Dec.26, 2013

The US Patent & Trademark Office today published a series of new patent applications from Apple, and one of them is an inkjet printer for printing on a 3D object.

Inkjet printer creates a digital image by propelling droplets of ink onto paper, plastic, or other substrates. However, inkjet printers may also be employed for other purposes. For example, inkjet printers may be employed to print conductive ink. Conductive ink is a type of ink that includes conductive particles (e.g., powdered or flaked silver particles) therein and it may be used to form circuits or perform related functions.

But many of the objects in everyday life are not flat, but have a three dimensional structure. Accordingly, existing embodiments of inkjet printers may have limited capabilities. Apple's patent is more related to methods, apparatuses, and printers for inkjet printing conductive ink on a circuit board defining nonparallel surfaces.

Here is how Apple describes the technology:

"The inkjet printer may include a print head that ejects a conductive ink. The inkjet printer may also include an assembly configured for adjusting a position of an object relative to the print head. The adjustment assembly may include a fixture configured to hold an object, such as a circuit board, that is to be printed on. The fixture may be configured to hold the object such that multiple surfaces thereof, which may be nonplanar, are exposed. A tilt adjustment mechanism may be coupled to the fixture and configured to adjust a tilt angle of the object. Further, a rotational adjustment mechanism may be coupled to the fixture and configured to adjust an angular position of the circuit board. Accordingly, the surfaces of the object may each be upwardly oriented such that the print head may print thereon. "

In November Apple filed two inventions related to 3D printing. They are methods of construction a part with build metallic glasses (BMG - Liquidmetal) layer by layer. We doubt that Apple will enter the 3D printing market itself, but more likely to use these technologies for internal prototyping or production. The inkjet printing gives the benefits of variable image/data printing, zero setup cost and time to allow mass customisation of products and printing on demand. We will probably see Apple applies the inkjet printing on their 3D printed products or work with 3D printer manufacturers to make sure they have the best tools for developing their products.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



Maybe you also like:


Cappy wrote at 1/3/2014 6:19:22 AM:

Looks like the Multi-Axis Inkjet Printing Systems these guys have been offering for several years:

David wrote at 12/28/2013 3:09:33 AM:

Universities are already printing complete batteries, conductive "ink" is not new or novel. Using "inkjet on 3D prints" can be seen for YEARS from ZCorp. Patents were intended to encourage innovation - this is patent abuse to discourage innovation/competition.

Tony wrote at 12/27/2013 9:30:47 PM:

There is prior art for this: For example:,79590,79660

Randolph Garrison wrote at 12/27/2013 1:54:59 AM:

sounds like apple is claiming all things 3d printer.

Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive