3D Printed Batteries

Are we going to be printing batteries in the future?
by Peter Printer

We’ve spoken about 3-D printing and what it means for manufacturing in the past, but we recently came across a story in MIT Technology Review about a Harvard materials scientist by the name of Jennifer Lewis who is doing some potentially really interesting things with 3-D printing. By using ink, 3-D printers and some really cool, scientific technology Lewis has created a method by which she can manufacture batteries and, by extension, other small electronics like antennas. More importantly, this could revolutionize production and manufacturing on a base level by giving manufacturers the ability to quickly and efficiently mass produce products.
This technology “is still at an early stage,” MIT Technology Review says. But, on the same token, this technology is only growing. 3-D printers are already responsible for producing the plastic shell of a hearing aid and with Lewis’ technology, the battery used to power that hearing aid can be produced just as quickly and efficiently.
The way her technology works is a bit complicated, but we’ll try to explain it as best we can. First off, the product that actually gets 3-D printed is made out of ink. Yep, ink. Naturally, the first step is to make the ink and to do that nanoparticles of lithium titanium oxide are added to a vial of deionized water and ethylene glycol. Then, ceramic balls are added to the mixture. These balls function as grinders that break up the particles that inevitably stick together. Still with us? Okay.
The mixture is then spun on a machine for 24 hours, followed by the balls and larger particles being removed through filters and centrifuge, a machine with a rapidly rotating container that uses centrifugal force to separate fluids of different densities, i.e. the balls from the mixture.3D printed batteries
This mixture is then inserted into custom-made syringe nozzle tips, which is inserted into a syringe and then the syringe is placed in a high-pressure dispenser that has been attached to a traditional 3-D printer. The high pressure of the dispenser causes the solid mixture to become a liquid, however once ejected from the syringe, the mixture becomes solid once again.
Normally, printing a battery from one nozzle can take minutes, but with Lewis’ technology, hundreds of batteries can be produced from hundreds of nozzles simultaneously. The revolutionary aspect of all of this doesn’t lie in the actual materials, she says; “this is really more a revolution in the way things are manufactured.”
The technology is still in its infancy, but with advances like this being made by talented individuals such as Lewis, 3-D printing looks to have a bright future in the manufacturing industry of the world. As a company in the industrial printer and barcode scanner repair business, we here at Midcom Data Technologies find the prospect of 3-D printing and its applicable functions to be truly fascinating. As always, be sure to call us with all of your industrial printer and barcode scanner inquiries at (800)-643-2664 or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn!

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