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AFRL, Harvard Develop Stretchable Electronics Manufacturing Process

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have jointly developed a new three-dimensional printing process to manufacture stretchable and flexible electronics.

Hybrid 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that combines conductive material with material substrate to form stretchable and wearable electronics, the Air Force said Tuesday.

In a recent demonstration, 3D printed flexible silver-infused thermoplastic polyurethane was integrated with microcontroller chips and LED lights.

The resulting devices were able to function while enduring an above 30 percent stretch from its base size.

Dan Berrigan, a scientist at the AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, stated that the newly developed process holds potential for Air Force applications such as movement, temperature, fatigue and hydration monitoring from skin-worn electronics.

Succeeding phases of the development will focus on making a stretchable power source for the devices.

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