The 3D-printed electronics use fewer production resources
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Spotted: The need for electronics around the world is only rising, but the manufacturing of such devices is a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, with around 75-85 per cent of a laptop’s total carbon footprint being attributed to its production. But now, using copper ink and an additive manufacturing process, flexible electronics company InnovationLab has created more sustainable 3D-printed circuits.
Available in either a standard or flexible version, the circuits are up to 15 times thinner than current equivalents. Using fewer materials reduces the amount of waste produced in manufacturing, while also requiring less energy to make the same number of pieces. In addition, InnovationLab’s boards can be produced at a temperature of 150 degree Celsius, much lower than normal Printed Circuit Board (PCB) production processes.
The circuits work with the conventional soldering process used to create electronic devices, which helps manufacturers incorporate the new, smaller circuits into ongoing production processes without having to invest in new equipment. Chemicals aren’t required in the production either, making the final product healthier to produce and use.
To test the technology, the team built a printed antenna for NFT communication, a small battery charged by a printed solar cell, and a low-power temperature sensor. All three devices worked effectively, and due to the efficiencies of the manufacturing process, InnovationLab plans to produce at least one million of the circuits by the end of 2022.
The company is already working on printed sensor solutions for use in healthcare, urban planning, and retail environments. With the addition of these smaller, thinner yet still solderable copper circuits, the wide-scale production of sustainable electronics is closer than ever.
The efficiencies of 3D printing make it an integral aspect of a number of innovations. Springwise has spotted handheld medical monitoring devices and as an analogue dehumidifier made from ceramic waste.
Written By: Keely Khoury