Examples of how we are doing it (Publications)
Jeff Nelson and John Whitaker have developed a process we call electrochemical printing. Electrochemical Printing (EcP) is a software reconfigurable electrodeposition tool that relies on microfluidic print nozzles that directs the local growth of materials. By rastering the print nozzle (or parallel array of microfabricated print nozzles) across a surface, while locally electroplating materials of choice (metals, semiconductors, polymers or insulators).
The way EcP works, an input drawing of the object to be built is provided to a computer, which converts the file into tool movements and electrodeposition actions. In the end, a custom object is produced, and custom items can usually fetch a high price.This new manufacturing processes is much like inkjet printing, except the object is made from metal, semiconductor, polymer or insulator; it takes place at room temperature and pressure from an aqueous electrolyte, with little waste.
At the same time, it is often hard to make high quality materials without using elevated temperatures and pressures. So, simply using EcP to make low quality materials and devices will not let one fetch a high price. To address this, a team of students are exploring the use of protein-aided manufacturing methods, where the proteins help drive the growth of high quality nanomaterials from complex electrolytes. This Bio/Nano approach is transforming what we can do with materials.