3-D printing and nanotechnology, a mighty alliance to detect toxic liquids

3dprintinganAs soon as it comes out of the printing nozzle, the solvent evaporates and the ink solidifies. It takes the form of filaments slightly bigger than a hair. The manufacturing work can then begin. Credit: Polytechnique Montréal

Carbon nanotubes have made headlines in scientific journals for a long time, as has 3D printing. But when both combine with the right polymer, in this case a thermoplastic, something special occurs: electrical conductivity increases and makes it possible to monitor liquids in real time. This is a huge success for Polytechnique Montréal.

The article “3D Printing of Highly Conductive Nanocomposites for the Functional Optimization of Liquid Sensors” was published in the journal Small. Renowned in the field of micro- and nanotechnology, Small placed this article on its back cover, a sure sign of the relevance of the research conducted by mechanical engineer Professor Daniel Therriault and his team. In practical terms, the result of this research looks like a cloth; but as soon as a liquid comes into contact with it, said cloth is able to identify its nature. In this case, it is ethanol, but it might have been another liquid. Such a process would be a terrific advantage to heavy industry, which uses countless toxic liquids.

A simple yet efficient recipe

While deceptively simple, the recipe is so efficient that Professor Therriault protected it with a patent. In fact, a U.S. company is already looking at commercializing this material printable in 3D, which is highly conductive and has various potential applications.

The first step: take a thermoplastic and, with a solvent, transform it into a solution so that it becomes a liquid. Second step: as a result of the porousness of this thermoplastic solution, carbon nanotubes can be incorporated into it like never before, somewhat like adding sugar into a cake mix. The result: a kind of black ink that’s fairly viscous and whose very high conductivity approximates that of some metals. Third step: this black ink, which is in fact a nanocomposite, can now move on to 3D printing. As soon as it comes out of the printing nozzle, the solvent evaporates and the ink solidifies. It takes the form of filaments slightly bigger than a hair. The manufacturing work can then begin.

3-D printing and nanotechnology, a mighty alliance to detect toxic liquids
Credit: Polytechnique Montréal

The advantages of this technology

The research conducted at Polytechnique Montréal is at the vanguard in the field of uses for 3D printers. The era of amateurish prototyping, like printing little plastic objects, belongs to the past. These days, all manufacturing industries, whether aviation, aerospace, robotics or medicine, etc., have set their sights on this technology.

There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the lightness of parts because plastic is substituted for metal. Then there is the precision of the work done at the microscopic level, as is the case here. Lastly, with the nanocomposite filaments usable at room temperature, conductivities can be obtained that approximate those of some metals. Better still, since the geometry of filaments can be varied, measures can be calibrated that make it possible to read the various electric signatures of liquids that are to be monitored.

A topical example: pipelines

At the connection points of pipes that form pipelines, there are flanges. The idea would be to factory- manufacture the pipes with flanges coated by 3D printing. The coating would be a nanocomposite whose electric signature is calibrated according to the liquid being transported – oil, for instance. If there is a leak and the liquid touches the printed sensors based on the concept developed by Professor Therriault and his team, an alert would sound in record time, and in a very targeted way. That’s a tremendous advantage, both for the population and the environment; in case of a leak, the faster the reaction time, the lesser the damages.

Explore further: Chinese scientists unveil liquid phase 3-D printing method using low melting metal alloy ink

More information: Kambiz Chizari et al, Liquid Materials: 3D Printing of Highly Conductive Nanocomposites for the Functional Optimization of Liquid Sensors, Small (2016). DOI: 10.1002/smll.201670232



Quantum Dots Bring Anti-counterfeiting Tech to 3D Printing

Note to Readers: A lot of you have Commented or E-mailed with a common question about this article, “Who is the new start-up company?” (developing the anti-counterfeiting technology based on Quantum Dots). For more information about the Company, its History, Founders and Technologies visit: Quantum Materials Corporation: Symbol: QTMM

BTW … In a recent press release they just released: Quantum Materials Corp to launch Quantum Dot Production in China with Joint Venture Partner GTG, who has committed $20 Million US in investment.”

