Scientists from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute have created a way to print flexible electronic devices. The development may herald future ubiquity of flexible body-worn products that can monitor various health parameters, provide therapy, and guide users in exercise and rehabilitation routines.
The new technique is called Hybrid 3-D printing, and it uses thermoplastic polyurethane as the substrate on which a flexible silver-based ink is laid down. Components such as chips and LEDs are placed onto the substrate and touching the conductive ink to create electrical conductivity.
“This is the first time a 3-D printer has been shown, in a single process, to print stretchable sensors with integrated microelectronic components,” in a statement said Dr. Dan Berrigan, a research scientist at the AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. “Starting from nothing, the printer builds an entire stretchable circuit that blends the mechanical durability of printed components with the robust performance of off-the-shelf electronics.”
So far, the devices that have been created, including a foot pressure sensor and a joint flexion detector, have been successfully stretched by more than 30 percent from their original size without resulting in degradation.
One existing limitation is that the batteries powering such devices are not stretchable yet, but other researchers have already developed prototypes.
Here’s a short video showing off the new soft electronics and how they’re produced:
Study in Advanced Materials: Hybrid 3D Printing of Soft Electronics…
Via: U.S. Air Force