Curved Circuits By 3D Printing Technology

A group of Korean scientists have developed three-dimensional (3D) printing technology that can produce curved and flexible electronics circuits.

Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) said Tuesday the materials science and engineering research team led by Professor Park Jang-ung has succeeded in imprinting 0.001 millimeter ultrafine patterns on plastic circuit boards at room temperature.

Professor Park Jang-ung, center, poses with his research team at UNIST

The new technology could be used to produce flexible wearable electronics devices. 

Park said the electronics industry will be able to produce 3D electronic circuits with more diverse designs, which has been difficult with existing photolithographic technology.

"The existing ultrafine pattern production methods in semiconductor manufacturing procedure had difficulties in reproducing 3D patterns. But the new technology can realize it in high resolution," the professor said.
"We believe the technology has set a new paradigm for research using 3D printing and wearable electronic devices."

3D printing technology has drawn attention in the electronics industry, but its application to produce electronic circuits has been slow because existing 3D printers could only produce low-resolution results.

Consequently, they have been unable to imprint ultrafine patterns thinner than 0.01 mm. It has also proven impossible to imprint on metallic or plastic materials because printing procedures were done at a high temperature.

The new technology, dubbed "3D electrohydrodynamic inkjet printing," can produce ultrafine patterns as thin as 0.001 mm, improving the maximum printing resolution 50 times more than before. This is thinner than a red blood cell, Park said.

The new 3D printing technology also lowered the printing temperature as it works at room temperature. This means that textile, fiber, plastic and even more exquisite materials that can be attached to human skin have become possible in 3D printing, the research team said.

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