Office for Technology Commercialization

3D printing on Moving Freeform Surfaces

Technology #20180198

Questions about this technology? Ask a Technology Manager

Download Printable PDF

Image Gallery
Schematic images of a) 3D scanning of target surface to be printed on; b) real-time tracking of rigid-body-motion of target surface; c) pick-and-place of discrete electronic components on target surface using vacuum nozzle; d) direct writing of conductive ink; e) powering LED in printed device with wireless power transmission system.a) Fiducial markers placed around automatically pick-and-placed LED on human hand; d) Adaptive 3D printing of wireless device on human hand that can move freely in workspaceg) mouse without (top) and with (bottom) artificial wound and fiducial markers; h) 3D scan data of live mouse and zoom-in view (inset) of scanned wound bed; i) Bioluminescence (Day 0) of mouse with printed squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) (left) and control group (right)
Michael C. McAlpine, PhD
Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering
External Link (
Managed By
Doug Franz
Technology Licensing Officer 612-624-0869
Patent Protection

Provisional Patent Application Filed
3D Printed Functional and Biological Materials on Moving Freeform Surfaces
Advanced Materials, June 6, 2018. Volume 30, Issue 23

3D printing electronics onto moving surfaces

Adaptive 3D printing is a new approach that allows 3D printing on moving freeform surfaces. The closed-loop method combines direct ink writing of functional materials and real-time feedback control to fabricate devices on moving surfaces. The hybrid fabrication procedure, which combines conformal 3D printing of electrical connects with automatic pick-and-place of surface-mounted electronic components, printed functional devices on a free-moving human hand. This adaptive 3D printing method could lead to new manufacturing technologies for directly printed wearable devices and advanced medical treatments (e.g., wound healing).

Closed-loop, adaptive 3D printing technology

Current 3D printing technologies typically rely on open-loop, calibrate-then-print operation procedures and are limited to 3D printing on planar surfaces. Previous attempts to track and ink-jet print on a moving human hand were limited to gesture tracking in 2D without compensation for the geometries of the hand surface. This new closed-loop, adaptive 3D printing technology can track arbitrary surface motions in 3D and therefore print onto moving and deformable surfaces with arbitrary geometries. This approach addresses the limitations of previous techniques by correcting, in real-time, printing errors from both the freeform geometries and the 3D motions and deformations of the target surfaces.

Phase of Development

  • Working prototype


  • Real-time feedback control


  • 3D printing on moving and deformable freeform surfaces
  • Direct ink writing of functional materials
  • Integrated robotic system aided by computer vision
  • Closed-loop method


  • On-demand, directly printed wearable devices
  • Tissue repair
  • Smart manufacturing technologies

Interested in Licensing?
The University relies on industry partners to scale up technologies for commercial purposes. The license is available for this technology and would be for the sale, manufacture or use of products claimed by the issued patents. Please contact Kevin Nickels to share your business needs and technical interest in this technology and if you are interested in licensing the technology for further research and development.