The Atmel-powered (ATmega2560) EX¹ allows Makers and engineers to quickly print circuit boards on a wide variety of material. Simply put, the EX¹ is helping to transform electronics and prototyping in the same way that conventional 3D printing revolutionized traditional manufacturing.
However, it should be noted that the EX¹ printer isn’t designed to create 3D objects like “classic” 3D printers. Rather, it 3D prints circuit boards by layering silver nano-particles onto paper or any suitable surface to rapidly create a circuit board.
According to a Cartesian Co. rep, printing circuit boards is now as easy as clicking File > Print.
“This lets you create electronics, just as you’ve envisioned – wearable electronics, paper circuits, printed computers or whatever you imagine. A 3D printer creates the objects of your imagination; the EX¹ lets you create the electronics of your imagination,” the rep explained.
“In addition to more conventional circuit board materials the EX¹ can print on a variety of different substrates you might not associate with circuits. Materials we have been able to print on include plastic (many types), glass, wood, ceramic, silicone and even fabric and paper. In fact it is possible to print on most surfaces. If that’s not enough, we are developing coatings that can allow virtually any surface to be printed on.”
Cartesian, says the rep, wants to change the way Makers and engineers think about electronics, with a particular emphasis on wearable electronics.
“One capability of the EX¹ we’re really excited about is the ability to print straight onto fabric. Anyone who has used conductive thread will tell you how frustrating it is when the thread breaks but you can’t find the break! With the EX¹ you can print circuits straight onto the material of your choice,” the rep added.
So, how does the EX¹ work? Essentially, two inkjet cartridges (similar to the ones in a standard desktop printer) print images on a substrate, but instead of ink they lay down two different chemicals. When these two chemicals mix, a reaction occurs, producing silver nano-particles, leaving a silver image on the substrate.
On the software side, Cartesian offers complete flexibility with its software, from simply importing an image with default settings and clicking print, to exerting control over every printing variable.