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Researchers at the University of Warwick have created a cheap plastic composite that can be used even with low-end 3D printers, to produce custom-made electronic devices. The material, nicknamed “carbomorph,” is both conductive and piezoresistive, meaning that both electronic tracks and touch-sensitive areas can now be easily embedded in 3D-printed objects without the need for complex procedures or expensive materials.

Carbomorph was made by adding carbon black – a conductive filler produced by the combustion of tar and vegetable oil – to a matrix of polycaprolactone (PCL), which is a biodegradable polyester with a low melting point of 60°C (140°F).

The result is a highly versatile composite that can be adapted to quickly prototype objects with embedded flex sensors or even capacitive, touch-sensitive buttons, such as computer game controllers or mugs that can tell how full they are.

Interfacing with the printed devices is also quite simple – the sensors can be monitored using existing open-source electronics and freely available programming libraries. In the near future, users will also be able to directly print up the wires and cables to interconnect those devices.

Carbomorphing, 3.8 out of 5 based on 19 ratings

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