Cheers! Team GNT

3D Printed Auto 020516 XMODULE3-1-e1454538456427

Even with all the promise offered by additive manufacturing (AM), some people are still wary of the potential pitfalls exposed by the technology. Leaving the notion of 3D printed guns, hearts and electronics aside, there are very real concerns about how intellectual property (IP) will fare in a digital manufacturing world, or how any single company can protect sales of 3D printed objects. Piracy is often seen as only a 3D scanner and printer away.


QD AM Mfg 020516 LEDA company new start-up Nano-materials company may have the solution to some of these concerns. The company is in the business of manufacturing, among other things, quantum dots. These tiny structures are constructed from semiconductor Nano-materials, and can be embedded within 3D printed objects. A partnership with the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science and the Design, Research, and Education for Additive Manufacturing Systems (DREAMS) Laboratory at Virginia Tech has resulted in a method of using quantum dots to act as a sort of fingerprint for objects built using AM.


“The remarkable number of variations of semiconductor Nano-materials properties that can be manufactured, coupled with Virginia Tech’s anti-counterfeiting process design, combine to offer corporations extreme flexibility in designing physical cryptography systems to thwart counterfeiters. As 3D printing and additive manufacturing technology advances, its ubiquity allows for the easy pirating of protected designs.” (VP for research and development)

The quantum dots work to foil counterfeiters by creating a unique signature for each item that is only known to the company producing that item. This will allow for rapid recognition of counterfeit items without requiring destructive testing methods.

Additionally, the company offers a number of semiconductor Nano-materials that further increase security. If you are familiar with computing, the addition of unique materials improves security strength in a similar way as moving from 128-bit to 256-bit encryption, according to the company.

With the recent boom in medical AM, both for rapid prototyping and end-use, this type of security can offer companies some assurance that they’ll see a return on investment for all the hard work put in to designing new devices. The use of quantum dots should also reassure other manufacturers who are on the fence about the use of AM that their patents will be upheld by more than a piece of paper and a handshake.





As 3D Printing Comes of Age – How will 3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing or ‘AM’) Combat Counterfeiting Products?

3D Printing I 020516 3d_printing

The specter of counterfeit products is always a concern for any company that relies on other facilities to actually manufacture and assemble their products. From fake Rolex watches to fake iPhones to fake Louis Vuitton purses, large companies often spend millions to protect their intellectual property from criminals who copy and sell fake products to often unsuspecting consumers.

While it can be easy to be anti-corporate and turn a blind eye to this kind of theft, especially when the companies are large and extremely profitable, their concern goes far beyond the potential loss of profits. The fact is, most counterfeit products are vastly inferior to the real thing, and if a consumer doesn’t know that they are purchasing a fake then the company not only has a lost sale, but their reputation will take a hit based on something that they didn’t even produce.

Even as 3D printing continues to grow into a valid and profitable alternative manufacturing method to injection molding or large-scale mass production, there are still companies that see the threat of counterfeiting as a reason to stall the adoption of 3D printing technology. Realistically there is not much that can be done about pirated 3D models and individuals using home 3D printers to make fake products. Combating individual piracy has been woefully ineffective for the entertainment industry, and probably only encouraged more users to download electronic files illegally. It stands to reason that going after individual pirates will work just as well if the 3D printing industry makes an attempt to over-regulate and control the flow of 3D printable files.

DRM on 3D printable files is probably not going to be an effective deterrent.

Many of the solutions that are being floated as counter-counterfeiting measures don’t really seem especially feasible or sustainable. Adding DRM (digital rights management) or unlock code requirements to 3D files may slow down some users, but just as with DRM efforts on movies and video games, if someone can put a lock on something, someone can take that same lock off and teach others how to do it as well. These efforts may work in the short term, as the pool of users who are capable of breaking DRM on 3D printable files is smaller, and there isn’t really an outlet to disperse those illegal files yet. But as the industry grows it is going to be harder and harder for companies to control their intellectual property using these methods. I’m not really sure that there is much to be done on this end of the industry. Besides, there is an even greater counterfeiting problem brewing on the manufacturing side of the industry and it is far more important than individual piracy ever could be.

Counterfeit bolts.

