An idea for future 3D printer heads

After rereading this article on printing circuitry on flexible backing material using a Tee-Shirt printer I heard some back-of-the-brain thinking going on … and it wasn’t long before it threw up this:

Back in the early ’80s one of the fields I’d looked forward to seeing great things from was metamaterials. Being able to create materials with engineered properties. Surface appearance achieved through material texture interfering with light waves rather than paints and dyes. Exotic properties designed in at the molecular and atomic level.

Lately the field of nanotechnology has eclipsed meta materials and some might say subsumed it. Because in some sense all meta materials are nano structured are they not?

With all that in mind I was mentally constructing how the technology might work as I read the article (some part of my mind tends to run ahead while another part keeps plodding along with the reading) … different electro-chemical doped ‘inks’. These being deposited in in overlapping 2D layers and ‘developed’ to form circuit traces, resistors and pads.

And then my mind, as it sometimes does, ‘looked up’ for a fraction of a second for other things out there that might share techniques or solutions with this application. And it glimpsed 3D printers. And had a little ‘if only xxx than Aha’ moment.

The xxx part, this time, is a 2nd or 3rd generation 3D print nozzle that more closely resembles an orb spiders silk generating organ, the spinneret, than anything else. Functionally the orifice is relatively complex mixing and thread building machine that not only spews a lengthening stream of ‘silk’ but varies it’s chemistry and structure on demand. This allows the silk to be tailored to the purpose.

Imagine if 3D printers had nozzles that were micro structured spinnerets that created meta material tailored for strength, stiffness, chemical reactivity, hardness, or any quality that can be adjusted. So the plastic ‘ink’ changes depending on its location and job.

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