2 years ago | (#42149239)

I just printed out a better phone.

(Or is that still a ways off? Ahem.)

I just printed out an Apple lawyer.

Re:Bye, bye iPhone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42149583)

I just printed out a better phone.

(Or is that still a ways off? Ahem.)

I just printed out an Apple lawyer.

I just printed out Steve Jobs.

Canceling Print Jobs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42151935)

Someone Canceled Your Print Jobs

Re:Bye, bye iPhone (1)

cusco (717999) | about a year and a half ago | (#42150725)

On purpose?

Re:Bye, bye iPhone (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42153151)

Lawyers aren't printed, they're extruded.

Re:Bye, bye iPhone (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year and a half ago | (#42150419)

You'll have trouble printing the SoC.

Re:Bye, bye iPhone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42150867)

You better be careful that the phone that you printed isn't rectangular with rounded edges or else you'll get sued by Apple for patent infringement.

hah (2)

etash (1907284) | about 2 years ago | (#42147833)

can't wait to print my intel core 6 core 980X !!!

I think I may leap at this .. (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 years ago | (#42147851)

I'm perplexed how much a laser engraver costs, but want to do some custom mold engraving on the cheep (as in bird seed) looks like I need to get cracking on building a 3D printer and skip the costly laser engraver (plus Mach3 software to direct it.

Re:I think I may leap at this .. (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | about 2 years ago | (#42148113)

Hmm...

How about just an inkjet printer? Tri color cart, with the reservoir washed out. Fill one tank with silver nitrate, another with dextrose solution, and the third with a nonpolar resist solution. Fill the black cart with a clear varnish.

Print the resist layer, back out the sheet until it is dry, feed it back in, and then print the silver and dextrose layers. Back out again, allow to cure. Rinse sheet, reload it, print the varnish.

Done.

It would be like silvering a mirror, only more selective.

Re:I think I may leap at this .. (1)

emarkp (67813) | about 2 years ago | (#42148911)

You missed the alignment step.

Seriously, that would be awesome, and if someone can work out the alignment (maybe with a cheap web cam?) something like that may be feasible.

Re:I think I may leap at this .. (1)

AllanNienhuis (2772209) | about 2 years ago | (#42149161)

my printer (lexmark) is capable of (partly) pushing out a page to wait for drying, and then pulling it back in again to continue printing. I've seen it do this for doing double-sided printing, but it seems likely that it would be able to do multiple passes on the same sheet without any external alignment measures.

Re:I think I may leap at this .. (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 2 years ago | (#42149305)

My condolences on your choice of (DRM'ed) printers. But duplex printers (and scanners) frequently spit the paper almost completely out and suck it back in again, even when they're laser printers and hence have no wet ink to dry.

Re:I think I may leap at this .. (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | about 2 years ago | (#42149177)

Get one of those fancy 5 color jobs then. Fill the remaining tanks with pigments, and use the optical head calibration sensor in most modern inkjets to read the alignment pattern.

Then the process would be:

Print alignment matrix at the bottom of the sheet using tanks 4 and 5. Kick the sheet most of the way out, and wait 240 seconds for the pattern to dry real good. Pull the sheet back in, and look for the alignment pattern with the sensors. Slowly feed the sheet to the start position. Print the resist layer. Kick it most of the way out, and wait 240 seconds for it to dry. (Longer if needed...) pull the sheet back in, check for the alignment pattern. Advance to the start position. Lay down the nitrate and dextrose solutions. Kick the sheet most of the way out, and wait 10 minutes for it to cure. Kick the sheet out completely. Prompt for washing. Wash the sheet with distilled water and a mild surfactant. Dry the sheet. Load the sheet. Advance the sheet to find sheet edges, retract the sheet to find the alignment pattern. Advance to starting point, and lay down the varnish.

I am envisoning the use of a plastic substrate here, like an inkjet friendly transparancy film. That way the washing step is pretty harmless to the substrate.

You need to wash it, to remove the residual nitrate salts.

impossible! (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 years ago | (#42148245)

And just yesterday (and I mean yesterday), a self-proclaimed smart person was telling me that 3D printers would never be able to make anything useful.

Re:impossible! (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | about 2 years ago | (#42148485)

If the goal is "direct to market", then you are using 3d printing wrong.

3d printing is really to help you in an intermediate process. Like building a mold, or a die, or testing a layout without wasting a lot of prep time.

Re:impossible! (1)

peragrin (659227) | about 2 years ago | (#42148651)

For today at least.

I expect in 10-15 years simple electronics like calculators watches will be able to be printed.

There is a lot of material science to do to make such a thing work. so it might take longer.

Re:impossible! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42148685)

It doesn't make anything useful, in and of itself. All it's able to do is print wires & contacts.

