Fully Automatic Liquid Metal Printer towards Personal Electronics Manufacture

Yi Zheng, Zhi-Zhu He, Jun Yang, Jing Liu

Printed electronics is quickly emerging with tremendous value in a wide variety of latest electrical engineering areas. However, restricted to the rather limited conductive inks and printing strategies, the currently existing electronics manufacturing tools are generally complicated, expensive, time, material, water and energy consuming, and thus mainly restricted to the industrial use. Here from an alternative way, the present article demonstrated for the first time an entirely automatic printing system for personal electronics manufacturing through introducing a composite liquid metal ink delivery and printing mechanism to overcome the large surface tension facing the solution, and integrating it with the notebook computer controlling algorithm. With the developed printer, any desired electronically conductive patterns spanning from single wires to various complex structures like integrated circuit (IC), antenna, PCB, RFID, electronic greeting cards, decoration arts, classical buildings (White House, Great Wall etc.) or more do-it-yourself (DIY) circuits were demonstrated to be printed out in a moment with high precision. And the total cost for the whole system has reached personal affordability, which is hard to offer by so far the state of the art technologies. Some fundamental fluid dynamics mechanisms related to the proposed tapping mode enabled reliable printing and adhesion of the liquid metal electronics on the flexible substrate was systematically disclosed through theoretical interpretation and experimental measurements. This clearly beyond-the-lab technology and pervasively available liquid metal printer opens the way for large scale home level electronics making in the coming time.

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