3D Printed Elastic Conductors for Wearable Electronics

3D printing, a future-ready technology is in its early development stage and making the complex structure is very tough. However, a breakthrough has been achieved by using the 3D printing technique in the field of wearable technology. Recently, a 3D-printed elastic component has been developed by the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) could conduct electricity. The study has been reported in Nature Electronics, which could open the path to the development of large-scale printing of multi-functional and stretchable components for wearable devices.

How elastic conductors Print

The elastic conductors have been printed by using a new emulsion based composite ink which is the dispersion of conducting elastomers. The conducting elastomers are rubber components that can facilitate the flow of charge. The major challenge faced by the group of scientists towards 3D printed conductors is “the rheological properties of existing inks typically only allow for layer-wise deposition,” Byeongmoon Lee, Hyunjoo Cho and group mentioned in their report. The new composite ink utilized by scientists has various favourable properties contrasted with different inks normally utilized in 3D printing. In particular, it displays viscoelasticity, shear-diminishing and lubricating properties, which better help the printing of complicated 3D designs.

Elastic Conductors size

Further they have detailed their tremendous achievement as “Printed structures of the intrinsically stretchable conductor exhibit a minimum feature size less than 100 μm and stretchability of more than 150 %,”. “The vaporization of the dispersed solvent phase in the emulsion results in the formation of microstructure, surface-localized conductive networks, which improve the electrical conductivity.”

Use of elastic conductors

They have also printed elastic interconnects to create a wearable temperature sensor with a stretchable display and demonstrated its good performance. This 3d printing technique could be used in the future for further development in soft electronics.

Source: Nature Journal

Leave a comment