Re:impossible! (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about 2 years ago | (#42148863)

If you think they're not useful, try doing without them for a week.

Re:impossible! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42150009)

It's not like we have no other way of making ridiculously better and cheaper wires and contacts... (eye roll & sigh)

Re:impossible! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42149491)

Better that than some self-proclaimed 3D printing nutjob thinking we're weeks away from Star Trek because a printer squirted something on a piece of plastic. These are toys for the idle geeks with money.

Re:impossible! (1)

wiedzmin (1269816) | about 2 years ago | (#42149665)

I'm pretty sure I saw a 3D printed rifle already. With that you can get anything else useful that you want. 'Nuff said.

Re:impossible! (1)

Smallpond (221300) | about a year and a half ago | (#42150335)

And just yesterday (and I mean yesterday), a self-proclaimed smart person was telling me that 3D printers would never be able to make anything useful.

How about a bikini [shapeways.com]

Re:impossible! (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year and a half ago | (#42150451)

Well, FPGAs can do this better already.

Another step (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#42148487)

For this stuff to practical on a small ( consumer ) scale. Lets hope we get there before the law gets in the way and derails it all.

Prepare for 3D Printing Criminalization in 3, 2, 1 (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#42148819)

Just wait until the MegaCorps© figure out that being able to 3D print our own electronics means we don't need them anymore.

Re:Prepare for 3D Printing Criminalization in 3, 2 (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about 2 years ago | (#42149029)

Patents, obscure designs, hardware DRM, I'm sure they'll figure something out.

Re:Prepare for 3D Printing Criminalization in 3, 2 (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#42149133)

Probably easier for them to just have it lumped together as 'thoughtcrime' and prosecuted as such.

doubleplus ungood.

Re:Prepare for 3D Printing Criminalization in 3, 2 (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about 2 years ago | (#42149273)

Still, I wouldn't mind living in an age where you can "pirate" a 60" sony bravia tv and keep it secret by not connecting it to the internet (like some hacks for game consoles nowadays).

Re:Prepare for 3D Printing Criminalization in 3, 2 (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#42149549)

Still, I wouldn't mind living in an age where you can "pirate" a 60" sony bravia tv and keep it secret by not connecting it to the internet (like some hacks for game consoles nowadays).

Wouldn't it make more sense to just not print the part that phones home?

Re:Prepare for 3D Printing Criminalization in 3, 2 (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year and a half ago | (#42169719)

Not any more than it would be feasible to remove the DRM hardware portion of an xbox360. You can, but then it would instantly stop working, since you're removing mission critical transistors that double as DRM.

Re:Prepare for 3D Printing Criminalization in 3, 2 (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#42170071)

Assuming one can 3D print an entire television, it's not a stretch of the imagination to think that they could, in process, redesign said mission critical transistors to function without the DRM component.

Re:Prepare for 3D Printing Criminalization in 3, 2 (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#42149571)

Also - I have a Bravia. Good hardware, but the software for it is pure shite.

Save the headaches and print yourself a Samsung.

Re:Prepare for 3D Printing Criminalization in 3, 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42156789)

They already did, it's called The Cloud.

Re:Prepare for 3D Printing Criminalization in 3, 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42152851)

Already on its way. It would allow criminals printing guns. Concerned citizens. Moral panic. Legislation. Printers banned by a landslide.

I'm waiting for... (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about 2 years ago | (#42148871)

A 3d printer to make my dinner, then years from now I can be one of those old guys yelling at kids about a time when you had to prep and cook your food and fortunate they should feel.

Re:I'm waiting for... (2)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year and a half ago | (#42150463)

Most people enjoy cooking.

Re:I'm waiting for... (1)

narcc (412956) | about a year and a half ago | (#42151943)

Most?

+5 Funny!

Re:I'm waiting for... (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year and a half ago | (#42169975)

Funny, most people as individuals don't have time to cook, just look at fast food's annual revenue as proof of this concept. It's not even cost effective for an individual to do so. In a family environment this changes, but then again look at the divorce rate here in the states...

Re:I'm waiting for... (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year and a half ago | (#42170113)

They have the time to watch stupid shows on TV. They very well have the time to cook.
It's that usians are lazy and cannot enjoy simple pleasures in life.

Re:I'm waiting for... (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year and a half ago | (#42170247)

Can't argue with you on the laziness part... it can get a bit rough working and managing the household if you live by yourself though. There's some significant health benefits to fresh cooked food too. We're talking out of different blocks of life I think :)

Re:I'm waiting for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42152863)

Obesity problem gets even more interesting when printing yourself a kebab or ice cream is as easy as stalking your ex on Facebook or checking the sports news. Future diets require some self discipline.

