Last month, we covered a company called Voxel8, founded by Jennifer A. Lewis, a professor of biologically inspired engineering at Harvard University. They had just secured funding from Braemar Energy Ventures for work on 3D printed electronics.
Up until this point, we’ve seen a few smaller companies dabble in the space where electronics meet FDM/FFF 3D printing. Currently it’s an imperfect science, but one which promises to change the way electronics are manufactured in the future.
Here we are just three weeks after Voxel8 announced this funding agreement, and the company already has big news. They will officially be launching their electronics 3D printer at 2015 CES this week, and from the looks of things, this will be a groundbreaking machine. The Voxel8 Developer’s Kit is immediately available for pre-order at the company’s website for $8,999, and will include 4 PLA filament spools, 10 conductive ink cartridges (60m of trace/cartridge), as well as one additional print bed. For those wishing to only put down $500 as a down payment, while they wait for the printers to begin shipping, there is a separate, less inclusive package available as well.
“Voxel8 is leveraging over a decade of research, which has led to 17 patents (10 issued) on functional materials, printheads, and other processes for 3D printing, from my lab,” said Dr. Jennifer A. Lewis, Voxel8 Founder and Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. “Our work provides the foundation for Voxel8’s effort to revolutionize multi-material 3D printing. To realize our vision, we have recruited a multi-disciplinary team with expertise in the advanced materials, precision hardware, intelligent software and design.”
The machine itself is quite incredible. It starts out printing just like any other FDM/FFF 3D printer we have seen. When it comes time to place a circuit into an object, a second nozzle is utilized, which is filled with highly conductive silver ink. This isn’t just any conductive ink. According to the company, it is 5000x more conductive then the conductive pastes and filaments currently being used and experimented with by other companies. Once the circuits are printed, the printer returns to printing with thermoplastics. When it’s time for a chip or other electronic component such as an LED or sensor to be placed within an object, the printer stops printing, allows for the removal of the build tray, and lets a person place the component into the printed object. Once placed, the print job will resume.
This process enables users to design and fabricate devices such as 3D printed electromagnetic coils, antennas, and all sorts of other cool gadgets. Instead of having to design a part around the electrical components, the electrical components can be designed around the part. Below you will find the general specifications of this new machine:
- Build Envelope: 10 x15 x 10cm
- Printing Technology: FFF, Pneumatic Direct Write
- Layer Resolution: 200 microns
- Filament Compatibility: 1.75mm
- Conductive Trace Width: 250 microns
- Supported Files: AMF, STL, PLY, OBJ, OFF
- Resistivity: 5.00 × 10-7 Ω-m
- Silver Ink Cure Time: 5 minutes
Additionally, Voxel8 has announced a partnership with Autodesk for a new Spark powered design tool called Project Wire. Project Wire will enable designers to easily create electronics, by guiding them in their placement of free-form wiring and components, and with the slicing of multiple materials such as thermoplastics and inks.
“We are excited to work with companies like Voxel8, because they are really pushing the boundaries of what 3D printing is capable of, and by incorporating conductive inks directly into 3D printing process, we can start to create things that have function after they are printed,” said Jeff Kowalski, CTO of Autodesk.
This is certainly a very exciting time for the entire 3D printing space. As companies like Voxel8 emerge on the scene, tremendous opportunities will continue to present themselves to businesses and hobbyists alike. For those wishing to get a first hand look at the Voxel8 electronics printer, the company will be present at 2015 International CES in Las Vegas, at booth 71726 in the Sands Exposition Hall from January 6-9, 2015.
Let’s hear your thoughts on this incredible new machine in the Voxel8 forum thread on 3DPB.com Check out the video below explaining the printer in further detail.