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Video: 3D Printed, Self-Folding Electronics Could Enable Advanced Robots

13 September 2017

A 3D printer starts the process of producing self-folding electronics. Source: MIT A 3D printer starts the process of producing self-folding electronics. Source: MIT Researchers from MIT and the University of Massachusetts have developed a new method for 3D printing electronics that can fold themselves into a desired shape.

The development furthers the ability to produce more versatile, advanced robotics and human-machine interfaces toward mass commercialization.

3D printing has allowed engineers to create small electronic pieces with specific architectural designs, but this process can be slow, costly and lead to structural flaws. Researchers have developed a method to produce flat electronics that fold after they are printed, but this folding required additional processing steps or specific conditions such as light exposure or dunking the pieces into liquids—something that is not a good option for electronic products.

So researchers created a new ink containing acrylate monomers and oligomers that can be cured with ultraviolet light. The energy is stored in specific regions of the printed part in the form of residual stress during the printing process. Once the flat device is printed, swelling forces cause the electronic piece to fold itself into a predetermined shape without further stimulus.

The full study can be found in the journal Applied Materials & Interfaces.

To contact the author of this article, email Peter.Brown@ieeeglobalspec.com


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