Apr 5, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers in Germany and Canada have used a form of 3D printing to develop a new resistive memory (ReRAM) device. The device uses its state of resistance to represent binary information.

In a world where even our car keys and contents of our wallets store digital memory, the need to reduce the size of memory storage devices is becoming greater and greater. Now, a group of researchers at Munich University of Applied Sciences in Germany and INRS-EMT in Canada has developed a 3D printing and inkjet printing technique that can be used to fabricate a compact, flexible resistive memory device that could be used in mass-produced printable electronics.

In a research paper that has been published in Applied Physics Letters, the researchers have presented a proof of concept resistive memory device that could be used to mass produce printable electronics. Bernhard Huber, a doctoral student at INRS-EMT, says that the principle behind the group’s ReRAM is simple: “In any kind of memory, the basic memory unit must be switchable between two states that represent one bit, or ‘0’ or ‘1.’ For ReRAM devices, these two states are defined by the resistance of the memory cell.”

3D printed memory device made from polyimide foil

The researchers have used a kind of memory called conductive-bridge random access memory (CB-RAM). For their 3D printed configuration, Huber explains that 0 is “a high-resistance state represented by the high resistance of an insulating spin-on glass, which separates a conducting polymer electrode from a silver electrode,” while the 1 is a “low-resistance state, which is given by a metallic filament that grows into the spin-on glass and provides a reversible short-circuit between the two electrodes.”

In a process that is similar to office inkjet printing, only with different printing materials, the researchers printed functional inks to create a capacitor structure (conductor-insulator-conductor). But despite the relative familiarity of the printing process, the researchers say their work could have big implications, potentially proving useful in the field of low-performance memory devices.

“We not only demonstrated that a complete additive (printing) process was possible but also that the performance parameters are comparable to cleanroom-fabricated devices,” said Christina Schindler of Munich University of Applied Sciences. “The biggest technological appeal is the mechanical flexibility of our memory tiles, and the fact that all materials required for processing are commercially available. From our proof of concept, we’re paving a road toward optimization.”

The researchers believe that their new 3D printing method for creating resistive memory devices could have certain practical applications. These include the production of computer chips for credit cards and components for wearable electronics like smart watches.

“Print-on-demand electronics are another large field of possible applications,” added Andreas Ruediger of INRS-EMT. “At present, the main source of versatile electronics is field-programmable gate arrays that provide a reconfigurable circuitry that can be adopted for different purposes with predefined limitations.”

Perhaps most excitingly, the researchers believe that a printer dedicated to this task could eventually cost as little as current inkjet printers, paving the way for easily producible flexible printed electronics.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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