3D printers, while an increasingly popular idea, have struggled to reach their full potential. The possibilities of printing advanced technology right in your own home has been hampered by a lack of resources, unreliable performance, and prohibitive costs. Some went so far as to dismiss the concept of 3D printers as nothing more than a curiosity, doomed to the outer reaches of the digital age.
Well, the naysayers sure look silly now. Muhammad Mustafa Hussein and his team of scientists and engineers at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) have managed to rethink some of the problems with 3D printers. Complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) are an integral part of 3D electronic printing; they’re also often incompatible with industry standards. So Hussein and his colleagues opted for an alternative solution.
“This challenge motivated us to come up with a solution where circuits are not printed starting from sublevel devices (transistors) but instead prints complex CMOS circuits fabricated using the most advanced nanofabrication techniques.”
These electronic decals provide a whole new world of options for scientists and engineers — and solves the compatibility problem quickly and efficiently. They’re flexible, inexpensive to make (especially compared to their older counterparts), and compatible with the internet of things applications.
Because of their streamlined nature and adaptability, the electronic decals have the potential to be useful in a myriad of ways. Think of them as advanced RFID tagging systems. The engineers’ perfected their design by taking mature CMOS technology and using it to create thin-film silicon-based electronics. This roll-to-roll printing makes it easy and cost efficient to print out high-quality technology in a matter of minutes. Early tests show no breakdown in the designs, and the combination of CMOS and traditional 3D printing technology makes for fast and effective printing results.
Engineers believe that this breakthrough will allow for a fuller integration between 3D printing technologies and that the flexibility of the electronic decals will unlock further potential in this rapidly growing field. If further testing goes on without any problems, we could see the next wave of 3D printers (and 3D printed electronic devices) sooner than we imagined.