3D printing is fascinating, and the technology behind it continues to evolve. One of the most intriguing developments comes from Harvard materials scientist Jennifer Lewis, who has come up with a way to print lithium-ion batteries and other electrical components. MIT's Technology Review has an interesting story on Lewis' work, including some great images of really, really small batteries. The printing tech has already created batteries with footprints as small as one square millimeter.
"Functional inks" facilitate the printing process. These materials are laced with different kinds of nanoparticles, and they can reportedly be used to make batteries, wires, electrodes, and antennas. Custom nozzles offer 100-nanometer accuracy. The printing process works at room temperature, too. The functional inks flow under pressure but solidify when printed, allowing structures to be created directly on materials like plastic.
The current nozzles are designed for industrial printers, and the focus seems to be on licensing the technology to larger manufacturers. However, Technology Review notes that Lewis "may eventually produce a low-end printer for hobbyists."
Windows 8.1 already has a dedicated API for 3D printers. Microsoft recently released a 3D Builder app, and it's clearly keen on making the PC a key player in at-home additive manufacturing. If basic electronics eventually become part of the arsenal for personal 3D printing, DIY builders should be able to create some really interesting devices.