66% or better

Xerox ink will print circuits

xerox-silver-bullet-ink

Xerox has announced a breakthrough in printable circuits. They’ve developed a conductive ink called “silver bullet” that can be printed on many different types of substrate to create circuits. The key part of the new ink is its lower melting point. Plastic film substrate melts at 150 degrees Celsius but the ink is liquid when ten degrees cooler to avoid damaging the film. This begs the question: how do you then solder components to the circuit?

The benefits of printable circuitry are obvious. Aside from cheaper and easier RFID, disposable circuits like greeting cards, and fabric-based electronics, we’re hoping this will facilitate more environmentally friendly PCB fabrication. That really depends on the ink’s production process and the resilience of the resulting circuitry.

[via Gizmodo]

Comments

  1. Dunbar says:

    I think this one is a bit early to really be useful, but I’ll bet they’re counting on conductive glues (that are available today) to become popular and maybe printable semiconductors to be developed (imagine a cartridge full of “resistor”).

  2. Fallen says:

    You wouldn’t solder it. A conductive epoxy would likely be used. Resistors could be printed too, and possibly low value capacitors. Nifty.

  3. wolfy02 says:

    sweet. any idea when it will be available for purchase?

  4. Kiwisaft says:

    in my apprenticeship i modded my cellular (3510) from green to blue/orange. so i needed an additional resistors for the orange ones, i mounted them direcly to the leds with silver-conductive-glue ^^
    would work pretty fine for this stuff, too

  5. Drone says:

    This goes back to we need affordable open hardware to replicate same.

  6. Alex says:

    You would solder with Silver Bullet ink. Probably not the hot iron we’re used to but a similar process I would imagine.
    A rod or spool of hardened silver bullet fed to a soldering iron with a lower temp.

  7. OldVamp says:

    Now they just need to add a pick and place surface mount component feature to their printer. Printing out a fully functional circuit would be great.

  8. Anton says:

    My is broken, I’ll just print another… ohhhh, paperjam…

  9. pelaca says:

    That’s a big improvement on the RFID manufacturing. Why? because the hi cost of the RFID tags. With this ink you can print the antena directly on your tag and only need to glue the non encapsulated RFID chip.
    The polyethylene is more durable than paper and less expensive than polyester. Xerox has killed two birds on one shot.
    This ink is developed for print antenas and not to use with solder parts.

    http://americanprinter.com/binding-finishing/printing_truth_rfid_printing/

  10. toolboy says:

    I’ve seen this popping up all over – how is this different than silver paint – the colloidal silver suspension used by science weenies for decades (not silver colored paint you nonce). Since they printed “Nano Ag”, sure sounds like it’s just a Ag suspension.

  11. pelaca says:

    Toolboy,
    Silver paint has very big particles on suspension. You can deposit silver particles with that, but not print.

  12. Audin says:

    “Aside from cheaper and easier RFID, disposable circuits like greeting cards, and fabric-based electronics, we’re hoping this will facilitate more environmentally friendly PCB fabrication”

    I love the ‘disposable circuits’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ in the same sentence!

  13. “This begs the question: how do you then solder components to the circuit?”

    To “beg the question” is a type of logical fallacy. Assume author means this *raises* the question…

  14. nave.notnilc says:

    this isn’t that exciting until hobbyists can get their hands on it, and semiconducting inks, to do stuff with it that large semiconductor manufacturers aren’t interested in doing, like, say reprap stuff. afaict things like this and semiconducting inks are not available to individuals.

  15. CalcProgrammer1 says:

    If this technology could be made affordable on a consumer level it would be a great step forward for hobbyists. We would no longer have to rely on expensive manufacturing techniques keeping us from building custom boards and parts. If this continues, the future of technology may finally shift away from corporate control and into homes, schools, and workshops. However, at this stage it’s just a fancy version of conductive pens that already exist.

  16. AnthonyDi says:

    Couldn’t you do this with a pure carbon toner?

  17. BigD145 says:

    How much do the traces interfere with each other?

  18. Haku says:

    Does this mean we can finally, after almost 9 years of waiting, get our $10 paper mobile phones?
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/01/19/10_paper_mobile_phone/
    2002 archive page of what we were supposed to be getting – http://web.archive.org/web/20021201110254/http://www.dtcproducts.com/dtc/home.html

  19. J. Peterson says:

    Printer ink is already one of the most expensive fluids…silver printer ink should set a new record.

  20. hrpuffnstuff says:

    Great, I can see getting a call to fix a printer that jammed while printing out a Cray motherboard.

  21. Beggingthequestion says:

    Yes, the intransitive construction “begs the question’ does. The transitive constructions “begs the question ” is also in common use, and has a different meaning regarding calling for a resolution of a question. The meaning of the transitive form is essentially a generalization of the intransitive form such that the intransitive form is identical to the transitive form with the assumed object being the question actually at issue in the debate. This is a rather elegant rationalization of the poor translation into English of the dubious translation into Latin of the Greek phrase that ultimately turned into “begging the question”.

