Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore, Panasonic Factory Solutions Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd. (Panasonic), and the Singapore Centre for 3D Printing (SC3DP) have developed a new multi-material 3D printer for quick and easy 3D printing of smart, flexible devices.
Electronic devices and components have traditionally been made of rigid materials like metals, silicon, and ceramics, but there is growing interest in developing flexible wearable electronics that can be bent, twisted, and easily conformed to various surfaces.
Multi-material 3D Printer
The multi-material 3D printer creates thermal and chemical reactions capable of transforming common carbon-based materials (polyimide and graphene oxide) into a new type of highly porous graphene by using varying wavelengths of laser. The resulting structure is not only light and conductive, but it can also be printed or coated onto flexible substrates such as plastics, glass, gold, and fabrics, allowing for the creation of flexible devices.
Co-leader of the project, Associate Professor Murukeshan Vadakke Matham from NTU School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) and SC3DP, the national centre of excellence in 3D printing housed at NTU, said, “Our project aims to find a way to 3D print new materials like organic polymers and carbon-based materials like graphene, which has properties that allow them to be printed or coated onto flexible substrates like plastics or fabrics, creating flexible and stretchable circuits.”
Murukeshan is also the Principal Investigator for the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (NAMIC) in Singapore.
This collaboration between NTU and Panasonic began in 2016. The team has since filed two patents, presented at 11 national conferences, and published 11 papers.
According to the NTU-Panasonic team, their new 3D printer has the potential to revolutionise additive manufacturing by opening up new avenues for product design innovation with unrivalled functionality and flexibility.
3D Printed Sensor for Smart Intravenous Fluid Bag
Companies such as American multinational manufacturer JABIL-MTI Penang have expressed interest in the recently produced 3D printer.
JABIL-MTI Penang focuses on the integration of 3D-printed graphene-based electronics and a smart infusion system. A proof-of-concept prototype of a low-cost intravenous (IV) fluid bag with an embedded printed sensor powered by artificial intelligence has been developed. The device monitors the IV drip status, controls parameters such as temperature and pressure flow, and sends real-time data to a smartphone. This allows medical personnel to track, regulate, and detect abnormalities more easily, remotely, and successfully.
With financial support from NAMIC, the research team also assessed the feasibility of combining 3D-printed components with the fabrication of high-performance electronics such as pressure sensors and heaters.
“We greatly value NTU and Panasonic teams’ creative thinking and innovative approach, and we are excited about the possibilities for future collaborations. We eagerly look forward to exploring further opportunities to work together and leverage both their teams’ exceptional innovation expertise.”– Mr Lim Lai Ming, Project Manager, Jabil-MTI Penang
The NTU-Panasonic team hopes that the recently produced 3D printer provides a level of functionality and flexibility that other similar products on the market do not. According to the project members, the innovation has the potential to revolutionise the field of 3D printing and pave the way for novel possibilities for new product innovation and design.
The project between NTU and Panasonic to build the new multi-material printer was launched in 2016 in the Industrial Post-graduate Programme (IPP) with the assistance of the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB). During that time, the project team filed two patents, presented at eleven international conferences, and published eleven papers. Three Panasonic scientists and engineers who completed their doctorates at NTU have received financial assistance.
“At the Singapore Centre for 3D Printing (SC3DP) we are investigating the use of additive manufacturing for many applications and industrials sectors, including electronics and wearable devices. Panasonic is a strategic partner, and I am very pleased with the excellent results achieved through this project. This was possible thanks to the hard work of the team of researchers from both SC3DP and Panasonic. The project is a good example of the technical and scientific capabilities available at our center, and how we can support the industry and create value.”– Professor Paulo Bartolo, Executive Director, SC3DP
As a next step, Panasonic has established a new facility at its Singapore research hub for laser-based manufacturing systems to facilitate more trials of concepts using multi-material printer components as part of the “Autonomous Factory”-a Panasonic concept for future smart factories. The new facility will be led by Dr. Low and researchers Dr. Nicholas Tham and Dr. Joel Lim, who were also involved in the joint NTU-Panasonic project.
About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D Printing. Visit our Tech News page for more updates on Global 3D Printing News. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.