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Graphene and Plastic Might Make Next-Generation 3-D Printed Electronics

by Michael Keller

Doping plastic with graphene may be one solution to a major problem confronting 3-D printing technology. Putting just a bit of the one-atom thick sheets of linked carbon atoms into standard plastics used in 3-D printing appears to increase the strength of the final product while lowering the amount of plastic needed by half. Graphene also imparts its electric and thermal conductivity to the plastic, which normally is poor conductor of heat and electricity. 

The result, demonstrated in a European project called Nanomaster, means next-generation plastic sensors and strong, lightweight products will soon be 3-D printed or injection- and compresssion-molded. It also means that desktop 3-D printers might be able to print a wider catalog than just plastic toys and models—soon moving into producing operational electronics and machines. Read more about it below.

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Plastic Style

These plastic products have gotten a style upgrade from designers using 3-D printers. Two lamps and a 3-D printed heart made to help surgeons visualize complicated procedures before they begin are on display at the 2014 Euroscience Open Forum being held now in Copenhagen. 

The models, built by Belgian additive manufacturing company Materialize with support from the European Commission, calls attention to advancing artistic, medical and scientific applications for 3-D printers. 

All pictures by Michael Keller.

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First Completely 3D-Printed Working Loudspeaker Built

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by Charles Q. Choi

Researchers for the first time have used 3-D printing to make a consumer electronic device, a loudspeaker ready for use almost as soon as it comes off the printer.

The work by roboticist Hod Lipson at Cornell University and his colleagues suggests 3-D printing might soon be mature enough to let people manufacture complete devices on demand.

"The exciting part of this project is that it paves the path to 3-D printing of consumer electronics and active systems," Apoorva Kiran, a Cornell mechanical engineer tells Txchnologist. "A good thing about 3-D printing inks that we developed at our lab is that even though they are for advanced applications, they are not hazardous chemicals, and their recipe is so simple that people can tinker with them even in their garage. With this work we hope that 3-D printing starts an era of open innovation."

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GE Begins Open Design & 3-D Printing Competition For Jet Engines, Healthcare

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by GE Reports

Many people still struggle with the idea of “printing” things by adding one layer of material on top of another, but Michael Idelchik, who runs GE’s advanced technologies research, is already talking about “printing large portions of jet engines.” GE Aviation, for example, is using lasers to print fuel nozzles for next-generation jet engines. The nozzles are 25 percent lighter and as much as five times more durable than the existing model welded from 20 different parts.

“We already know that it can be done, we’ve been playing with it for a while,” Idelchik says. “Now we want to develop an ecosystem of designers, engineers, materials scientists, and other partners who can learn with us. We have a number of products that we are going to be launching and we want to challenge people to get into business with us. If the ecosystem grows, the entire industry will grow.”

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