Researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU; Singapore) have successfully printed complex electronic circuits using a common t-shirt printer. The technique brings down the cost of manufacturing the electronics from dollars to a few cents, according to Associate Professor Joseph Chang, leader of the NTU research group. The breakthrough creates countless new possibilities in medical and other applications. Think wound-care products that tell you when they need to be changed, or inexpensive patches that monitor vital signs. In fact, Chang told PlasticsToday, "We are in the midst of realizing several biomedical devices, and one design has been filed as a patent. This should be undergoing trials within six months."
Resistors, transistors, and capacitors, the key components of a complex electronic circuit, are printed using nontoxic organic materials such as silver nanoparticles, carbon, and plastics.They can be layered on top of common flexible materials such as plastic, aluminum foil, and even paper. "We can print our circuits on several different plastic substrates, including PET, polycarbonate, and polyimide," said Chang. "Overall, the printed transistors and other components perform consistently on the different substrates, but printing is adjusted to accommodate the different surfaces," said Chang.