Flexible electronic structures built using 3D printers

Scientists are using 3D printers to create lattice structures that could make conductive yet flexible screens possible on electronic devices.

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Qiming Wang

The rise of 3D printing has enabled scientists to produce flexible transistors, circuits and so on, but not the complete set of flexible components to produce a device that is flexible, robust, portable and inexpensive.

Using an elastomer, Assistant Professor Qiming Wang of the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Southern California, manufactured a 3D lattice structure with considerable stretch and shock-absorption. Wang believes the end product could be used for robotics, joint rehabilitation, cushioning as well as flexible electronics.

New flexible, electronically conductive material developed by Assistant Professor Qiming Wang. (Qiming Wang)
Qiming WangNew flexible, electronically conductive material developed by Assistant Professor Qiming Wang.

The difficulties of producing a material with flexible characteristics in the form of a highly intricate 3D lattice were overcome by printing a 3D scaffold of plastic material but, instead of solid beams, he created hollow channels that were filled with liquid elastomer. Over a period of several hours, sitting at room temperature, the liquid solidifies and the water-dissolvable plastic is removed leaving a freestanding 3D printed rubber-type material.

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