It’s been a long time coming (although not for me! I just got interested in all of this last year!), but we appear to have crossed a threshold.
3d printing, and other advanced computer controlled fabrication technologies have quite a few strengths, but one of their weaknesses is their specificity. Sure, they’re generally referred to as “3d printers”, but these are all material specific (i.e. plastic printers for plastic pieces, metal printers for metal pieces).
Here’s No Path To Peace summarizing what this means:
So the creation of 3D printed wings with spray on electronics for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could have potential way beyond the present military applications. The joint development of a model “smart” UAV wing between 3D printer maker, Stratasys (who incidentally provided the 3D printer for the famous Chipotle ad about small farmers) and printed electronics system manufacturer,Optomec, is claimed to be the first time that electronics have been printed on to a complex geometric shape like this.
Besides offering lighter weight embedded components for unmanned, and possibly even manned, aviation—the project could have implications for embedding electronics and solar generating capacity into everything from wind turbines blades to printed housing components.
This video was uploaded on the 22nd of last month, and to my knowledge it’s the first time that barrier has been meaningfully broken. Of course, it’s on the very very high end machines for now, but once their trick starts making the rounds I expect to see compressed-air powered hotend sprayers developed for the RepRap in short order.
h/t No Path To Peace for the find