    Arguing that the use of the transitive construction is wrong because of the well-established technical definition of the intransitive construction is, IMO, one of the most inane forms of misguided linguistic prescriptivist pedantry commonly seen, as the two are distinct constructions which are impossible to confuse with each other, and have meanings that are related the way one would expect the meanings of transitive and intransitive phrases to relate to each other (even though the more general, transitive form, is generalized from the more specific, intransitive form in a way which reflects the normal use of the English words in the phrase rather than etymology of the transitive form.)

  22. Mantech1 says:

    Interesting, though if its anything like the current printers available its gonna be expensive…or as one of my friends is so fond of saying “The ink’s so expensive your better off getting a new printer since it comes with ink.” .

    Now as for soldering….I could see several different ways to do that though you wouldn’t be using conventional solder. Like several others have said before there’s conductive glue, another possibility if your not interested in making any repairs is to lightly glue your parts over their assigned contacts and then laminating the whole thing.

    A far off idea would involve graphite based electronic parts.

    Although, hmmm, I wonder if we’ll be seeing this technology used in future E-reader type products.

  23. It is common now the use of conductive glue. I’ve used it and it seems very good.
    There was homemade conductive printers made by transforming an inkjet printer to use silver nitrate and citric acid. (You can see something like it in http://www.engadget.com/2007/04/19/hp-inkjet-printer-kicks-out-environmentally-friendly-circuit/ (I think the article is wrong, it is not Vitamin C, that is ascorbic acid, but citric acid, that is also present in citric fruits, so the confusion). The same process was used for homemade photography (http://www.alternativephotography.com/process_saltprints.html)

  24. Roly says:

    “Begging the question” does NOT mean “invites the question”, it means answering the question you would *rather* have been asked, the stock in trade of politicians. Every time a talking head on TV is asked a question and says “I’m glad you asked me that”, then goes on to talk about anything but, THAT’S “begging the question”.

    So how *do* you solder to something with a lower melting point?

    Sounds great (until I remember that only 1cc of conductive paint cost me $25).

  25. Drone says:

    I’m sure Apple has already patented this.

  26. nave.notnilc says:

    @Beggingthequestion
    …what

    @Drone
    apple doesn’t do any semiconductor or ink development, so no.

  27. Peter says:

    You could make quite thin layers of circuits like this. Imagine it an incredibly thin circuit board.

  28. s says:

    Complaining about wrongly using “beg the question” is a lost cause. The use of the phrase to mean “invite the question” is now very firmly in the language.

  29. canbot says:

    Why not use a line plotter fitted with a conductive pen to print circuits. It will take longer to print but the technology is ready to be implemented.

  30. bothersaidpooh says:

    interesting. Perhaps this could be combined with OLEDs and a non conductive waterproof overlay to make a cheaper OLED TV.

    Who cares if they degrade after 500 hours, thats still more than enough for simple applications such as video magazines etc.

  31. ScrewTheQuestion says:

    Shut up. Shut Up! SHUT UP!

    It’s about giving new meaning to “printed circuit”, not begging goddamn questions. A pox upon thee, vile phrase-fascist!

  32. Wolvenmoon says:

    This actually kind of depresses me. Instead of being used to benefit everyone it’s going to mean wal mart is going to RFID tag everything and use it to twist more money out of consumers.

    Other mass usages will be similar, it’ll be used to rip people off.

    *Sigh*

  33. Kealper says:

    @bothersaidpooh
    That is a good idea, I’ve seen those magazines that have audio that turns on when you open the page, having a little OLED printed circuit page to show a preview of a game or movie, or anything for that matter would be very cool.

    @grammar Nazis
    Stfoo…You people sound like a bunch of bickering old women…

  34. neil says:

    I requested a sample. I’m hoping I can “print” the ink on different materials to contacts directly on silicone. i dont care, just thought i’d share.

  35. Einomies says:

    When a person begs a question, it means they are answering besides the real question.

    When a subject matter begs a question, it means it needs a further question about the subject matter because the information presented was ambiguous or unclear about some detail.

  36. ryan says:

    @nave.notnilc
    Except apple is in the semiconductor business now that they own PA Semiconductor. But Drone bringing up apple is a weak attempt at trolling.

    On the layers topic, how would you do something like a via??

  37. Anon says:

    @ Beggingthequestion

    You definitely brightened my day.

  38. PocketBrain says:

    Field’s metal solder?

    And a via probably could be done with a hefty squirt of that ink over a pre-punched hole. Just enough to fill it. Might change the drying time and speed of print.

    And its use would not be only for flex circuits; a printer capable of doing either flex or stiff media would be quite the flexible tool for prototyping!

  39. AnonHg says:

    Not to blow my load or anything, but im in the running to be one of the first product testers for the silver bullet ink, and to clear some things up, they do have a semiconductor. here is the message I was sent from Xerox.

    Hello G******,

    Thank you for your interest in Xerox functional inks. Our inks are designed for mostly thin-film printed electronics applications on flexible substrates, and include a conductive nanosilver ink, an organic semiconductor ink, and a dielectric ink. They are low viscosity and designed for use in inkjet or other low viscosity printing processes. Please let me know if you are still interested and if so, which inks are of interest and I can send the appropriate information.

    AnonHg FTW

  40. Xtremegamer says:

    mhm not longer waiting for pcb’s just e-mail or create in paint xD print and done :p

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