3-D printing is very cool and typically uses lasers to harden some sort of resin material one layer at a time until a finished three-dimensional product is produced. When you combine a 3-D printed device with printed electronics it's even more interesting. Two companies called Stratasys and Optomec Inc have announced a very interesting device called Smart Wing created for UAV model.
The wing is the first project to successfully merge 3-D printing and printed electronics, creating the world's first fully printed hybrid structure. It's very interesting that the wing has all the electronics it needs printed directly on the surface rather than resorting to heavier and more complex traditional wiring. The company says that 3-D printing electronics combined with printed electronics techniques have the potential to change product development in a number of industries including medical devices, consumer electronics, automotive, and aerospace development.
Optomec uses Aerosol Jet system to print what it calls a conformal sensor, antenna, and required circuitry directly on the wing of the UAV model. That UAV wing was printed using Stratasys' Fused Deposition Modeling process. This is a very interesting process will certainly speed up prototyping and manufacturing.
“Bringing together 3D printing and printed electronic circuitry will be a game changer for design and manufacturing,” says Jeff DeGrange, VP of direct digital manufacturing at Stratasys. “It has the potential to completely streamline production by requiring fewer materials and steps to bring a product to market.”