The first fully 3D printed LED’s really exist and they are out there!

The first fully 3D printed LED’s do really exist and they are out there! Developing the capability to 3D print various materials could enable the free form generation of active electronics in unique functional, interwoven architectures. Achieving such a seamless integration of a diversity of materials with 3D printing is a significant challenge that requires overcoming discrepancies in material properties in addition to ensuring that all the materials are compatible with the process. 3D printing Quantum Dot LED’s: a myth or reality?

To date, 3D printing was limited to the use of specific plastics, passive conductors, and some biological materials. Princeton University, however, have gone far beyond two-toned action figures with a research conducted back in 2014: they tried to fully 3D print world’s first LED light sources. To make the LED’s (Light-Emitting Diodes) from scratch, the researchers build a custom 3D printer for their research purposes. They finally managed to mix and match five different materials into the first fully 3D printed LED light sources.

The LED’s that the Princeton University team created are so called ‘Quantum Dot LED’s’. They are a lot like the LED’s that are built into cellphones and television screens, but less stronger in output today. The expectation is that printed Quantum Dot LED’s could be more energy efficient in the end.

As a proof of concept for demonstrating the integrated functionality of the various materials, quantum dot-based light-emitting diodes (aka QD-LEDs) were 3D printed. The properties of these quantum dots are that they emission pure and tunable colors. By further incorporating the 3D scanning of surface topologies, the ability to print devices onto curved surfaces was demonstrated.

The printed LED’s didn’t come close to beating the really functional LED’s as used in functional lighting applications out there. However, the Princeton Uni team expects that by controlling the thickness and uniformity of the quantum dots, and by experimenting with different ink formulations, the performance of the 3D printed LED’s could get better in the future. We’re curious to see what comes up next!


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