Multi-material 3D printer squirts out homemade electronic circuits
As 3D printers shrink in size and price and make their way into more homes, they're starting to bring more of the higher-end functions, like the ability to print objects with multiple materials, down to the consumer level. German startup Next Dynamics has now unveiled the NexD1, a multi-color, multi-material 3D printer for the home that can use a conductive resin to create custom electronic circuit boards.
Everything from paper sculptures to candies can be printed from devices small enough to fit on the counter at home, but the NexD1 (which the team pronounces like "next-one") does things a little differently. Next Dynamics has developed a proprietary print head it calls "DigiJet", which works like a 3D version of the tried-and-true inkjet printing.
The NexD1 features six of these print heads, each with 200 nozzles that spray fine droplets of material onto the build surface, which is then hardened by a UV laser before moving onto the next layer. With a diameter of five microns for each nozzle, the machine is able to print at a resolution of down to 10 microns, within its build area of 8 x 8 x 8 in (20 x 20 x 20 cm).
If DigiJet sounds a lot like Stratasys' PolyJet system, that's because Next Dynamics was specifically trying to optimize that technology and reduce the cost from six figures down to something within reach of hobbyists. As a result, the NexD1's list of functions reads a lot like that of the Stratasys J750.
Standing as a compact cube of 16.5 x 16.5 x 16.5 in (42 x 42 x 42 cm), the NexD1 can house six cartridges at once, printing with and mixing different materials as desired. At the moment, these include the options of tough, flexible, transparent, CMYK-colored and conductive (more on those in a minute) resins, as well as supporting structures that can prop up overhanging sections before being washed off with water. The team is working with other manufacturers to expand that materials library.
But the most interesting of those materials is the conductive resin. Galvanized and infused with nano-particles, Next Dynamics claims its resin can be printed into circuit boards that are just as conductive as standard PCBs, unlike other electronic-printing devices like the Voxel8. Designed for rapid prototyping, the NexD1 can even build three-dimensional circuit boards.
The device is put to work through a 10-inch touchscreen, or it can connect via Wi-Fi to allow remote access and notifications to a smartphone.
Next Dynamics is currently seeking funding for the NexD1 through Kickstarter, and the project has already received €130,000 of its €200,000 goal, with 44 days remaining. Early Bird pledges start at €2,818 (approx. US3,000) for the machine plus a basic cartridge set of three materials: tough, flexible and support. Additional cartridges will be available from the company's website after the campaign wraps up, costing between $15 and $100. If all goes to plan, the NexD1 is expected to ship in September 2017.
The campaign video can be seen below.
Source: Next Dynamics