Digital Fabrication and 3D Printing research from Harvard Professor Jennifer Lewis’ group at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering in Cambridge, MA has in many ways seemed futuristic. But now the work is entering the commercial marketplace. Fueled by funding from Braemar Energy Ventures, spin-off Voxel8 has emerged from Dr. Lewis’ program to launch a commercial electronics 3D Printer at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.
Starting on January 6, Voxel8’s first product, the Voxel8 Developer’s Kit, will be available for pre-order. “Voxel8 is leveraging over a decade of research, which has led to 17 patents (10 issued) on functional materials, printheads, and other processes for 3D printing, from my lab,” explains Dr. Lewis. “Voxel8 is commercializing new functional materials, multi-material 3D printing hardware and intelligent software required to revolutionize electronics manufacturing. Our platform will ignite innovation, by allowing designers and engineers to create products with embedded electronics. Multi-material 3D printing holds the promise of the mass customization of electronics and the ability to truly print your imagination.”
Voxel8 provides a number of important benefits for end-users. True multi-material 3D Printing in one machine was previously only available for limited substances and typically these 3D Printers are the high-end [read: very expensive] variety. When visiting the Voxel8 new R&D Lab in Sommerville, MA, I was especially impressed by the 3D Printer’s ability to pneumatically dispense conductive inks at modest pressures, yet create structures that are completely self-supporting! For anyone who has struggled with support material, you know that this is huge. The inks also hold their shape, are able to span large gaps, and connect to electrical devices, such as TQFP chip packages, without short circuiting. Because Voxel8 inks dry quickly at room temperature while exhibiting exceptional electrical conductivity, they can be co-printed with traditional thermoplastic materials. All this, in a package that sells for less than $10,000.
In addition to being in CES Booth 71726, in the Sands Exposition Hall from January 6-9, 2015, Voxel8 will be found in the Autodesk booth. They’ve partnered with the software giant to develop the new design tool that will create a complete customer product. No matter how great a 3D Printer may be, it’s equally important to have easy to use, functional software to drive it. Project Wire is software that will give designers and engineers the ability to create 3D parts with embedded circuitry for the first time.
With all of the inherent features that end users need, Voxel8 is definitely distruptive technology in the pure Clayton Christensen definition. It will be interesting to see how it impacts the thinking of electronics developers, many of whom will be at CES this week.
To see the Voxel8 3DPrinter in action, check out this video!