Epson Printer used to Print Circuits Nov 28, 2011 10:00 by Mike Derges
We recently blogged about how printers were being used toprint circuitry..
Well, last week a group of scientists from Cambridge university released a paper describing their efforts to print with circuits with a modiﬁed Epson ink-jet printer .
Using ferro-electric polymer inks has been possible for some time but the components made tend to have poor performance and are much slower than the graphene components the team created.
Graphene is the name for a single layer of graphite, a molecule famous for being used in pencils. To print in graphene the team had to filter out any pieces big enough to block the print-heads. This isn’t exactly a job that can be done with a sieve, the biggest molecules that could safely be allowed through the print-head have to be smaller than 1μm, that’s 0.000001 metres. To put that into scale a drop of water in fog or cloud is about 10 μm!
To break down a piece of graphite into flakes of single-atom-thick graphene, the scientists used a process called Liquid Phase Exfoliation and then spun the resulting flakes in a centrifuge to collect any graphene that was too big.
Using their modified Epson Stylus 1500 and some customised cartridges, the team printed out onto a Silicon based substrate.
The group measured a mobility of 95cm2V−1s−1, nearly twenty times faster than standard non-graphene polymers and twice as fast as polymers combined with carbon nano-tubes.
What’s the Point
This work has some fantastic implications; by itself it will allow circuit and transistors to be made cheaply and with commonly available kit.
Much more interesting, however, is the possibility of combing this advancement with other recent advancements in 3D printing. Soon it’s possible that we’ll be printing both the physical shape of a component and it’s internal electronics, allowing designs that are simply impossible to manufacture presently.
You can read the paper from Cambridge here if you’re hungry for more details. It’d be interesting to hear where you see this technology going in the comments below.