3D Printing of Electro Mechanical Systems

Recent research has focused on the fabrication freedom of 3D printing to not only create conceptual models but final end-use products as well.  By democratizing the manufacturing process, products will inevitably be fabricated locally and with unit-level customization.  For 3D printed end-use products to be profoundly meaningful, the fabrication technologies will be required to enhance the structures with additional features such as electromechanical content.  In the last decade, several research groups have reported embedding electronic components and electrical interconnect into 3D printed structures during process interruptions.  However, to date there appears to be an absence of fabricated devices with electromechanical functionality in which moving parts with electronic control have been created within a single Additive Manufacturing (AM) build sequence.  Moreover, previously reported 3D printed electronics were limited by the use of conductive inks, which serve as electrical interconnect and are commonly known for inadequate conductivity.  This paper describes the fabrication of a high current (>1 amp) electromechanical device through a single hybrid AM build sequence using a uPrint Plus, a relatively low cost 3D.  Additionally, a novel integrated process for embedding high performance conductors directly into the thermoplastic FDM substrate is demonstrated.  By avoiding low conductivity inks, high power electromechanical applications are enabled such as 3D printed robotics, UAVs and biomedical devices.

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