Instant Inkjet Circuits: Lab-based Inkjet Printing to Support Rapid Prototyping of UbiComp Devices

Yoshihiro Kawahara, Steve Hodges, Benjamin S. Cook, Cheng Zhang, Gregory D. Abowd

UbiComp '13 |

Published by ACM International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing

This paper introduces a low cost, fast and accessible technology to support the rapid prototyping of functional electronic devices. Central to this approach of ‘instant inkjet circuits’ is the ability to print highly conductive traces and patterns onto flexible substrates such as paper and plastic films cheaply and quickly. In addition to providing an alternative to breadboarding and conventional printed circuits, we demonstrate how this technique readily supports large area sensors and high frequency applications such as antennas. Unlike existing methods for printing conductive patterns, conductivity emerges within a few seconds without the need for special equipment. We demonstrate that this technique is feasible using commodity inkjet printers and commercially available ink, for an initial investment of around US$300. Having presented this exciting new technology, we explain the tools and techniques we have found useful for the first time. Our main research contribution is to characterize the performance of instant inkjet circuits and illustrate a range of possibilities that are enabled by way of several example applications which we have built. We believe that this technology will be of immediate appeal to researchers in the ubiquitous computing domain, since it supports the fabrication of a variety of functional electronic device prototypes.