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,