Draw and fold working circuitry with the silver-ink pen
Surely the ultimate, wantable badge of the Übergeek
Top boffins in Illinois have invented a truly joyous piece of kit: a pen full of silver ink which can be used to draw functioning electronic circuitry on paper, wood (including – of course – breadboards) and other suitable surfaces.
"Pen-based printing allows one to construct electronic devices 'on-the-fly'," says Jennifer Lewis, one of the engineering profs who came up with the new pen at Illinois uni. "This is an important step toward enabling desktop manufacturing (or personal fabrication) using very low cost, ubiquitous printing tools."
Outwardly a normal rollerball, the pen is filled with a solution of silver which dries after drawing to leave a functioning electronic pathway. Better still, the inky circuit path is flexible, allowing the surface it is drawn on to be deformed or folded without affecting performance. A little origami added to one's drafting skills allows creation of 3D or multi-level devices.
"The key advantage of the pen is that the costly printers and printheads typically required for inkjet or other printing approaches are replaced with an inexpensive, hand-held writing tool," argues Lewis, who developed it alongside fellow Illinois prof Jennifer Bernhard and other colleagues.
The nifty circuit-pen enables "new possibilities in art, disposable electronics and folded three-dimensional devices," according to the two Jennifers, who now intend to develop other inks allowing freehand circuit artists to make use of different materials.
Full boffinry detail on the splendid pen can be read here in the journal Advanced Materials. ®
Unless I am missing something
They are re-inventing the wheel. I have used one of these for years to repair circuit breaks, but it could just as easily be used to draw whole circuits
If you don't need the flexibility...
... just go to Maplin:
I take it the author doesn't have a subscription to the journal either or perhaps we might have got to know how the new magic material is different...
Paging Bob Howard
Or of course it can be used for impromptu summoning of demons, portals to another universe, or just a *really* good lock on a hotel door.
(Hmm, does the Laundry fall under "divine being", "spawn of satan", "nuclear fireball", "troll", "black helicopter", "boffin", "alien" or "big brother"?)
Since the article doesn't make any mention of the existing pens/inks, it's incorrect to assume that any reference to the useful characteristics of this new pen/ink must therefore be an improvement over the existing ones - the way that paragraph was worded only suggested to me that having flexible ink is a nice to have feature for conductive ink above and beyond it merely being conductive, rather than a characteristic exclusive to this particular version of conductive ink.
And after one very quick Google reveals there are at least two European manufacturers of silver conductive ink pens useable on flexible substrates, it suggests these Merkin "boffins" really have done nothing more than reinvent a round load bearing device of use in the transportation industry...
Do you think this will mean data plotters will make a come back, these often could take standard pens in them. Two or three pens of different thickness's in a plotter machine and I could print my circuits directly onto paper or read board :-)