As with fake mass-produced consumer goods, mass-produced industrial parts are also counterfeited quite frequently. It may be more interesting to talk about fake purses, but a greater threat is products like fake screws, bolts, fittings and individual components. Many of the parts that are used to build our homes, businesses, vehicles and personal electronics use mass-produced components that manufacturers simply purchase in extremely large quantities. And all of those parts are held to very strict manufacturing guidelines that dictate how they can be used, what their maximum stress tolerances are and how they can be expected to perform.

When these types of components are forged, they are rarely made with the same quality of materials and often don’t even come close to performing as required. If these fake parts find their way unknowingly into the hands of manufacturers, who design products with these components’ manufacturing guidelines in mind, then the results could be catastrophic. There have been instances of airplanes and automobiles that have crashed due to the failure of lower quality, counterfeit parts. Buildings and homes are also at risk due to poor quality and counterfeited construction materials being used. It may seem odd, but cheaply made products that do not pass strict regulations are a huge business and lives can be lost to it.

3D printed Nike shoes with embedded InfraStructs.

With 3D printed components becoming more common, and eventually expected to be extremely common, counterfeit parts will pose a real risk. Using DRM, even if it was effective on a small scale, to prevent machines from making unauthorized parts is not going to matter when these parts can simply be 3D scanned and reproduced without the need for the original 3D model. The methods that need to be developed to combat this type of industrial counterfeiting will need to work in ways that DRM never will and identify the specific physical object as authentic. There are a few different methods that are currently being proposed, with varying probabilities of success.

The most likely option will be including RFID tags on 3D printed components that will identify an object as the real thing. The idea is that any part that doesn’t have an embedded RFID device in it — and they can easily be made small enough to easily be inserted inside of a 3D printed part — will automatically be identified as fake. The downside of this method is price, as the RFID tags themselves would be costly, as would the labor involved in inserting them. Testing for tags will also require specialized equipment that adds more cost to the authentication process. It is possible that a 3D printable material that would act as a tag called InfraStructs could be developed, but that would mean developing multiple materials that will be RFID reactive, which will be quite costly on the development side.

Subsurface fingerprinting with InfraTrac.

Another authentication option would be chemically tagging materials that can be detected with a handheld spectrometer. There are multiple companies providing these types of materials, but the most promising is a technique developed by InfraTrac. The Maryland-based company has developed a chemical that can be discreetly added to virtually anything without altering the chemical makeup of the material. For instance, parts can be 3D printed with a small subsurface “fingerprint” hidden in a discrete location. That mark alone would be printed with the material that has been treated with the chemical, and would easily identify the part as genuine. The material could also be printed as a single layer of the print with no mark, and no risk of altering the integrity of the part. Of course again this comes with it the need for specialized equipment in the form of the spectrometer and an actual machine that can 3D print with the standard material and the second, tagged material.

3D Printing II Heart 020516 maxresdefault

3D Printed Model of a Human Heart

One thing is very clear, there is a desire for additive manufacturing to be developed as an alternative to other mass production methods. That means the companies looking to use 3D printing to manufacture parts, and the 3D printing industry itself, are going to need to address the problem sooner rather than later. Determining which of these options is the ideal solution will not be an easy choice, as they both bring with them additional costs and challenges, but doing nothing simply isn’t an option.


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Mass-Produced, Printable (3D) Solar Cells Enter Market and could … Change Everything!

Australian solar power experts making up the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium have developed and begun to market solar cells that are created with a 3D printer.

The group,  consisting of scientists from the CSIRO, the University of Melbourne and Monash University have been working on the technology for over seven years and have figured out a way to cheaply print the panels onto plastic, including smart-phones and laptops, enabling self charging electronics.  They are also able to print directly on to walls and windows using an opaque solar film and claim that they can line a skyscraper with panels, making it totally electrically self sufficient.

“We print them onto plastic in more or less the same way we print our plastic banknotes,” said Fiona Scholes, senior research scientist at CSIRO. “Connecting our solar panels is as simple as connecting a battery. It’s very cheap. The way in which it looks and works is quite different to conventional silicon rooftop solar.”

The next step is to create a solar spray coating to enhance the power of the panel.  “We would like to improve the efficiency of solar panels – we need to develop solar inks to generate more energy from sunlight,” said Scholes. “We are confident we can push the technology further in the years to come.”

