Using a Combined 3D Printing Method to Create Stretchable Electronics

Share this Article

Stretchable electronics have a lot of potential for applications in wearable devices, soft robotics, artificial skin and more. To create stretchable electronics, 3D printing is a fast, accurate technology that can built circuits and structures from liquid metal. Recently, researchers have been interested in stretchable electronics based on Ga-based liquid metals (GLMs), which are nontoxic liquids with low viscosity. Due to their high surface tension, however, GLMs are difficult to directly print. In a paper entitled “Three-Dimensional Coprinting of Liquid Metals for Directly Fabricating Stretchable Electronics,” a group of researchers develops a coprinting method in which GLMs are printed together with elastic materials to overcome their poor printability.

The researchers used a coaxial nozzle for the process; the outer nozzle was used to extrude a flexible silicone material, while the inner nozzle extruded the liquid metal.

“The principle of this method is that the continuous contact and extrusion of the external highly viscous cure sealant with its internal liquid metal inhibits the balling of liquid metal, ensuring the continuous outflow of liquid metal and achieving the liquid metal 3D printing successfully,” the researchers explain. “At the same time, the flexible silicone material also plays an important role in isolating the air, preventing degradation of the liquid metal properties and being a flexible encapsulating material for flexible circuits. Appropriate process parameters are selected to ensure a successful printing process. Compared with other methods, this method can be used to quickly print desired structures with a programmed path.”

The core components of the system were a desktop 3D printer, the coaxial nozzle, and injection pumps.

“To fabricate the stretchable electronics, we performed the following steps,” the researchers continue. “First, the injection pumps extruded out GLMs into the inner blunt syringe needle of the nozzle at a suitable flow rate Q1 (above 0.25–0.75 mL/s) and extruded cure sealant into the outer cavity of the nozzle at a flow rate Q2 (above 2–4 μL/min) to make the coaxial fiber. Then, the G-code was input into the computer to control the XY stages of the desktop 3D printer to print the desired electronic circuit. What is more, the motorized Z stage can work with the XY stages to stack the planar electronic circuit into 3D structure. In addition, the motorized Z stage can be used to install other auxiliary devices for the construction of special 3D structures.”

The researchers used their technique to 3D print a spiral coil inductor. They then pasted both ends of the inductor onto the end effector of an endoscope to measure the spatial motion of the endoscope. When the handle was turned, the inductance of the sensor changed regularly. In addition, the inductive response of the sensor was highly sensitive, showing that the sensor has a good dynamic response and can be used to assess the idle stroke of endoscopic monitoring.

The problem with printing liquid metal is that it comes out as a ball rather than a stream; however, printing it so that it came in continuous contact with viscous elastic materials inhibited that balling. This allowed the researchers to 3D print stretchable electronic components that showed excellent performance when tested. According to the researchers, this is the first production of a new type of multifunctional stretchable inductance sensor.

“Compared with resistance sensors and capacitive sensors, inductance sensors are more reliable and have lower technological requirements because the detection performance of an inductance sensor only depends on the geometric parameters and turn numbers of a spiral pipe and is not affected by conductivity changes of liquid metal,” the researchers state.

Authors of the paper include Yong He, Luyu Zhou, Junfu Zhan, Qing Gao, Jianzhong Fu, Chaoqi Xie, Haiming Zhao, and Yu Liu.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

 

Facebook Comments

Share this Article


Related Articles

Nanyang Technological University: Inkjet Printing of ZnO Micro-Sized Thin Films

Embedded 3D Printing and Sensors Lead to Soft Robotic Fingers



Categories

3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns


You May Also Like

European Innovation Hub and Test Bed to Focus on Developing and Implementing 3D Printed Electronics

More and more, we are using special industrial 3D printers, with inkjet and aerosol jet technology, to embed conductive components within our intelligent products in what we call 3D printed...

University of California Researchers Explore Acoustophoresis in Regulating Electrical Composites for 3D Printing

Scientists from University of California Santa Barbara have been exploring the use of acoustophoresis in regulating electrical composites in accompaniment with 3D printing in ‘Flexible Composites with Programmed Electrical Anisotropy...

Researchers 3D Print Resistors From Electrically Conductive Filament on a Desktop 3D Printer

In a paper entitled “Characterization of resistors created by fused filament fabrication using electrically-conductive filament,” a pair of researchers 3D prints resistors using electrically conductive carbon black and graphene-based filament....

Harris Corporation Tests Performance of 3D Printed Radio Frequency Circuits

Harris Corporation is a leader in tactical communications, geospatial systems and services, air traffic management, environmental solutions, avionics and electronic warfare, and space and intelligence. Recently, the company made an...


Training


Shop

View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.


Print Services

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our 3DPrint.com.

You have Successfully Subscribed!