A new kind of 3D printable material has been developed at the University of Warwick - and it might be about to completely change the way we think about things that can be 3D printed.
"Carbomorph", a kind of carbon filler and biodegradable polyester mix, is conductive and piezoresistive, which means it can easily have electronic tracks and touch-sensitive parts embedded in it. (Yeah, we just had to go and look up "piezoresistive", too.) So far, the researchers have used carbomorph to print a motion sensing glove, a mug that can sense liquid, and even touch sensitve gaming controllers.
Dr Simon Leigh, who led on the project, said, "It's always great seeing the complex and intricate models of devices such as mobile phones or television remote controls that can be produced with 3D printing, but that's it, they're invariably models that don't really function. We set about trying to find a way in which we could actually print out a functioning electronic device from a 3D printer. In the long term, this technology could revolutionise the way we produce the world around us, making products such as personal electonics a lot more individualised and unique."
And the reason this is so exciting is that carbomorph can be used in existing consumer 3D printers, and can apparently be sold fairly cheaply. Which means anyone, anywhere, with a 3D printer can now create electronics that react to touch. When this stuff becomes readily available, we reckon Thingiverse is gonna be flooded with weird and wonderful personalised electronics...
Read more about it at the University of Warwick's website.