University of Massachusetts in Lowell Develops New Conductive Ink for Electronic Radar Parts
When it comes to developing the latest technology, the military applications never lag too far behind. There is almost an unstated rule behind every new development in 3D printing about its repercussions when it comes to developing weaponry and other necessities of war or peace. While the use of metal is not seen to abate in the near future, there are also now several aspects in the military that can use a hand or two with the latest breakthroughs in 3D printing technology.
The latest development coming from the University of Massachusetts in Lowell is creating quite a buzz among US military people and 3D printing fans all over the world. Christopher McCaroll, the co-director of the Raytheon University of Massachusetts-Lowell Research Institute, sees both profound military and civilian applications with the development of what the team calls a new conductive ink.
It should be noted that there are already a wide variety of conductive inks that have been developed prior to this one from UMass Lowell. However, conductive inks having special electronic properties that will allow the fabrication of 3D printed parts for radar purposes is an entirely different matter. Previous attempts have failed mainly because of the shortcomings of the ink that were used in the 3D printing of these radar components. The news coming from the UMass Lowell lab is seriously making pulses go slightly faster as the new ink has been proven to help produce 3D printed radar parts with excellent results as far as electrical properties are concerned.
The 3D printed objects made out of this new ink has the ability to identify and absorb both signals and frequencies transmitted through radar. As an object can be potentially covered every inch with this new 3D printed material, it can send out radar waves so others can keep track of it or it can also thoroughly absorb all radar signals that it becomes nothing but a black void.
The team from UMass Lowell produced what they call the first ever 3D printed voltage-variable capacitor or what is commonly referred as a varactor. This is a device that is indispensable in military installations for radar purposes. The gadget is also used in a variety of ways, including as a key component in the function of mobile phone towers. Additionally, with the use of this new conductive ink, the 3D-printed materials can select the right signals or radio frequency to work on. Because the atmosphere is filled with so many signals and frequencies, the object must be able to determine which of these must be acted upon. Otherwise, it would render the 3D-printed object practically worthless.
(Left to Right) 3D printed phase shifter, 3D printed frequency-selective surface (FSS), closer view of the FSS.
Currently, McCaroll and his team are wary of giving away too much information. The information regarding the status of the development is kept to what people can figure out on their own. There is information coming out that the team is still working on the right 3D printer that will deliver the best results. The possibilities are surely opening new doors for other ideas as they are now looking into the option of 3D printing everything that a radar system requires, even the complex and intricate computer chips.