SEATTLE – Mike Toutonghi was working on a school project with his son using 3D printing, that can now be done at home with machines costing as little as a few thousand dollars. But he wanted to make an electrical circuit as part of the project.
While there are some conductive plastics on the market, he said there was nothing he found that could be printed on a 3D machine.
Hence, necessity again becomes the “mother of invention.”
Toutonghi started experimenting, and came up with a 3D printable filament, that’s now lead to a company called Functionalize, Inc. The product is called F-Electric.
Many three dimensional printers use reels of plastic to create objects through a print head that adds layer upon layer. Think of it like a typical ink jet printer that just kept going over the same spot with thicker ink, building up the object. In its raw form, these large reels of what look like thick fishing line, come in a variety of colors.
There is no metal involved in the circuits. Toutonghi said carbon nano-tubes embedded in the plastic conduct the electricity with very low resistance — about one Ohm per centimeter. Other electrical components like transistors and capacitors can be wired into the plastic circuits using a conductive glue that contains metal.
While Toutonghi sees a future where you might be able to print out your own cell phone or other electrical product, he plans to patent his material for sale to other manufacturers. He has started a 30-day Kickstarter campaign to raise $100,000 for production.
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