International researchers delve into the area of materials science and 3D printing—a common theme today—but in this study, conductivity is the focus. Detailing their findings in the recently published ‘3D Printing of Conducting Polymers,’ the authors make it clear that while such polymers offer great potential in applications like electronics, there have still been challenges to overcome.
Upon developing a high-performance conducting polymer ink based on poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene):polystyrene sulfonate (PEDOT:PSS), the researchers aimed to create a concentrated solution of nanofibrils.
With ‘superior printability,’ the polymer ink offers a range of high-performance capabilities, printing with:
- High resolution
- High aspect ratio
- Overhanging structures
In this study, the researchers created print mesh samples of the ink via 200-, 100-, 50-, and 30-µm diameter nozzles. The structures could be easily transformed into dry or hydrogel form, with ‘long-term stability’ to be expected wet environments without degradation—even after storing for six months.
The ink can also be integrated into multi-material 3D printing processes easily, proven during the study as the team created a structure similar to a high-density multi-electrode array (MEA) based on multi-material 3D printing of the conducting polymer ink and an insulating polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) ink—all within 30 minutes.
“The 3D printed MEA-like structure shows a complex microscale electrode pattern and a PDMS well that are comparable to a commercially available MEA fabricated by multi-step lithographic processes and post-assembly,” stated the researchers.
Because the polymers are highly reproducible, they can be 3D printed quickly with over 100 circuit patterns in less than 30 minutes, displaying ‘high electrical conductivity.’ This type of production offers an alternative to ink-jet or screen printing—along with greater versatility in design options, depending on required applications.
Experiments were performed using a customized Cartesian gantry style 3D printer by Aerotech, offering a variety of nozzle sizes. Conductivity was measured in the 3D printed polymers as the researchers employed a four-point probe. Samples were prepared via one layer of conducting polymer ink printed into a rectangular shape of 30 mm in length and 5 mm in width, featuring 100-µm nozzles on glass substrates, and copper wire electrodes attached with silver paste to the surfaces.
“This work not only addresses the existing challenges in 3D printing of conducting polymers but also offers a promising fabrication strategy for flexible electronics, wearable devices, and bioelectronics based on conducting polymers,” concluded the researchers.
3D printing and electronics accompany each other—whether in the form of newly developed composites for greater functionality, in use with smart textiles, circuit boards, or other useful technologies. Experiments and innovations regarding 3D printing and conductive materials are becoming increasingly popular too as users, researchers, and manufacturers look for better ways to create more powerful parts.
What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.[Source / Images: ‘3D Printing of Conducting Polymers’]
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