Re:I'm waiting for... (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year and a half ago | (#42169925)

Damn AC, if this ever becomes reality, I'm going to have to write the very first diet program for one of these, order ice cream? get Greek yogurt, cake? some veggies, etc...

I'll call it Dr. Syn's "why? cause F U diet".

Custom Full-Body Suits (1)

detain (687995) | about 2 years ago | (#42148961)

The article seems to be more about embedding electronic sensors in flexible rubber-like plastic. The examples even show them printing out a modern version of the Nintendo PowerGlove(tm). I could see these being used to print out custom-fit full body suits serving the same basic functions.

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42149097)

I've been reading /. for at least a decade, and this is possibly the biggest news I've ever seen here. 15 comments?

This is a big deal. If I owned a major electronics company, there'd be an emergency meeting with all the lawyers and all the head boffins right now.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42149773)

This is why I laugh at you 3D printing fools. Read what you wrote, go get a degree in EE, and read it again. You're an idiot.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42152847)

Nah, let me actually take back that comment. After a relaxing night of sleep, I realized that I was just having a bad day when I posted that.

It's coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42152939)

This is why I laugh at you 3D printing fools. Read what you wrote, go get a degree in EE, and read it again. You're an idiot.

I have the degree in EE, and a PhD to boot, and I must say that you are being incredibly myopic.

Nobody says that we can 3D print semiconductors at home today, and it won't be tomorrow either, but it's coming, or something equivalent is coming. Yes, there are a million things to solve first, and the result will be nothing like today's silicon technology, but there are many ways to skin a cat.

We may end up with something completely different for personal manufacturing than is used in industry today, because our requirements and resources are so different. Research on nanoscale materials and DNA-aided construction of nanoscale parts is progressing well, and 3D printers like today's may end up being assembly and wiring interconnection machines for nano-manufactured home-grown parts. We can't see the future, but the desire for personal manufacturing isn't going away, it's growing and growing as more people get a taste for it. Naysaying its future is very unwise.

An how is that "electronics"? (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 2 years ago | (#42149215)

Wires and switches still only qualify as "electric" but not electronics. There is not much they can be used for by themselves.

Re:An how is that "electronics"? (1)

Tapewolf (1639955) | about 2 years ago | (#42149457)

Wires and switches still only qualify as "electric" but not electronics. There is not much they can be used for by themselves.

Could you print the core of an ECC83 or something?

Re:An how is that "electronics"? (1)

gweihir (88907) | about a year and a half ago | (#42150765)

No. That requires pretty special steel, glimmer, chemical treatments, welding and that is not even taking the heater into account that turns a valve into an electronics device. Without the heater being turned on a valve is not an electronic component.

Re:An how is that "electronics"? (1)

Tapewolf (1639955) | about a year and a half ago | (#42150931)

No. That requires pretty special steel, glimmer, chemical treatments, welding and that is not even taking the heater into account that turns a valve into an electronics device. Without the heater being turned on a valve is not an electronic component.

Well, I figured that you might be able to print the heater too, but yeah, I was afraid there was more to the guts of it than a simple metal structure.

Misleading characterization of the technology (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42149445)

Printing of a conductive material into various shapes is so much different than printing of actual embedded electronics that we consider to be electronics--which requires complex silicon-based structures--something that is not something you just print.

Basically this technique is nice, but is not that much different than taking carbon black or some conductive particles, putting into a syringe of silicone rubber and squirting it out into various shapes. Combining with a multiple output 3D printer, you can embed the conductive elements into various parts of the structure--which is the nice part.

3D printers are mostly going to be for things like housings and maybe some simple touch buttons for still quite some time, dont get your hopes up. Inside your phone are things such as integrated circuits made from silicon, SiGe, etc, high density copper interconnects, the display and touchpanel which includes silicon, liquid crystals, resins in the color filter, micro-patterned plastic films for the backlight, ITO and metals in the touchpanel, polyimides for flex circuits and insulator layers, organic coatings all through the phone, LED's made from exotic material, the battery, inductors, capacitors, resistors, each of which are also made from pretty exotic materials.

So the point is, that its much more realistic to think about how something like a 3D printer could be a 3D assembly device. It could print the housing and some various moving parts, maybe even the antenna and some other parts of the device, but it would use a variety of semi-custom components that are sitting in its inventory--such as various generic integrated circuits, resistors, capacitors, inductors, diodes, and LEDs. So you could have something like a "MAKE FACTORY". Where in each city, there would be a factory that can actually make some pretty amazing stuff in less than 1 hour or something like that. It would have all of the major sub-components "in stock", and would be completely built and assembled by robots in a short period of time. This is a pretty achievable goal actually.

