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News Link • 3D Printing

New metal lets today's 3D printers make tomorrow's electronics


Well-versed in using 3D printers to assist rapid prototyping, the two Toutonghis set about automating as much of the process as possible, but their efforts hit a wall when it came time to do the electronics. Put simply, 3D printing could not do what they need it to do with the tools they had available. So, it was time to invent a solution.

The resulting Kickstarter campaign certainly makes big claims for itself: a new 3D printable metal that is exponentially more conductive than current materials, and which could finally let 3D printing decentralize design and manufacturing. Called F-Electric, the material — which can be used in the place of standard PLA plastic in a cheap 3D printer — reportedly exhibits less than one ohm-cm of resistance. For context, graphite's resistance is about 0.001 ohm-cm, while an average competing conductive printing material might come in at 10,000 ohm-cm or more. As you can see, this offers an incredible step up from current solutions, and brings any PLA-capable printer within striking distance of much more expensive industrial printing tech.

Of course, there are already technologies that allow us to print electronics — they're just either too primitive or too expensive to be useful. Previous electro-printers have used silicone infused with silver nanoparticles, or graphite pastes, but the costs are heavy and they aren't always compatible with existing tech; a prior Kickstarter will run you $1,500 just to get started. By contrast, any PLA-capable printer can print with F-Electric, which is currently priced at $70 per half-pound, or about 32 cents per gram. Current conductive materials go for as little as 15 cents per gram, but offer thousands of times lower conductivity.

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