Sep 20, 2016 | By Alec

3D printed wearables, such as patches and accessories filled with sensors that monitor your health, for instance, have just become a whole lot more realistic. For Israeli PCB 3D printing pioneer Nano Dimension has just successfully 3D printed conductive patterns made from silver nanoparticles onto specially treated fabric. This achievement, realized in collaboration with an unnamed leading European functional textiles company, paves the way for sensors and electronics that are actually part of your clothing.

Nano Dimension Technologies Ltd is a pioneer and world leader in the field of 3D printed electronics and 3D printed PCBs. Since being founded in 2012, they have done so much for the development of 3D printed circuitry. As they revealed earlier this year through a survey, there’s a huge demand for 3D printed PCBs from electronics companies, and Nano Dimension has been working hard to make them economically viable.

All that work paid off over the summer, which saw the release of Nano Dimension’s DragonFly 2020 PCB 3D printer and the supporting Switch software package. In a nutshell, the 3D printer uses advanced 3D inkjet deposition technology and accompanying insulating and conductive nano-inks to create printed circuit boards (PCBs), and aims to create some of the most advanced PCBs that the market has ever seen.

While it was already clear that the DragonFly 2020 3D printing platform had the potential to change electronics development as we know it, this fabric achievement offers a first glimpse at what new opportunities are now within reach. Thanks to that 3D printer and Nano Dimension's AgCite Silver Nanoparticle conductive ink, this conductive fabric test was a complete success. Following the requirements of the European company, Nano Dimension altered their 3D printing process to embed electronics and sensors into the fabric itself.

But that’s not all, as it was a very extensive test. Among others, conductors were 3D printed in several patterns to enable functionality tests. These were tested on conductivity, elasticity, and even on the physical rubbing of the patterns onto the skin. And the results were good, demonstrating that the silver conductive particles have enough elasticity to match the fabric’s properties and perfectly blend in. It proves that even functional and ‘smart’ fabrics, packed with sensors, are realistic possibilities and do not need to be limited by movement, folding or wearing.

The timing for this achievement is impeccable, as the textile industry is changing rapidly to cope with customizability demands. In particular, they are struggling to produce smart textiles that link up with our smartphones and smartwatches. There’s also a strong demand for smart bandages, health monitoring wearables, VR gloves and safety equipment for defense and aerospace applications. The smart textile market is already worth an estimated $800 million today – with that value set to skyrocket to $4.72 billion by 2020. 3D printing, Nano Dimension argues, has the potential to overcome this challenge and make efficient smart textile manufacturing possible.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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