3D Printed Active Electronic Materials and Devices

Web Published:

Princeton Docket # 15-3114-1

Researchers in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University have patented the 3D printing of active (semiconductor) electronic materials and devices, based on an extrusion process. The technique allows for printing of devices on flexible sheets, over large areas, in horizontal and vertical configurations, in three-dimensional shapes, and on arbitrary 3D (non-flat) surfaces, for a variety of applications.


In addition to 3D printing semiconductors, the technique includes printing piezoelectric, superconducting, and ferroelectric materials. Potential devices include light-emitting diodes (LEDs), microelectromechanical (MEMS) devices, transistors, solar cells, thermoelectrics, piezoelectric sensors, actuators and energy harvesters, batteries, fuel cells, robots and photodiodes.


3D printing has been used for components such as plastic, metal, and ceramic parts, and biological applications. A significant advance would be the ability to 3D print high performance, functionally active electronic materials and devices in a variety of geometries, form factors, and on various surfaces. Active electronics form the basis of the modern electronics industry and are at the core of all computing devices.


This innovation has demonstrated that active electronic materials (for instance, quantum dots) can be 3D printed and fully integrated into semiconducting electronic devices. All components of the device are fully 3D printed, including but not limited to: (1) semiconducting particles, (2) soft encapsulation, (3) organic polymers for charge transport, and (4) conducting leads.


Proof of concept experiments includes: (1) fully 3D printed optoelectronics (LEDs, photodiodes) that exhibit pure and tunable color emission properties, (2) conformally printed devices onto curvilinear surfaces such as contact lenses, (3) printing onto biological platforms such as skin and the human body, (4) large-array flexible sheets with fully 3D printed semiconducting devices, and (5) a 3D printed soft materials containing encapsulated active electronics in which every component of the cube and electronics are 3D printed. This process does not need to involve traditional microfabrication facilities or tools and can be performed remotely in a desktop-sized platform.


  • 3D printing
  • Semiconductor materials
  • Piezoelectrics
  • Active electronics
  • Biomedical devices with embedded electronics in three dimensions
  • Novel architectures not easily accessed using standard microfabrication techniques
  • Highly customized properties and functional gradients


  • 3D printed semiconductors
  • Ambient conditions
  • 3D surface printing
  • Flexible surfaces
  • 3D electronics
  • Vertical and three-dimensional electronics
  • No need for microfabrication tools
  • Desktop-sized platform (e.g., remote location/ supply-chain constraint)
  • Low cost for highly customized/tailored needs (i.e., when economies of scale no longer apply)


Y. L. Kong, I. A. Tamargo, H. Kim, B. N. Johnson, M. K. Gupta, T.-W. Koh, H.-A. Chin, D. A. Steingart, B. P. Rand, M. C. McAlpine. "3D Printed Quantum Dot Light-Emitting Diodes." Nano Lett. 14, 7017-7023 (2014).

Highlighted: “Materials: Diodes printed in three dimensions.” Nature 515, 468 (2014).

Highlighted: “Device fabrication: Three-dimensional printed electronics.” Nature 518, 42-43 (2015).


Intellectual Property & Development status

Princeton has an issued patent around this technology and is currently seeking commercial partners for the further development and commercialization of this opportunity.

To view the patent follow this link.


The Inventors

Michael C. McAlpine is the Kuhrmeyer Family Chair Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota (2015-Present). He was formerly an Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University (2008-2015). He received a B.S. in Chemistry with honors from Brown University (2000) and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Harvard University (2006). His research is focused on 3D printing functional materials & devices. He has received a number of awards: Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, TR35 Young Innovator Award, Air Force Young Investigator Award, Intelligence Community Young Investigator Award, DuPont Young Investigator Award, National Academy of Sciences Frontiers Fellow, DARPA Young Faculty Award, American Asthma Foundation Early Excellence Award, Graduate Student Mentoring Award, Extreme Mechanics Letters Young Lecturer, National Academy of Engineering Frontiers in Engineering.

Yong Lin Kong is an Assistant Professor of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Utah (2018 – Present). Previously, he was a postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2016 - 2017). He received a B.Eng. in Mechanical Engineering with First Class Honors from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (2010), a M.A. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University (2012) and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science from Princeton University (2016). His research is focused on of nanomaterial-based functional devices. He is a recipient of the NIH NIBIB Trailblazer Award, Technology Review Innovators Under 35 Asia Award, 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award, SPIE Rising Researcher Award, ORAU Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award and TMS Young Leaders Professional Development Award.



Chris Wright

Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing • (609) 258-6762• cw20@princeton.edu


Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Chris Wright
Licensing Associate
Princeton University
Michael McAlpine
Yong Lin Kong
3D Printing