I've read about those embedded fiber optics, too, and wondered more or less the same thing: what happens if it breaks? OTOH, if it's done with one of the various flexible electronics technologies, the circuits probably won't break, at least anytime soon. Also, what's different about the Optomec circuits is that they're actually printed to fit the part. If they're embedded, they're less likely to be subject to wear and tear.
Ann, We have seen several times in the past decade where there are to be fiber optic strands embedded in composite structures to monitor the health of those structures. But if the fiber fails because of structure strain, that is the end of the fiber, at least it seems that way to me. Of course that may also mean that it is replacement time for that particular element. The same has been presented for monitoring concrete bridge structure elements, and I have no idea how they would replace something embedded in a concrete beam.
About aircraft structures, many of the CAD companies could show you examples as part of telling what their products can do, and those drawings would help you understand the insides of aircraft structures. Which do seem to border on magic in a number of instances.
William, I think you're doing a great job of seeing where many new technologies such as this combo might go, and I enjoy reading your feedback to my stories. That's a good point about repair problems with embedded electronics, but I suspect the aircraft makers will figure out a way around that. For instance, I can imagine building some kind of entry/exit method into the structure itself.
Ann, I am also sure that there are a lot of things that I can't even imagine right now that will be done withnthe 3D printing of circuits on top of the 3D fabrication printing. Just imagine some device being printed half way, then the ICs are soldered in and the assembly tested, and then the 3D printing finishes the device. The down side is that it would not be repairable or subject to modification, but it would be rather monolithic and cheap.Either a music toy or a phone or a pocket computer or something else.
Glad you enjoyed the story, William. I think this combo could be really big, and that 3D circuits are also really big on their own--they're already being made, you know, although not yet common. The implications of them alone even without being combined in 3D printing could be huge--thanks for your creative suggestions. I'm really interested to see what other people dream up.
Thanks for an interesting and infrmative article, Ann. I can also see an interesting future in the printing of 3D printed circuits. Consider the implications of being able to print cross-overs, rather than needing vias and their related limitations. And different traces could have different thicknesses, which could result in saving a lot of materials. The ability to print shielding would be a real benefit. I can see a large realm of possibilities.
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