Sometimes an article you read stops you dead in your tracks and this article by Stuart Nathan is certainly one of those.
Writing for The Engineer, Stuart explains how a team from the University of Minnesota are currently working on the development of stretchy sensors that can be 3D printed onto a variety of surfaces.
The team has developed a customised 3D printer complete with 4 nozzles which dispense multiple layers (silicone, conducting inks, a pressure sensor, and a soluble layer) to produce each sensor.
Led by Prof Michael McAlpine, the project aims to give operators of surgical robots an extra level of feedback when performing minimally-invasive surgery, essentially providing them with touch.
Whilst this is impressive in itself, the team also believe the technology has the potential one day to print electronics directly onto human skin for health monitoring and safety applications.
Have the likes of Fitbit and other activity trackers just met their match? How could this technology be developed in the future for those requiring prosthetic limbs? And how much would Steve Austin have cost the US Government in 1973 if this technology was available back then?
Whether or not you're keen on the idea of having electronic sensors printed on your skin, you can't deny the progress being made in this area is mind-boggling.
“We have a multifunctional printer that can print several layers to make these flexible sensory devices. This could take us into so many directions from health monitoring to energy harvesting to chemical sensing,” McAlpine said. “This is a completely new way to approach 3D printing of electronics.”
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