Printed Circuits In The Palm Of Your Hand

If you’ve ever wanted to more fully integrate yourself with technology, you might have to thank a team of researchers — led by [Michael McAlpine] — at the University of Minnesota in the near future. They’ve developed a technique that allows circuits to be printed directly onto your skin, with the team arguing — once the low-cost printer is modified for compact portability — it would be ideal for ‘on-the-fly’ circuit needs.

“But the hand isn’t exactly a stable print bed,” you say. We hear you, and the team is actually one step ahead — the printer can compensate for subtle movements during the printing process by tracking markers placed on the hand. The ‘filament’ is made from silver flakes — akin to conductive ink — which prints and cures at room temperatures, and can be either peeled or washed off. We should hope so, as it’s meant to be layered on human skin.

Speaking of which, it can also print cells!

It’s only been tested on a mouse so far, but the same technology that allows the printer to accurately track the hand means that it could use bio-ink to directly add cells to a wound or some other epidermal affliction to help speed the healing process.

For the circuits, though, you’ll still need the other circuit components and a compact means to power them — to say nothing about the fact that if the circuit is water-soluble, then a little perspiration would cause the ink to run. We’re excited to see where this tech goes!

[Thanks for the tip, Qes!]

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Simple 3D-Printed Circuitry

One of the problems encountered thus far with 3D-printing circuits with conductive filament is that it doesn’t really bond to anything, let alone solder, so how does one use it?

[mikey77] wrote an Instructable showing how to print circuit boards and create simple circuits, using shape of the plastic as a way to control the circuit. We like how he used using the flexible nature of the filament to make buttons, with two layers of conductive material coming together with the press of a finger.

He also created a linear potentiometer with a 3D-printed wiper that increases the ohms of the connection the farther it’s pushed. The filament doesn’t have the same conductivity as copper so [mikey] was able make resistors by stringing pieces of conductive plastic between two leads. There are also some hexagonal touch pads that turned out very nice.

We’ve published a lot of posts about DIY circuitry, including a previous effort of [mikey]’s, 3D-printed solderless circuits, plus another post about printing point-to-point circuits on a 3D printer.

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