3D printed soft electronics
The development of flexible and stretchable electronics is boosted by the overwhelming interest and potential market growth of wearable electronics, soft robotics and biomedical devices. Additive manufacturing is capable of printing fully functional components of complex structures from simple raw materials. Fully 3D printed soft components such as sensors, integrated circuits and actuators is an attractive approach to fabricate soft electronics. Direct ink writing (DIW) has been demonstrated as a versatile 3D printing approach.
In our research, we set up a platform for the formulation of conductive/dielectric and stretchable inks and fast prototyping of soft components. Such printable and soft inks are developed based on the concept of capillary suspensions. An addition of a small portion of a secondary fluid not miscible with the bulk fluid facilitates the ink with adjustable flow properties and functionalities. Diverse mixing strategies including ball-milling or three roll milling, are followed to avoid agglomeration and clogging issues. In combination with a targeted choice of printing parameters, DIW can deliver feature sizes well below 100 micrometer. This will be demonstrated to be a versatile and applicable production line, which realizes 3D prototyping of soft components from raw materials to precisely defined complex structures.