Printed Circuits with a #3dPrinter

Electronic devices and components, such as light switches, cell phones, and circuit boards, are typically made up of at least two different materials. Plastics often comprise the structure and substrate while metals like copper are necessary for conducting electricity. Any 3D printer can handle the plastic parts using easily-available filaments.  However, the electronic portions require a separate and often-expensive manufacturing process.

Seattle-based engineer Mike Toutonghi hopes to change that with his highly-conductive 3D-printing material called F-Electric. He developed his chops working for 15 years at Microsoft. In 2012, he started work on his material when manufacturers told him that no plastics existed that were conductive enough for electronic circuitry. He claims his substance is the “world’s most conductive 3D printing filament” and is 1,000 more electrically conductive than anything else out there.
F-Electric allows the design of any electronic function directly into the structure of a printed part. No separate or outside manufacturing is needed. Switches, connectors, and complete circuit boards are just some of the components that can be created on a 3D printer.

Toutonghi hopes that in three or four years, his material will allow the printing of complete smart phones and other consumer products. He’s currently using Kickstarter to crowd-fund the $100,000 needed to increase material production. To prove the feasibility of his project, he’s offering premiums printed with F-Electric, including functioning key-chain flashlights and electromagnetic lock boxes. Unless there is a massive push in the last hours of the campaign it is unlikely to be funded but don’t expect this to be the last you hear about printed circuitry.

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