To Read More: Science Alerts

GE: 3D Printed Steam Turbine May Make Desalination Cost Effective

GE Desal 111015 greenville5_extra_large-1024x1024The mini desalination system combines 3D printing with GE’s deep reservoir of knowledge of turbo-machinery and fluid dynamics. GE scientists Doug Hofer and Vitali Lissianski used them to shrink a power generation steam turbine that would normally barely fit inside a school gym.

Not too long ago, Lissianski, a chemical engineer in the Energy Systems Lab at GE Global Research, was chatting with his lab manager about new ideas for water desalination. This type of “small talk” happens thousand times a day at the GRC.

Their lab tackles a lot of technical challenges coming from GE’s industrial businesses including Power and Water, Oil and Gas, Aviation and Transportation, and they quickly hit on a possible solution.

It led them to Hofer. As a senior principal engineer for aero systems at GRC and a steam turbine specialist, he was part of another team of GE researchers working on a project for Oil and Gas to improve small scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) production. A key part of the project focused on using 3D printing to miniaturize the turbo expander modeled after a GE steam turbine. (A turbo-expander is a machine that expands pressurized gas so that it could be used for work.)

Hofer was the perfect person in charge. He led the steam turbine aero team at Power and Water before coming to GRC eight years ago. Few people in the world have the kind of expertise and knowledge of steam turbine technology that Doug brings. “In traditional steam turbines, steam condenses and turns to water,” he says. “We thought maybe the same principle could be applied to water desalination.”

The only difference, Hofer explained, would be in using flows through the turbine to freeze the brine, or salt water instead of condensing the steam to water as in a steam turbine. Freezing the brine would naturally separate the salt and water by turning salt into a solid and water to ice.

A 3D printed mini-turbine . Image credit: GE

A 3D printed mini-turbine. Image credit: GE Reports

Lissianski and Hofer compared notes and today they are working on a new project with the US Department of Energy to test their new water desalination concept.

The reality today is that 97.5 percent of the world’s potential clean water drinking supply essentially remains untapped, locked in salty oceans and unsuitable for human consumption. This is in the face of growing global water shortage. According to the United Nations, water scarcity impacts 1.2 billion people, or one fifth of the world’s population.

Not even the United States has been spared. California, which has one of the country’s longest coastlines bordering the ocean, has been suffering through a severe water shortage crisis.

Technology inspired by a miniaturized steam turbine could help change all that. And there’s no reason to believe that it can’t. Advances in miniaturization have proven to have great impact time and time again.

For example, the application of Moore’s Law in the semiconductor world has shrunk the size of computer chips to enable mobile phones that pack more computing power than a roomful of mainframe supercomputers that were state-of-the-art just a few decades ago.

In ultrasound, miniaturization technologies have shrunk consoles to the size of a phone screen and can fit neatly into a doctor’s coat pocket. Doctors today can deliver high quality care in regions where access was previously limited or non-existent.

And steam turbines? They already have proven to be one of the key innovations that spread electricity to virtually every home and business. Miniaturized, they just might hold the key to spreading water desalination around the world.

Top image: Doug Hofer, a GE steam turbine specialist, and Vitali Lissianski, a chemical engineer in GE’s Energy Systems Lab, holding the mini-turbine in front of an actual size power generation steam turbine. Image credit: GE Reports

Nine Disruptive Technologies Changing The World … And Why You Should be Paying Attention

9-disruptive-technologiesChange is pretty much a constant state of affairs in the 21st century, and in no area is this truer than that of technological development. Technology has swept aside vast, powerful established industries, transforming them fundamentally in just a few years. Take, for example, the way that music has changed, moving from LPs to CDs to music available in online files. This occurred in a very short time frame. Other organisations have found their industries transformed to a similar scale. All of this means that understanding upcoming disruptive technologies can help organisations to create new business models and adapt in good time. PreScouter developed a report which showed that there are nine disruptive technologies that promise to revolutionize the world as we know it. The nine are big data, automation/AI, Internet of Things, MEMs, nanomaterials, biotechnology, terahertz, advanced energy and 3D printing. Each of these is now described.

