logo

Sign me up!

FREE MEMBERSHIP

Get your FREE Innovation in Textiles membership. Sign up now...

8th April 2019, Cambridge, MA

3D printer deposits electronic fibres onto fabrics

Versatile smart textiles can be fabricated by selecting different materials in construction of the coaxial layers. Examples such as silk energy-harvesting textile and energy-storage textile with superior performance are demonstrated. © Yingying Zhang/Matter

Versatile smart textiles can be fabricated by selecting different materials in construction of the coaxial layers. Examples such as silk energy-harvesting textile and energy-storage textile with superior performance are demonstrated. © Yingying Zhang/Matter

To make comfortable wearable electronics, a group of researchers in China has developed a 3D printer that deposits electronic flexible fibres onto transitional textiles or clothes. Researchers at Tsinghua University in Beijing printed patterns that can harvest and store electricity onto fabrics. With a 3D printer equipped with a coaxial needle, they drew patterns, pictures, and lettering onto cloth, giving it the ability to transform movement into energy. The advance appears 27 March in

Researchers described their 3D printing efforts in a new paper published in Matter, a new materials science journal from Cell Press.

“We used a 3D printer equipped with a home-made coaxial nozzle to directly print fibres on textiles and demonstrated that it could be used for energy-management purposes,” explained senior author Yingying Zhang, a professor in the Department of Chemistry at Tsinghua University. “We proposed a coaxial nozzle approach because single-axial nozzles allow only one ink to be printed at a time, thus greatly restricting the compositional diversity and the function designing of printed architectures.”

Zhang and her colleagues made their first 3D printed e-textiles using two inks – a carbon nanontube solution to build the conductive core of the fibres and silkworm silk for the insulating sheath. Injection syringes filled with the inks were connected to the coaxial nozzle, which was fixed on the 3D printer. These were used to draw customer-designed patterns, such as Chinese characters meaning PRINTING, the English word SILK, and a picture of a pigeon.

This illustration shows smart clothes for energy management and its performance. © Yingying Zhang

This illustration shows smart clothes for energy management and its performance. © Yingying Zhang

This approach differs from other groups who are manually sewing electrical components, such as LED fibres, into fabrics, but these multi-step processes are labour intensive and time consuming. The strength of using a 3D printer is that it can build versatile features into fabrics in a single step. The approach is also cheap and easy to scale, as the nozzle is compatible with existing 3D printers, and the parts can be swapped. However, a drawback is the resolution of what can be printed is limited to the mechanical movement accuracy of the 3D printer and size of the nozzles.

“We hope this work will inspire others to build other types of 3D printer nozzles that can generate designs with rich compositional and structural diversity and even to integrate multiple co-axial nozzles that can produce multifunctional E-textiles in one-step,” said Zhang. “Our long-term goal is to design flexible, wearable hybrid materials and electronics with unprecedented properties and, at the same time, develop new techniques for the practical production of smart wearable systems with integrated functions, such as sensing, actuating, communicating, and so on.”

Read the original story

This article is also appears in...

Comments

Be the first to comment on 3D printer deposits electronic fibres onto fabrics

|