NASA says that Electronic Alchemy’s eForge 3D printer is another space program spinoff. The printer looks a lot like a conventional 3D printer but unlike its mundane cousin it can print sensors, lights, and other electronic components. It does that by using one of six or eight different materials.
Six of the eight spools each have some sort of electronic property. According to the company they have conductive filament, resistive filament, insulating filament, capacitive filament, and both N- and P-type semiconductors.
This strikes us a bit odd though, since we wouldn’t normally think of a filament as having capacitance alone. Perhaps it has a high dielectric constant that becomes the sandwich filling between conductive parts. The same goes for semiconductors, we’d expect an amorphous solar cell might be printable, but we’d expect active devices to usually require a crystalline structure.
According to the NASA post, they have or will have filaments that light up, magnetic materials, and piezoelectric substances. It all sounds great and the videos look interesting, but we will be very intrigued to see how it plays out in practice.
If you think you want one, be prepared. The price looks as though it will start around $10,000 so this won’t be an item in every garage. The filaments are 4mm which is disappointing since they could really be a game-changer if they work as advertised. Even if you had to swap filaments a few times for each layer, if the materials would work in an ordinary printer, there would be a much larger market. We assume the substrate material to be just ordinary PLA or some other thermoplastic. We’d love to see this married with a real PCB mill.