1. Big Data – PreScouter predicts that “Big Data will be a $50 billion industry by 2017”. This is no big news, as many have predicted how big data will shape the world and will impact industries and organizations.The volume of data that people are producing is increasing at a tremendous rate, and this is only likely to further grow as a result of technology like wearable devices. At the same time costs of storage of this data have declined and this will enable predictive relationships to be produced according to PreScouter.

Viegas user activity on wikipedia Image source: wikipedia

2. Automation and Artificial Intelligence – PreScouter believes that artificial intelligence is starting to get introduced into consumer goods and this is already a $20.5 billion industry. Pre-runners like Siri are thought to be outdated and too “gimmicky” to be useful. AI that is placed in the backend however provides websites the ability to present different information to consumers based on their own preferences. This clearly has considerable marketing implications. Another important issue is the impact of automation and robots on economy and labor. What some call the “robots economy” is revolutionizing what we know as work, and the trend promises to continue to develop.

Automation equipment

3. The Internet of Things – while so many devices are not yet connected to the Internet, by 2022 PreScouter believes that there will be a network of 50 billion connected objects. When this is paired with the technology for artificial intelligence it is believed that factories will be able to become smart, and that this could contribute a whopping $2 trillion to the global economy.

Internet of things

4. Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMs) – MEMs are reported by PreScouter to be sensors that transfer information between the worlds of the physical and the digital. It is argued by PreScouter that advances to make these devices more miniature have transformed the medical world as well as industrial diagnostics. An health revolution has been promised by many. An interesting report published by MIT´s technological review reports on the latest advancements on this important area that combine Big Data with MEMs.

MEMs Image source: shopage.fr

5. Nanomaterials – related to the MEMs detailed above, nanomaterials are explained by PreScouter to have driven miniaturisation. They are also able to be used to create new classes of materials, such as changing the colour, strengths, conductivities and other properties of traditional materials. The market is already thought to be worth more than $25 billion in this area.

6. Biotechnology – agricultural science is believed to be advancing to new boundaries beyond that of breeding and crossbreeding, according to PreScouter. Indeed, it is explained that biotechnology has advanced to such a point that crops are able to be developed that are drought-resistant and have better vitamin content and salinity tolerance. All of this has tremendous potential to get rid of the problem of hunger in the world. The market already exceeds $80 billion a year, argues PreScouter, and it is growing rapidly.

Plant done through biotechnology

7. Terahertz Imaging – PreScouter reports that the market for Terahertz devices is predicted to grow by 35% per year annually and to reach more than $500 million by 2021. But what is it?  Terahertz Imaging “extends sensory capabilities by moving beyond the realm of the human body”. This helps to create imaging devices that can penetrate structures, for example. They are being used to detect explosives that were previously considered to be invisible, as well as in path planning for self-driving cars (PreScouter).


8. Advanced Energy Storage and Generation – the ever expanding population of the world has an equally ever expanding need for energy, and this is being made more challenging by legislation to deal with the challenges of climate change. There have been significant advances to battery technology according to PreScouter, and this alone is estimated to have an economic impact of $415 billion. Greener products are also much more incentivised and it is thought likely that cold fusion power could become viable, argues PreScouter. Solar Power has also developed considerably and is an area that promises to grow considerably and become a viable energetic alternative,  as its becoming increasingly cheaper.

Compressed air energy storage

9. 3D Printing – last but not least, 3D printers are making tremendous strides, and PreScouter points out that this is already a $3.1 billion industry that is growing by 35% each year. This will continue to transform industries as the prices of printers drops and more people can gain access to them. On the other hand the Maker´s mouvement is gaining momentum, which is producing a new generation of people interested and with the skills to do things.

Carbon3D Unveils Breakthrough CLIP 3D Printing Technology, 25-100X Faster: Video

by Brian Krassenstein

In what may be one of the biggest stories we have covered this year, a new company, Carbon3D has just emerged out of stealth mode, unveiling an entirely new breakthrough 3D printing process, which is anywhere between 25 and 100 times faster than what’s available on the market today.

