Rapid Prototyping Electronic Circuits

By Norman Chan

Printing usable circuits from an off-the-shelf inkjet printer.

Microsoft Research, in collaboration with the University of Tokyo and The Georgia Institute of Technology, have developed a way to create rapid prototypes of circuit boards using off the shelf inkjet printers. By injecting conductive silver nanoparticle ink into an empty ink cartridge with a syringe, they were able to print usable circuits on glossy photo paper, attaching resistors and capacitors onto the circuits using glue instead of soldering. The trick was both finding the right type of silver ink--with the appropriate viscosity, volatility, and particle size--to work with a standard printer and the right kind of substrate material to print on. For example, transparent PET (polyethylene terephthalate) film and resin coated paper works, but canvas cloths did not. The researchers imagine this type of inkjet circuit-printing technology being integrated into 3D printers in the future. Read more about the Instant Inkjet Circuits project in this research paper (PDF). (h/t NewScientist)