Multi-material Voxel8 world’s first electronic printer
Voxel8’s FDM and conductive ink build materials allow designers to integrate polymer and electronic components in a single print.
At CES 2015, Massachusetts-based start-up Voxel8 launched the world’s first electronics 3D printer, of the same name, capable of combining electronic components, conductive traces and polymer build material in a single print.
The creation of Dr. Jennifer Lewis, Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, the Voxel8 printer works the same as any FDM-style printer, depositing layers of standard PLA filament, stored in the machine’s base.
To that, the 3D printer adds a pneumatically driven, cartridge print head that dispenses conductive silver ink via a 250 micron-wide nozzle. According to the company, the conductive ink quickly dries at room temperature and is 20,000x more conductive than the most conductive filled-thermoplastic filaments and more than 5000x more conductive than carbon-based inks.
The Voxel8 also features a removable build platform that allows designers to place electronic components (i.e. memory chip, LED, electric motor, etc) mid-build. After the platform is replaced, conductive ink connects the component leads to the rest of the circuit and the polymer encases the traces and components within the part.
For design, the Voxel8 developer kit was launched in conjunction with Project Wire, a browser-based application from Autodesk. Developed specifically for the Voxel8, the online app imports 3D models and provides design tools to position wire placement and features a library of standard electronic components.
To demonstrate the printer and design software’s capabilities, the Voxel8 team designed and built a small quadcopter drone, complete with integrated AC motors, battery and controller.
The company is currently offering a limited release of the Developer’s Kit to ship in late 2015 for US$8,999. In addition to the printer and access to the Project Wire application, the initial release also includes cloud-based slicing software, four PLA filament spools, 10 conductive ink cartridges and one additional print bed.