3D Printing Personal Electronics: From the Game Room to the Classroom
3D Printing has proven itself revolutionary across sectors: from printing transplant organs to creating specialty movie props. But a single common thread breaches the gap between these applications: customization.
Because of its flexibility, 3D printers are able to create 100 unique products just as easily and quickly as it would take to print 100 identical ones, which means that customized products, from exoskeletons to Invisalign braces are becoming more widely available. Now, that feature is expanding into the gaming industry, due to recent innovations in printing electronic circuitry.
This is the result of research conducted at the University of Warwick, where scientists have created an inexpensive conductive plastic composite, nicknamed “carbomorph.” It works by laying electronic tracks and sensors within the printed structure, which can then be connected to a circuit board.
The next step will be to print more complex structures, such as the circuitry and wires themselves. The end result will be customized electronics, that are made solely through additive manufacturing and, unlike current prototypes, are as functional as their traditionally manufactured equivalents.
The researchers hope that this technology will encourage consumers to invest in personalized devices, such as game controllers molded perfectly to their hands, but that's not the only benefit they anticipate. According to Dr. Simon Leigh of Warwick's School of Engineering, 3D printing will also cut down significantly on both plastic and electronic waste.
Specifically, rather that relying on glues and paints to connect electronic components, these distinct parts will be printed into one whole, potentially increasing longevity and efficiency of the product.
But perhaps the most significant impact this could have will be the ability for young engineers to oversee the production of their own creations – from design to manufacturing – all within the classroom.
So whether this technology is used to create video game controllers known for distracting students from their schoolwork, to helping those same students get ahead in their study of engineering, additive manufacturing is becoming increasingly influential in our day-to-day lives.
Full story at Warwick