The privately-held Redwood City, California-based company, Carbon3D, was founded in 2013, and since then has been secretly perfecting a new 3D printing technology which promises to change the industry forever. The technology that the company calls Continuous Liquid Interface Productiongo technology (CLIP) works by harnessing the power of light and oxygen to cure a photosensitive resin. Sounds an awful lot like Stereolithography (SLA) technology, doesn’t it? While it uses principles we see within a typical SLA process, where a laser or projector cures a photosensitive resin, Carbon3D’s CLIP process strays greatly from the technology that we are all used to seeing.

Instead of printing an object layer-by-layer, which leads to incredibly slow speeds as well as a weak overall structure similar to that of shale, this new diaprocess harnesses light as a way to cure the resin, and oxygen as an inhibiting agent, to print in true 3-dimensional fashion.

“Current 3D printing technology has failed to deliver on its promise to revolutionize manufacturing,” said Dr. Joseph DeSimone, CEO and Co-Founder, Carbon3D. “Our CLIP technology offers the game-changing speed, consistent mechanical properties and choice of materials required for complex commercial quality parts.”

By bringing oxygen into the equation, a traditionally mechanical technique for 3D printing suddenly becomes a tunable photochemical process which rapidly decreases production times, removes the layering effect, and provides a technology which may just take 3D printing to the next level. The CLIP process relies on a special transparent and permeable window which allows both light and oxygen to get through. Think of it as a large contact lens. The machine then is able to control the exact amount of oxygen and when that oxygen is permitted into the resin pool. The oxygen thus acts to inhibit the resin from curing in certain areas as the light cures those areas not exposed to the oxygen. Thus the oxygen is able to create a ‘dead zone’ aa4within the resin which is as small as tens of microns thick (about the diameter of 2-3 red blood cells).  In this subsection of the resin, it is literally impossible for photopolymerization to take place. The machine will then produce a series of cross sectional images using UV light in a fashion similar to playing a movie.

For those of you who are thinking right now, “This company must be a fluke. After all, how could they have created such a breakthrough 3D printing technique but we’ve yet to hear a peep from them,” the next tidbit of information will certainly diminish your doubts.

Carbon3D has managed to partner with Sequoia Capital, one of the oldest and most successful venture capital firms on the planet, to lead their Series A round of financing in 2013, and with Silver Lake Kraftwerk for their Series B round. In total, they have raised $41 million to date, all practically under the radar.


“If 3D printing hopes to break out of the prototyping niche it has been trapped in for decades, we need to find a disruptive technology that attacks the problem from a fresh perspective and addresses 3D printing’s fundamental weaknesses,” said Jim Goetz, Carbon3D board member and Sequoia partner. “When we met Joe and saw what his team had invented, it was immediately clear to us that 3D printing would never be the same.”

The CLIP process was originally developed by the company’s CEO, Joseph DeSimone, along with his colleagues Professor Edward Samulski, and Dr. Alex Ermoshkin. It’s going to be very interesting to see just how this technology ultimately plays out, and when it may come to market. Now that the company is out of stealth mode, will the larger players within the space try acquiring them? Let’s hear your thoughts on this breaking story in the Carbon3D forum thread on 3DPB.com

3D Printed Lenslets Used to Improve Efficiency and Cut Costs of Rooftop Solar Panels

Concentrated photovoltaics (CPV) are a technology that generates electricity from sunlight. You probably know that already, but now a team of researchers have worked on enabling CPV systems for rooftop use by combining photovoltaic cells and a 3D printed plastic lens array which not only reduces the size and weight, but also cuts the total cost of such systems.

Image 21 - CopyUsing miniaturized photovoltaic cells of gallium arsenide, the 3D printed plastic lens arrays, and a focusing mechanism which moves to track the sun, a traditional solar panel can be placed on the south-facing side of a building’s roof.

The researchers discovered that they could reach 70 percent optical efficiency — and they hope to reach 90 percent efficiency — using their design.

“The main benefit of printed optics for CPV is rapid prototyping and testing of initial concepts. The quality of the printed optics is sufficient for proof of concept,” said Noel Giebink, one of the authors of the research and an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Penn State University.

Image 22According to Geibink, focusing sunlight on the array of cells with the embedded 3D printed plastic ‘lenslet’ arrays means each of them in the top array acts like a tiny magnifying glass. Using their technique, they can intensify sunlight more than 200 times, and as the focal point moves with the sun over the course of a day, the middle solar cell sheet works by moving laterally in the center of the lenslet array.

