Skip to main content

New 3D-printing technique uses UV light to print working electronic circuits

3D inkjet printing of electronics using UV irradiation - concept
If you’re an electrical engineer, 3D printing has long been a valuable tool for carrying out tasks like printing prototype housings or cases for your projects. But the 3D printing of electronic components themselves is also a growing field. This is something researchers from the U.K.’s University of Nottingham are helping with — courtesy of a newly invented “breakthrough” approach to printing fully functional electronic circuits that could help transform the way we create components.

“Here at the Center for Additive Manufacturing, we’re exploring ways of developing additive manufacturing beyond single material deposition to the ability to manufacture a working system straight out of the machine,” Professor Chris Tuck, professor of materials engineering and lead investigator of the study, told Digital Trends.

The researchers’ new approach involves printing circuits made of electrically conductive metallic inks and insulating polymeric inks. These can be produced in a single inkjet printing process, using an ultraviolet light to solidify the inks. This solidification process takes less than one minute per layer, which is far quicker than other approaches that made it impractical to consider printing objects with hundreds of different layers.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

The approach also allows for the printing of multiple materials in one object. The researchers hope that this will make it possible to print more ambitious electronic items in the future — for example, a wristband with both pressure sensor and wireless communication circuitry.

“This means we can begin to explore producing three-dimensional circuits and structures in a single manufacturing step,” Tuck continued. As with 3D printing as a whole, what makes this work exciting is that engineers would be able to more easily customize each item to a certain use case.

Tuck’s colleague, engineering research fellow Ehab Saleh, told us that the team has already been approached to use the technique to work on some “exciting applications,” although the researchers are not able to reveal specifics as of yet. “The outcome of the work could enable many real-world applications in electronics where a complete device with a complex geometry could be 3D printed with a press of a button,” Saleh said.

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies.

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
AMD teases performance of its revolutionary 3D V-cache chip
AMD CEO holding 3D V-Cache CPU.

AMD is currently readying its new Ryzen 7 5800X3D, featuring a 3D V-cache, and it looks like we may soon have a powerful processor on our hands. AMD has teased that we can expect an up to 15% performance boost over the base Ryzen 7 5800X.

The tech giant talked about the new chip during the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSSC) and revealed more information about its architecture. While the Ryzen 7 5800X3D will certainly be an improvement, will it be enough to compete with Intel's best processors?

Read more
Fighting football injuries with 3D-printed, hyper-personalized pads
The Protect3d 3D scanning process.

If you’ve ever watched a movie about sports, you’ve seen it. It's that moment that occurs two-thirds of the way into the story, when the protagonists’ inevitable victory suddenly seems a lot less certain. Maybe the inspirational mentor winds up in the ER, muttering motivational slogans from a hospital bed. Perhaps the unorthodox coach wins over the team, only to be fired by management for thinking too far outside the box. Possibly the star lacrosse player has a crisis of faith and realizes he wants to be an acapella singer rather than a jock.

For the three co-founders of Protect3D, a real-life version of that moment took place between the second and fifth game of Duke University's football season several years ago, back when the company's founders were engineering students. The team’s starting quarterback was the recipient of a particularly tough sack during a game. He went down hard, and stayed down. Things looked bleak.

Read more
AMD’s 3D-stacked Ryzen 7 5800X3D is ‘world’s fastest gaming processor’
AMD CEO presenting new CPU.

The first processor to use a 3D V-Cache technology was announced at the big AMD CES 2022 keynote. The tech was first announced at Computex 2021, and fans have been eagerly awaiting a processor that will put it to use.

That processor is the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, which seems like a strange place to start a new range of processors. AMD has its Ryzen 9 chips, after all. That's because the new Ryzen 7 can outclass AMD's Ryzen 9 5900X while gaming, despite using the same architecture.

Read more