In a development that may one day prove useful to 3D printed objects, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology says they’ve created a process where conventional, flexible electroluminescent (EL) foils can be applied onto flat surfaces using an imprinting method.
Working in cooperation with Franz Binder GmbH & Co., the process allows for the direct printing of electroluminescent layers onto three-dimensional components to provide a glowing result.
The researchers say these EL components could easily be adapted to safety applications in buildings in case of power failures, and they add that the process might also be used in displays and watches or even interior design.
The process allows materials with flexible surfaces such as paper and plastic to be coated to make them glow.
“By means of the innovative production process we developed together with our industry partner, any type of three-dimensional object can be provided with electroluminescent coatings at low costs,” says Dr. Rainer Kling of the Light Technology Institute at KIT.
Dr. Kling says the this luminescent material is often placed between two plastic layers within what they call “carrier foils.”
Since these electroluminescent layers are printed directly onto a given object without the need for any additional structures, convex and concave surfaces can be coated.
The electroluminescent and the electrically conductive materials are applied by a pad printing process which uses an elastic rubber printing surface that can easily follow the contours of curved surfaces.
One of the engineers who developed the materials and process, Elodie Chardin, says it’s possible to provide many surfaces – and even spheres – with a glowing, homogeneous coating at very low cost.
“Homogeneity of the coating of about one tenth of a millimeter in thickness was one of the challenges of this project,” says Elisabeth Warsitz of Franz Binder. “The process requires a few production steps only and, hence, is characterized by a low consumption of resources. By using various luminescent substances, various colors may be applied to the same surface.”
The research and development work was done by the KIT in cooperation with the Binder Connector Group. The project took approximately two years to complete, and funds came from the German Foundation for the Environment. That foundation funds environmental protection projects.
Can you see applications to 3D printed objects for this technology from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology? Let us know in the Printing Electroluminescent Coatings on 3D Objects forum thread on 3DPB.com.