Multi-material electrochemical 3D printer

Researchers from ANU have developed a 3D printer that utilises electrochemical deposition to fabricate polymer, semiconductor or metallic structures - all within a single device.

Technology

ANU researchers, from the Research School of Chemistry, have developed 3D printing method combines unprecedented three-dimensional control and material flexibility, to culminate in a new process for 2D patterning and 3D printing of polymeric, organic, semiconducting, or metallic materials into complex shapes. This 3D printer is expanding the range of materials that can be printed using a single device, reducing the number of pre- and post-processing steps that are necessary to manufacture computer chips, implants, sensors, and other devices. The final structures are pure materials, as no nanoparticles, surfactants or other additives are required, thus increasing conductivities of printed electronics. This new technology offers a unique self-monitoring and self-learning advantage, which allows for on-the-fly quality control and adjustment of the printing process, while also being environmentally friendly.

Potential benefits

  • Multi-material printing - allows for printing polymers, semiconductor and metal materials in a single device
  • High resolution printing - micrometre resolution
  • High conductivity of the printed material
  • Custom shaping - placement of the material can be finely controlled and monitored to produce intricate, high resolution, and customized designs
  • Inexpensive - the cost of this 3D printing method is cheaper than may other 3D printing methods
  • Measureable fail rate - one step manufacture with feedback loop, measuring real-time electrochemical data improved QC and fail rate
  • Easy to use - simplified operation resulting from the feedback-loop algorithm
  • Speed - from design to prototype within minutes
  • Biocompatibility - ability to manufacture fully biocompatible electronic devices
  • Flexible and lightweight devices
  • IP protection - The ability to print on-site means important IP in electronic designs does not get shared with third party contractors.

Potential applications

  • Additive manufacturing
  • Printed electronics
  • Prototyping (prototype development) of electronic devices for energy storage, wearables, printed circuit boards, solar cells, etc.
  • Biomedical devices and implants
  • IoT sensors
  • Organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs)
  • Research
  • Space and Defence industries
  • Automotive and space industries

Opportunity

ANU is seeking industry and customer feedback for this technology (to ascertain which initial application will suit this technology best), as well as engagement with industry partners/customers to work collaboratively with us to further develop the idea and optimise the printer design for their specific application and manufacturing requirements.

Patent status

The unique design and mode of operation for the electrochemical 3D printer is owned by ANU and is the subject of a provisional patent application with a priority date of 29th of July 2020.

Page owner: Innovation ANU