One of the coolest features of the Argentum is that it allows us to print circuits onto a variety of materials, from fiberglass to paper to polyimide film to cloth. We decided to experiment with the limits of what this printer can do by trying to produce a functional circuit on a banana!
First, we tested to see if our banana was conductive or not. We needed to make sure the banana had enough innate resistance that it wouldn't conduct a charge and bypass the circuit we print. The banana we chose has a resistance of 1MΩ (megaohm), so the banana wouldn't short our circuit. So far so good!
Next, we figured out how to print a 2D circuit onto a 3D object. Since our printer is designed to print on flat surfaces, our round object was a bit of a challenge. Our solution: to remove the bottom plate of the printer and prop up the frame to accommodate the banana, then print of a family flat section of the skin.
Printing the circuit was relatively simple, but making sure enough of both conductive ink components reached the surface of the banana for a reaction to occur proved the trickiest part. Our Argentum ran twenty complete passes of the circuit, but the banana's porous skin appeared to absorb the ascorbic acid. Therefore, even though we had solved the "Can we print onto a banana?" question, the necessary reaction to create a conductive trace wasn't happening. Darn!
While this was an unfortunate setback, we concluded that a better way to print onto fruit would be to try a type of fruit with a higher vitamin C (ascorbic acid) content -- increasing the likelihood that the silver nitrate ink would have more to react with.
Check back in with us for future experiments!
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