US-based researchers are using low cost 3D printers to print electronics and cells directly onto a moving human hand.
Here at Springwise, we have covered many 3D printing innovations such as this 3D printed bridge in Amsterdam. We have also published many wearable electronics innovations, including these temporary biosensitive tattoos. A new innovation from the University of Minnesota combines these two areas of 3D printing and wearable electronics. Researchers at the university have developed a way to graft temporary ad-hoc circuitry onto human skin.
The process works by using a relatively affordable 3D printer (USD 400). The printer has the ability to track hand movements using computer vision. Even the steadiest of hands will move slightly when the user is trying to hold still. This is achieved by placing a radial series of markers on the area where the circuit will be built. These markers enable seamless circuits. They guide micro-adjustments in the scanning process in real time, regardless of unique hand shape and movement. Most 3D printing material requires a much higher temperature. However, this new printed material consists of silver flakes that are capable of setting and conducting a current at room temperature. This prevents the risk of burns. After use, the material is removable by simply peeling the silver deposits away or by washing the hands in water.
Furthermore, there are a number of potential uses for the on-demand circuits. These include creating miniature solar panels for emergency generators or sensors that act as early warning signs for traces of chemical weapons in the battlefield. The team believes the technology could act like a modern ‘swiss army knife’ for soldiers, with the 3D printer small enough to fit in a backpack. Additionally, the team has also shown that the printer can be used to transfer healthy cells onto an open wound, paving the way for instant skin grafts. What other potential uses are there for temporary, skin-grafted circuit boards?