Today, we are experiencing a new industrial revolution that many have not even noticed. The signs are all around us in the electronics we use, shoes we wear and vehicles we drive. This revolution is far different than those ignited in the 19th and early 20th century. The phrase “Age of Synergy” Vaclav Smil applied to the previous revolutions could not be more aptly applied to any other time in human history than today. If you haven’t guessed yet, the catalyst for the current revolution is the field of printing. I am not referring to the desktop type or even the large format printers that occupy most sign shops. I am referring to the 3 dimensional variety and it is not only bringing manufacturing back to countries like the U.S. but is also empowering a new breed of innovator and entrepreneur. Many of which are based out of their homes or garages. Though 3D printers are capable of creating tools and parts out of a wide variety of materials, they have not been able to address the electronic aspects present in nearly everything we use. With the latest advancements in printing, that has changed. The electronics printer is bringing another game changer to the current revolution. The article below details what exactly an electronics printer offers.
Excerpts from 11-Nov-2014 | Washington, D.C. | newswise.com/All the Electronics That’s Fit to Print
“New technology allows you to print electronic devices in the same way your inkjet printer prints a document or photo. Now researchers at Palo Alto Research Center have used this technique to build a portable X-ray imager and small mechanical devices. Making electronics on conventional silicon wafers can be costly and time consuming.
Traditional photolithography methods are complex.You first have to deposit layers of material, place a stencil-like mask on it, and then shine ultraviolet light to etch away the exposed material. You then repeat the process to create the patterns needed to form electronic circuits and devices. But in the last ten years, researchers have been developing ways to deposit patterns of metals, semiconductors and other material directly, just like how a printer deposits patterns of ink. The materials are dissolved in a liquid solution, which can then be printed on a variety of substrates, such as plastic, paper and even fabric.When the “ink” dries, the material remains.
As a demonstration of this technology, Palo Alto researchers built a digital X-ray sensor. Using printing techniques, the researchers fabricated flexible X-ray imager arrays on plastic films that are much more portable than the behemoths at your dentist’s office. Such a device could be used by doctors in the field, serve as small security scanners or even help soldiers identify bombs in battle. In the future, for example, you might be able to print sensors onto clothing or some other device attached to the skin to monitor vital signs—and alert a doctor in case of emergency. Some researchers have also been printing devices to make flexible solar cells; imagine wearing a jacket that doubles as a solar panel.”
3D printing and electronics printing are fields still in their infancy that are only now revealing the myriad of ways that they will likely reshape our economies, industries and lives. Though new technology always comes with a price, they also are the engine that improves people’s lives and in this case, returns industry to the countries where it first began. In my humble opinion, A future where “Made in America” is common place is a bright future indeed.