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Managing Editor  | June 2017

New 3-D printing process allows electrical elements to be built-in

A team of researchers at the University of Sheffield (U.K.) Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) has developed a novel, hybrid 3-D printing process that allows users to incorporate electrical, optical, and structural elements into the build process, according to the university website.



A component manufactured from the patent-pending
THREAD process developed at the AMRC.
(University of Sheffield)


The article explained, “The patent-pending technology, known as ‘THREAD’, brings the benefits of integrated data transfer to additive manufacturing (AM) and ensures the protection of ‘sealed’ connections and conductive tracks from threats posed by impact, debris, corrosion and contamination.”


Manufacturers can use the automated process to design components what have continuous conductivity through the X, Y, and Z axes. This advancement has the potential to be a breakthrough for medical prosthetics, consumer electronics and robotics.


The article added, “The innovation will help manufacturers to integrate data services and connectivity capabilities into modules, components and whole products. This could significantly reduce production times and costs with the specific benefits:

  • Medical prosthetics: The introduction of digital monitoring systems to implants could pave the way for real-time diagnosis that prevents contamination and provides a more accurate way to monitor the condition of artificial prosthetics.

  • Aerospace: Integrating remote real-time data services enabling the continuous monitoring of vital aerospace components such as wing parts, fuel ducts and engine systems. This could allow for more accurate insight into the condition of costly and advanced equipment.

  • Robotics: Greater connectivity between automated systems will create a safer and more sophisticated environment for modern manufacturers, where humans and robots are working alongside one another. This could play an important role helping to integrate emerging technology into the factory floor.”

The process has been proven successful in trials by AMRC industry partners and could boost the development of additive manufacturing and Industry 4.0 technologies.


“The development of this process is game-changing,” Development Engineer and AM specialist Mark Cocking said. “THREAD has scope to simultaneously add multiple industry-recognized threads of differing materials into one component, giving the component additional functions. This will open AM up to a greater variety of uses.

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