“We partnered with colleagues at the University of Illinois because they are experts at making small, very efficient multi-junction solar cells,” said Giebink. “These cells are less than 1 square millimeter, made in large, parallel batches and then an array of them is transferred onto a thin sheet of glass or plastic.”

Previous tracking systems only functioned about two hours a day as the focal point moved out of the range of the solar cells. The researchers solved that problem and enabled solar focusing for a complete eight-hour period — and with a total movement of approximately 1 centimeter.

One of the arrays, a refractive surface, collimated the light while another which was coated with a reflective material reflects the collimated light onto the micro-cells.

argonneThe findings, by Jared Price, Xing Sheng, Bram Meulblok, John Rogers, and Giebink, were published in their paper, “Wide-angle planar microtracking for quasi-static microcell concentrating photovoltaics,” in the journal Nature Communications.

“Current CPV systems are the size of billboards and have to be pointed very accurately to track the sun throughout the day,” Giebink says. “You can’t put a system like this on your roof, which is where the majority of solar panels throughout the world are installed.”

The research was funded by the US Department of Energy.

Do you know of any other ways 3D printing is being used to move energy production systems forward? Let us know in the 3D Printed Lenslets forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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CPV Solar 1 Explanation_acrylic

Contact lens merges plastics and active electronics via 3-D printing

Google develop smart contact lens to measure glucose levels in tears - 17 Jan 2014As part of a project demonstrating new 3-D printing techniques, Princeton researchers have embedded tiny light-emitting diodes into a standard contact lens, allowing the device to project beams of colored light.

Michael McAlpine, the lead researcher, cautioned that the lens is not designed for actual use—for one, it requires an external power supply. Instead, he said the team created the device to demonstrate the ability to “3-D print” electronics into complex shapes and materials.

“This shows that we can use 3-D printing to create complex electronics including semiconductors,” said McAlpine, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. “We were able to 3-D print an entire device, in this case an LED.”

The hard is made of plastic. The researchers used tiny crystals, called quantum dots, to create the LEDs that generated the colored light. Different size dots can be used to generate various colors.

“We used the quantum dots [also known as nanoparticles] as an ink,” McAlpine said. “We were able to generate two different colors, orange and green.”


The contact lens is also part of an ongoing effort to use 3-D printing to assemble diverse, and often hard-to-combine, materials into functioning devices. In the recent past, a team of Princeton professors including McAlpine created a bionic ear out of living cells with an embedded antenna that could receive radio signals.

Yong Lin Kong, a researcher on both projects, said the bionic ear presented a different type of challenge.

McAlpine and Yong Lin Kong, a graduate student in mechanical and aerospace engineering, use a custom-built 3-D printer to create the electronics described in their research. Credit: Frank Wojciechowski

“The main focus of the project was to demonstrate the merger of electronics and biological materials,” said Kong, a graduate student in mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Kong, the lead author of the Oct. 31 article describing the current work in the journal Nano Letters, said that the contact lens project, on the other hand, involved the printing of active electronics using diverse materials. The materials were often mechanically, chemically or thermally incompatible—for example, using heat to shape one material could inadvertently destroy another material in close proximity. The team had to find ways to handle these incompatibilities and also had to develop new methods to print electronics, rather than use the techniques commonly used in the electronics industry.

“For example, it is not trivial to pattern a thin and uniform coating of nanoparticles and polymers without the involvement of conventional microfabrication techniques, yet the thickness and uniformity of the printed films are two of the critical parameters that determine the performance and yield of the printed active device,” Kong said.

To solve these interdisciplinary challenges, the researchers collaborated with Ian Tamargo, who graduated this year with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry; Hyoungsoo Kim, a postdoctoral research associate and fluid dynamics expert in the mechanical and aerospace engineering department; and Barry Rand, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

McAlpine said that one of 3-D printing’s greatest strengths is its ability to create electronics in complex forms. Unlike traditional electronics manufacturing, which builds circuits in flat assemblies and then stacks them into three dimensions, 3-D printers can create vertical structures as easily as horizontal ones.

“In this case, we had a cube of LEDs,” he said. “Some of the wiring was vertical and some was horizontal.”

To conduct the research, the team built a new type of 3-D printer that McAlpine described as “somewhere between off-the-shelf and really fancy.” Dan Steingart, an assistant professor of mechanical and and the Andlinger Center, helped design and build the new printer, which McAlpine estimated cost in the neighborhood of $20,000.

McAlpine said that he does not envision 3-D printing replacing traditional manufacturing in electronics any time soon; instead, they are complementary technologies with very different strengths. Traditional manufacturing, which uses lithography to create electronic components, is a fast and efficient way to make multiple copies with a very high reliability. Manufacturers are using 3-D printing, which is slow but easy to change and customize, to create molds and patterns for rapid prototyping.

Prime uses for 3-D printing are situations that demand flexibility and that need to be tailored to a specific use. For example, conventional manufacturing techniques are not practical for medical devices that need to be fit to a patient’s particular shape or devices that require the blending of unusual materials in customized ways.

“Trying to print a cellphone is probably not the way to go,” McAlpine said. “It is customization that gives the power to 3-D printing.”

In this case, the researchers were able to custom 3-D print electronics on a contact lens by first scanning the lens, and feeding the geometric information back into the printer. This allowed for conformal 3-D printing of an LED on the contact lens.

Explore further: Princeton team explores 3D-printed quantum dot LEDs

More information: “3D Printed Quantum Dot Light-Emitting Diodes.” Nano Lett., 2014, 14 (12), pp 7017–7023 DOI: 10.1021/nl5033292

Graphene 3D Lab to Purchase Canadian 3D Printer Maker ‘Boots Industries’

Graphene-Labs-battery-1024x509Graphene 3D Lab Inc. has inked a deal to acquire Boots Industries Inc., a Canadian 3D printer manufacturer. Graphene 3D says that they intend to purchase all Boots Industries’ assets — and to hire the team at Boots Industries — in an all share transaction. Ted Edwards · December 9, 2014

The company says the deal will see the Boots Industries team work to create a proprietary 3D printer capable of printing functional and electronic devices to optimize and maximize performance of Graphene 3D’s functional printing materials.

Boots Industries Printer

Founded in 2012, Boots Industries emerged as a player in the Canadian 3D printing market with their BI V2.0, a large-volume 3D printer.

“The goal of Graphene 3D is to introduce a 3D printing ecosystem, including a 3D printer and functional materials, capable of printing operational and electronic devices,” says Daniel Stolyarov, CEO of Graphene 3D. “The team at Boots Industries have been successful to date in the development and sale of high-quality 3D printers, and we have the utmost confidence in their teams’ capabilities to develop a multi-material printer optimized for Graphene 3D materials.”

Jean Le Bouthillier, CEO of Boots Industries, said his company is enthusiastic about the opportunity to develop a 3D printer capable of printing operational devices with functional materials

“The entire Boots Industries team is looking forward to working within the Graphene 3D team on the next revolution in 3D printing,” Le Bouthillier said of the deal.

The two companies have signed an exclusive letter of intent for the transaction. The terms of the deal call for an all-share transaction capped at a valuation of $500,000 CA in common shares, that the Boots Industries’ development team will join Graphene Lab’s R&D team and it’s thought that a definitive agreement will be inked during the first quarter of 2015.

graphene 3d labGraphene 3D Lab develops, manufactures, and markets proprietary, graphene-based nanocomposite materials for various types of 3D printing. The Graphene 3D Lab facility is located in Calverton, NY and it’s equipped with material processing and analytical equipment which the company uses to complete work which has resulted in three US patent applications pending for its technology.

Boots Industries, located in Quebec City, Canada, develops fused filament fabrication, delta 3D printers for retail sale. The company’s BI V2.5 3Dboots industries printer offers an optional triple-head extruder.

Graphene promises to be the forefront material in a drive to create functional electronic devices with 3D printing technology. Will Canadian firms, with their access to graphene resources, dominate the electronics printing market? Will Graphene 3D Lab’s acquisition today quicken their pace of innovation within the field of graphene 3D printing? Weigh in on the discussion in the Graphene 3D Lab & Boots Industries thread on 3DPB.com.

A Graphene 3D Labs printed battery undergoing testing.