While techniques exist for the rapid prototyping of mechanical and electrical components separately, this paper describes a method where commercial additive manufacturing (AM) techniques can be used to concurrently construct the mechanical structure and electronic circuits in a robotic or mechatronic system. The technique involves printing hollow channels within 3D printed parts that are then filled with a low melting point liquid metal alloy that solidifies to form electrical traces. This method is compatible with most conventional fused deposition modeling and stereolithography (SLA) machines and requires no modification to an existing printer, though the technique could easily be incorporated into multimaterial machines. Three primary considerations are explored using a commercial fused deposition manufacturing (FDM) process as a testbed: material and manufacturing process parameters, simplified injection fluid mechanics, and automatic part generation using standard printed circuit board (PCB) software tools. Example parts demonstrate the ability to embed circuits into a 3D printed structure and populate the surface with discrete electronic components.
Printing Three-Dimensional Electrical Traces in Additive Manufactured Parts for Injection of Low Melting Temperature Metals
Contributed by the Mechanisms and Robotics Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANISMS AND ROBOTICS. Manuscript received September 2, 2014; final manuscript received December 12, 2014; published online February 27, 2015. Assoc. Editor: Satyandra K. Gupta.
Swensen, J. P., Odhner, L. U., Araki, B., and Dollar, A. M. (May 1, 2015). "Printing Three-Dimensional Electrical Traces in Additive Manufactured Parts for Injection of Low Melting Temperature Metals." ASME. J. Mechanisms Robotics. May 2015; 7(2): 021004. https://doi.org/10.1115/1.4029435
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