May 22, 2015 | By Simon

Along with all of the new developments we’ve been seeing with various additive manufacturing methods, so too have we been seeing developments in the material science of 3D printable materials.  

So far in 2015 alone, we’ve seen how Made in Space is releasing their “Space-Approved” filament to the consumer market for users to create their own tools and parts that are suitable for use in space, as well as companies such as Autodesk having made the decision to keep source files open source, such as the recipe for the resin used in their Ember 3D printers.

Now, a new 3D printing process that was developed by researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany shows promise that sooner, rather than later, we may be able to create bright and glowing glow-in-the-dark objects on-demand.  

The new process, which was developed in collaboration with German company Franz Binder GmbH & Co, eschews traditional 3D printing methods and enables manufacturers to directly print electroluminescent (EL) foils onto 3D objects through the process of adding an electrically conductive, electroluminescent layer of coating, which is also capable of bending and flexing.

The different components of the coating, which include the electroluminescent and the electrically conductive materials, are applied through the use of a pad printing process. The pad printing machine includes an elastic rubber pad that is easily deformable for a variety of different shapes and materials.

Traditionally, the luminescent material is located between two plastic layers in EL carrier foils, however this new process enables the EL foils to be printed directly onto an object -  including objects that were previously challenging to manufacture with EL foils including convex and curved shapes and a variety of different material types.

“By means of the innovative production process we developed together with our industry partner, any type of three-dimensional object can be provided with electroluminescent coatings at low costs,” said Dr. Rainer Kling of the Light Technology Institute at KIT.

According to the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the glowing 3D objects could be used for enhancing safety features in future design projects or even be used to enhance safety within buildings and large structures.   

“In this way, it is possible to provide (3D printed) surfaces and even spheres with homogeneous coatings at low costs,” explains engineer Elodie Chardin.

Because the process only requires a few steps and thus, doesn’t cost too much to perform, it could become a popular mainstream process for consumer-based 3D printing.  Among other reasons, the researchers have stated that the various colors will be able to be applied to the same surface.  



Posted in 3D Printing Technology


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