Emerging Technologies

This new 3D printing technique puts electronics into plastics 

An employee checks the 3D printing of a scaffold for a kidney at Dr. Ali Ertuerk's laboratory in Munich, Germany April 23, 2019. Mr. Ertuerk and his team developed DISCO transparency technology which is used by scientists from diverse biomedical research fields to generate high resolution views of intact rodent organs and bodies, a milestone on the way to generate 3D-bioprinted human organs. Picture taken April 23, 2019.  REUTERS/Michael Dalder - RC1EFF557D70

The technique could create better-performing small satellites and smart structures. Image: REUTERS/Michael Dalder

Todd Bates
Science Communicator, Rutgers University
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Emerging Technologies?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Digital Communications is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Digital Communications

Researchers have embedded high-performance electrical circuits inside plastics they created with 3D printing.

The plastics could lead to smaller and versatile drones and better-performing small satellites, biomedical implants, and smart structures.

The researchers used pulses of high-energy light to fuse tiny silver wires, resulting in circuits that conduct 10 times more electricity than the state of the art, according to their study in the journal Additive Manufacturing. By increasing conductivity 10-fold, the engineers can reduce energy use, extend the life of devices, and increase their performance.

“Our innovation shows considerable promise for developing an integrated unit—using 3D printing and intense pulses of light to fuse silver nanoparticles—for electronics,” says senior author Rajiv Malhotra, an assistant professor in the mechanical and aerospace engineering department in the School of Engineering at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

This is an example of simple light-sensing electronics with an LED (light-emitting diode), a light-sensitive diode (semiconductor), and power connected via a high-performance circuit inside polymer. The LED is on when it senses light and off when light from the diode is blocked.
Image: Naim Jahangir

Embedding electrical interconnections inside 3D-printed structures made of polymers, or plastics, can create new paradigms for devices that are smaller and more energy-efficient. Such devices could include CubeSats (small satellites), drones, transmitters, light and motion sensors, and Global Positioning Systems. Such interconnections could also be useful in antennas, pressure sensors, electrical coils, and electrical grids for electromagnetic shielding.

The engineers used high-tech “intense pulsed light sintering”—featuring high-energy light from a xenon lamp—to fuse long thin rods of silver called nanowires. Nanomaterials are measured in nanometers (a nanometer is a millionth of a millimeter—about 100,000 times thinner than a human hair). Devices such as solar cells, displays, and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags already use fused silver nanomaterials to conduct electricity.

The next steps include making fully 3D internal circuits, enhancing their conductivity, and creating flexible internal circuits inside flexible 3D structures, Malhotra says.

Have you read?
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Emerging TechnologiesFourth Industrial Revolution
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Industry transformation at AMNC24

Pooja Chhabria

June 23, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum