3D Printed Contact Lens with Embedded LED

The hard contact lens is made of plastic. The researchers used tiny crystals, called quantum dots, to create the LEDs that generated the coloured light. Different size dots can be used to generate various colours by using quantum dots as an ink. We were able to generate two different colours, orange and green. The contact lens is also part of an on-going effort to use 3-D printing to assemble diverse, and often hard-to-combine, materials into functioning devices. Bionic ear has been created out of living cells with an embedded antenna that could receive radio signals. The main focus of the bionic ear project was to demonstrate the merger of electronics and biological materials”. The materials were often mechanically, chemically or thermally incompatible — for example, using heat to shape one material could inadvertently destroy another material in close proximity.

The team had to find ways to handle these incompatibilities and also had to develop new methods to print electronics, rather than use the techniques commonly used in the electronics industry. It is not trivial to pattern a thin and uniform coating of polymers without the involvement of conventional micro fabrication techniques, yet the thickness and uniformity of the printed films are two of the critical parameters that determine the performance and yield of the printed active device. 3-D printing replacing traditional manufacturing in electronics any time soon; instead, they are complementary technologies with very different strengths. Traditional manufacturing, which uses lithography to create electronic components, is a fast and efficient way to make multiple copies with a very high reliability.

Manufacturers are using 3-D printing, which is slow but easy to change and customize, to create molds and patterns for rapid prototyping. Prime uses for 3-D printing are situations that demand flexibility and that need to be tailored to a specific use. For example, conventional manufacturing techniques are not practical for medical devices that need to be fit to a patient’s particular shape or devices that require the blending of unusual materials in customized ways.

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