Material Advances: Printed Electronics

"Electronic paper" technologies rely on many of the same underlying technologies as additive fabrication (Source: Fujitsu)

Despite the limitations imposed by materials, 3D printing is already approaching what might sound like science fiction on some fronts. Printed electronics, for example, are already being produced by a number of laboratories and are likely to come to market within the next decade, bringing consumer applications ranging from flexible circuit boards to rollable television screens into production. Within ten years, this printed “digital paper” will be a common consumer item.

The capabilities of the technique may be enhanced with integration into other manufacturing processes, including multiple treatments of printed objects similar to chip lithography processes currently used in the semiconductor industry. Right now, these are multi-stage processes involving multiple steps, rather than processes for producing fully realized products.   Should this be a dominant application, additive fabrication may be less democratized than initial enthusiasts have hoped, at least over the intermediate term. However, the trade-off here is in exchange for greater degrees of control over products and processes.

Next: Open Fabrication Communities

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