While millions of our smartphones are produced in China every year, a little noticed development has occurred recently.
Lite-On, a manufacturer in Guangzhou, China, is using American technology to 3d print metallic antennas into some of their smartphones.
The company produces phones for Sony and HTC, and the technology they're using to 3d print antennas comes from New Mexico based Optomec. Optomec's system uses a conductive metal and then 3d prints tiny particles of that metal onto the surface of the smartphone, creating the antenna. In theory, this process also allows Optomec to use their technology to print hundreds of other sensors across multiple product lines.
“Optomec’s process can be adapted to all other tech – it’s really cutting edge,” Woo Soo Kim, an electronics researcher from Simon Fraser University told New Scientist recently.
Businesses can now have antennas and sensors built into their products on-demand, with flexibility to make changes on the fly, saving time and money.
Optomec's Mike O'Reilly points out that one of their customers, a gas fired power station, is already using their technology to 3d print sensors onto it's equipment to monitor activity, potentially saving their client millions of dollars in repair costs.
Another example is the 3d printing of sensors for bridges and tunnels to report stress and strain on those structures so that they can be repaired before more damage occurs. This news comes a few months after General Electric invested heavily into Optomec, as the industrial giant moves into heavy production of IoT (internet of things) devices and wind turbines.