The most common types of 3D printing involve either extruding melted plastic or using a laser to solidify tiny particles, layer by layer, to slowly build up a solid object. But researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have found a way to radically change that process by 3D printing liquids inside other liquids—and it could mean major advancements in gadget construction.
Optical image of flexible and stretchable thin film transistor array covering a baseball shows
the mechanical robustness of this backplane material for future plastic electronic devices.
Imprinting electronic circuitry on backplanes that are both flexible and stretchable promises to revolutionize a number of industries and make “smart devices” nearly ubiquitous. Among the applications that have been envisioned are electronic pads that could be folded away like paper, coatings that could monitor surfaces for cracks and other structural failures, medical bandages that could treat infections and food packaging that could detect spoilage. From solar cells to pacemakers to clothing, the list of smart applications for so-called “plastic electronics” is both flexible and stretchable. First, however, suitable backplanes must be mass-produced in a cost-effective way…