Thursday, February 7, 2013

Using "inkjet" printers to "print" computer circuits.

I love seeing articles like this.

You won't believe the 'hate' I got for including a few scenes in my books about printing circuit boards and processors with semi-conducting inks in inkjet printers. I was laughed at and ridiculed, some can still be found in the bad reviews on B&N and Amazon.

But, in 2013, it's starting to become reality.

If you stop and think about it, this is really a 3D printer for circuits, and I love the possibilities this opens up when you combine it with the world 3D printers open up for amateur inventors and home users (something I also took a lot of hate mail for). Since most things mechanical have at least some electronics imbedded, it only makes sense these two inventions will inevitably be brought together at the home user level.

Need a new tablet, but it doesn't need to be as smart or powerful as an iPad?

Just print one out. The processors in the iPad and a typical laptop are tiny and as fast and nimble as a racecar. But if all you're going to do with it is check your email, read some books, play words with friends and suduko then you really only need something with the power and smarts of a scooter, well within range of these inky things.

The printed circuits will be 'bigger', as governed by their droplet size, but bigger has advantages too. Bigger is often cheaper, and it's always easier to make gallons of 'ink' than billions of clean-room silicon chips. And the use of these new inks will let designers optimize the electronics for specialized applications, like those from above.

I believe it'll start a new way of thinking, away from smaller and smaller and into form following function. The processor inside an iPad just has to be smaller than the iPad, it doesn't need to fit on a postage stamp like it does now. It can take up the entire back of the screen if it needs too, or be part of the plastic case. And these inks, inherently, will be layered atop one another into thicker and thicker sheets. Eventually, you'll have inks that make up the screen (already do with Einks on Kindles and Nooks) and the batteries (again, already here), these transistors, diodes, and capacitors are the last few ingredients in the soup.

I see a day when, instead of printing books out with your printer, you print out Ebook readers, preloaded with a library already in them, or the latest iPhone design is just downloaded from the iStore and printed out on your home 3D printer with electronic inks, no trips into town required.

I'm just glad to be around to watch it slowly happen, with a constant trickle of articles like these.

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