Just need a 3-D printer (1)

Smallpond (221300) | about 2 years ago | (#42149803)

When is my local Kinko's or Staples going to have a 3D printer where I can take my USB stick with an Autocad file?

Re:Just need a 3-D printer (1)

AnotherAnonymousUser (972204) | about a year and a half ago | (#42150057)

According to yesterday's news, pretty soon. http://tech.slashdot.org/story/12/11/29/2339252/staples-to-offer-3d-printing-services [slashdot.org]

Re:Just need a 3-D printer (1)

Smallpond (221300) | about a year and a half ago | (#42150281)

Cool. I just need to fly to Belgium.

Re:Just need a 3-D printer (1)

chronoglass (1353185) | about a year and a half ago | (#42150821)

http://www.shapeways.com/ [shapeways.com]

pretty close to that

One small step away from giant leap forward (3, Insightful)

next_ghost (1868792) | about a year and a half ago | (#42150189)

Insulators/structural support - check
Conductors - check
Inductors - check
Resistors - check
Capacitors - check

Now all we need are two 3D-printable materials that can form a semiconductor and an extruder design that can automatically switch between all of those materials and the 3D printing bonanza will begin.

Re:One small step away from giant leap forward (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42151603)

"3D printing bonanza"? Uh, like we aren't in a mass manufacturing bonanza right now? The delusions around 3D printing are incredible to me. Are you seriously grown up rational adults? You sound like children.

Re:One small step away from giant leap forward (1)

next_ghost (1868792) | about a year and a half ago | (#42153385)

Uh, like we aren't in a mass manufacturing bonanza right now?

Yes, we are. And it's one of the main causes of our current economic problems. That's why we need to move from buying everything from east Asia to making stuff we need back home again. We don't go nuts over the technology itself, we just see a huge potential for stabilizing the economy in it. The technology is not perfect, it just happens to be the closest one to practical usability.

Re:One small step away from giant leap forward (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42154523)

We have plenty of mass manufacturing technology in the USA. Industrial automation of current manufacturing technologies is already starting to leveling the playing field between China and industrialized nations in the rest of the world.

Currently the only thing that 3D printing offers is slightly faster and less expensive prototyping.

Wake me up when a 3D printer can match injection molding in speed, price, and quality.

Re:One small step away from giant leap forward (1)

next_ghost (1868792) | about a year and a half ago | (#42157129)

We have plenty of mass manufacturing technology in the USA. Industrial automation of current manufacturing technologies is already starting to leveling the playing field between China and industrialized nations in the rest of the world.

You know, that doesn't really help at all. If you want the economy to work, it doesn't matter whether the goods are made in China by cheap Chinese workers or by machines in your own country. The only thing that matters is whether or not all of your customers can earn back (directly or indirectly) every single cent they've paid for your goods. If they can, the economy will flourish. If they can't, it'll trigger a domino effect of poverty that will effectively remove all the people who are unable to earn their money back from you from the economy (though it may take a decade or two). That's pretty much the 2008 crisis in a nutshell. And it's also the main reason why high-tech DIY manufacturing is an economic necessity for a lot of people. Injection molding solves a technical problem but 3D printing solves an economic one.

Re:One small step away from giant leap forward (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42154571)

Your comment should be modded as Insightful. None of the 3D printing hipster "Maker" crowd has ever been involved in real manufacturing. The same dummies were hyping home CNC a few years ago as a radical innovation that would render mass manufacturing obsolete!

Re:One small step away from giant leap forward (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42153107)

Instead of a 5-color printer, why couldn't you just have;
Insulators
Conductors
Inductors
Resistors
Capacitors
-- as a powdered form, and then you heat-set each one into place, re-run for each "ink." You'd probably need software if you had interconnects that needed to be positioned at another level. So about 7 passes on average. ...all on the structural insulator base?

Re:One small step away from giant leap forward (1)

next_ghost (1868792) | about a year and a half ago | (#42153397)

Hint: Inductors and capacitors are made by carefully printing insulator and conductor materials in a certain pattern. They don't require a special material for themselves.

Re:One small step away from giant leap forward (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42156635)

Unless you want huge capacitors like were used in 1970, they actually do use special materials with high dielectric constants. Such as Barium Titanate doped with zirconium, as well as many other composite materials that have low sensitivity to temperature.

Inductors similarly are built using high magnetic permeability materials (iron nickel cobalt rare earth magnet materials, etc), again otherwise they would be massive. Or they are wire-wound with super thin wires and super thin insulation.

This technology you can probably use for resistors with some success, but not too likely to be very precise.

Re:One small step away from giant leap forward (1)

next_ghost (1868792) | about a year and a half ago | (#42157177)

Sure, but that's a bit of overkill for lots of applications.

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