Electronics pre-made and simply applied to the user’s body have already been developed by various institutes. A different approach has been adopted by Researchers at the University of Minnesota and they have developed a method of 3D-printing electronics directly onto the skin.
Professor Micheal McAlpine is leading the team of scientists that is utilizing a 3D printer to extrude a special conductive ink made up of silver flakes. Normally such inks need to cure at high temperatures that would be too much for the skin, but their ink has the ability to cure at room temperature.
Since it is nearly impossible to stay completely still, temporary dot-like markers are placed on the skin initially and the skin is scanned. The printer then uses a computer vision system to keep track of these markers during the complete process. This results in the nozzle being moved automatically to the point where it stays aligned with the contours of the skin.
The 3D printed electronics created as a result can be powered wirelessly. McAlpine says that future applications could include 3D printing batteries or solar cells. The electronics can just be peeled ot washed off once the users are done with the 3D printed electronics.
“We are excited about the potential of this new 3D-printing technology using a portable, lightweight printer costing less than $400,” says McAlpine. “We imagine that a soldier could pull this printer out of a backpack and print a chemical sensor or other electronics they need, directly on the skin. It would be like a ‘Swiss Army knife’ of the future with everything they need all in one portable 3D-printing tool.”
You can check out the technology in the video below: