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Interview with Voxel8 Co-Founder Daniel Oliver – Are 3D Printed Batteries & Sensors Next?

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voxel8int-6At CES 2015, one company within the 3D printing space really stood out. Their name was Voxel8, and what they had come up with had the international media buzzing. Voxel8, a company which was formed as an offshoot of Harvard Professor Jennifer A. Lewis’ ‘Lewis Group‘, allows for the printing of conductive traces within 3D printed objects. The current Voxel8 printer, which is available for pre-order at just $8,999, has the ability to print using thermoplastics and conductive inks within the same object.

The conductive inks, which are able to be printed at room temperature and seamlessly integrated with a broad array of matrix materials, were developed by leveraging over a decade of research put forth by Jennifer Lewis.

3DPrint.com recently had a chance to catch up with Co-Founder and Business Development Lead of Voxel8 Daniel Oliver at the Inside 3D Printing Conference in New York, where Co-Founder Travis Busbee gave a talk entitled “3D Electronics Printing.” Oliver was open to answering a few questions that we had about his company and where they may go in the future.

3DPrint.com: We all have heard that the Voxel8 3D printer can print electronics. What gave you the idea to create this machine, and why don’t you think others have come up with this type of product previously?

Voxel8 Co-founder Daniel Oliver

Voxel8 Co-founder Daniel Oliver

Daniel Oliver: Voxel8 leverages over a decade of patented research on printing functional materials from Harvard Professor Jennifer Lewis. The next frontier of 3D printing is the expansion of the materials pallet for printing and the ability to combine these materials together to create finished products. Prof. Lewis has made pioneering contributions to the directed assembly of soft functional materials, which has led to 17 patents (10 issued) to date.

3DPrint.com: There has to have been a moment when you said to yourself, “Wow, this is a really awesome machine!” When did this moment occur for you?

Daniel Oliver: When I was introduced to the Lewis Group in 2013 I was blown away with the amazing research being done in the lab. One of the hardest jobs I had, was to focus Voxel8 on one of a number of amazing technologies from the Lewis Group.

3DPrint.com: What has been the greatest compliment you have received about the Voxel8, and whom was it from?

Daniel Oliver: We were incredibly honored to be named one of Fast Company’s Top 9 Innovations at CES 2015. To be singled out in a show of that magnitude was immensely gratifying.

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3DPrint.com: Do you have any plans to print other components besides the conductive traces (e.g., sensors, batteries, transistors, etc.)? Anything else in the pipeline?

Daniel Oliver: Voxel8 is starting with the ability to print the interconnections between electrical components. This is a huge step to allowing electronics in full three dimensions and allows users to leverage the vast amount of existing electrical components.

The Lewis Group has demonstrated the printing of a number of electrical components including lithium ion batteries and in the future Voxel8 is excited to commercialize as many of these technologies as possible.

3DPrint.com: Where do you see your company in 5 years in terms of capabilities?

Daniel Oliver: Voxel8 is excited to push this technology into the creation of finished parts. We are tirelessly working with our customers to identify the next generation of electronics that will be enabled by this technology.

3DPrint.com: How long before you think it will be possible to download a model of a small computer and print out virtually the entire thing (minus the monitor)? Is this something you think will be possible within the 3D printing space? Is this something possible with your machines or future machines?

Daniel Oliver: I think it’s far more likely that 3D printing will focus its efforts to create electronics and products we have never seen before. For instance, the IoT movement requires electronics to be integrated into more and more of our products. 3D printing is a great way of seamlessly embedding electronics directly into products.

There are a number of examples of demos Voxel8 has printed on our website. We have printed 3D circuit boards, wifi antennas and a fully functioning quadcopter. You can see it flying off the print bed in the video below.

The fact that Oliver says that they will try and commercialize as many of Jennifer Lewis’ patents as possible in their 3D printers, could make their products even more exciting than they currently are. The Lewis Lab has developed several unique methods of 3D printing which include printing of lightweight composites, lithium ion micro-batteries, and embedded sensors in stretchable matrices. These are all things that we may one day soon see enabled in Voxel8’s machines.

If you are interested in hearing more from the Voxel8 team, be sure to register for the RoboUniverse Conference & Expo, which will be taking place in New York May 11-13, 2015. Voxel8 Co-Founder and Lead Software Engineer Jack Minardi will be giving a presentation there.

A 3D Printed Quadcopter

A 3D Printed Quadcopter

What do you think about the potential that Voxel8 brings to the 3D printing space? Will we one day soon be 3D printing objects in the comfort of our own homes, that couldn’t have even been imagined just a couple years ago? It definitely seems possible, if all goes as planned for this tremendous company. Discuss in the Voxel8 forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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