3D printers are all the rage right now, and the potential for them in the future seems limitless. Apple may be considering an entry into the printing space, though in a way that's a bit different than the 3D printers that create real objects. A new patent filed by the company describes an Inkjet printer that's capable of printing on 3D surfaces.
It's a bit foggy what the benefits of such tech might be. However, Apple's patent describes using conductive particles that could be used for printing circuitry. "The conductive ink may be used to form circuits or perform related functions," Apple's patent says. Apparently, the problem at hand involves issues related to both gravity and ink. Here's how Apple describes the issue it hopes its technology can solve:
However, ink is typically ejected under relatively low pressure such that the ink falls substantially vertically as a result of gravity. Thus, issues with respect to printing on vertical or undercut services of three-dimensional objects may exist. This issue may be of particular importance in the context of printing electromagnetic interference shields, which must be substantially continuous in order to be effective. In this regard, when the conductive ink is not evenly dispersed across the surfaces, a continuous structure may not be formed.
Apple hasn't ever entered the printing market, at least as far as we know, so we're compelled to see where this will be used, if ever. Perhaps Apple will license it to others, such as its manufacturing partners, to help create 3D circuits.