Conductive paint lands in pens and pots for creatives

May 26, 2013 by Nancy Owano weblog
Conductive paint lands in pens and pots for creatives

London-based Bare Conductive Ltd. makes electrically conductive paint called Bare Paint. The substance allows the painting of "liquid wiring" on any surface. Except for skin, you can apply its paint on walls and assorted surfaces to conduct electricity. "Bare Paint" began as a project by the inventors, then students, at the Royal College of Art. Despite all the jokes about Wikipedia as a questionable knowledge crutch, the inventors credit Wikipedia as having helped them to learn what they had to know about working with conductive materials to get something going. In 2011 the RCA graduates were able to introduce Bare Paint.

Nontoxic and drying at room temperature, the product has caught on with educators, DIY makers and . They have a number of products on sale, and Radio Shack stocks their pen.. Paper as a vehicle for delivering more information than immediately meets the eye via the painted object—that is what they see as their opportunity. Applications for their paint can easily translate into talking and walls, where objects on surfaces turn interactive. A painted on paper, when touched, can turn on a light, or a touch on a poster object can make a sound.

Wanting to expand in recognition, they hope to appeal to a wide creative gamut of hobbyists, artists, and engineers for innovative ways to use their products. Bare Paint, they emphasized, is the first non-toxic electrically conductive paint available. As such the substance is child friendly, which opens the door to educational projects, including toys, and touch-sensitive paper drawings that play sounds.

"We generally split applications into two simple classifications, signaling and powering," they said. "Signaling could include using the Paint as a potentiometer while interfacing with a micro-controller, as a conduit in a larger circuit or as a capacitive sensor. Powering a device would include lighting LED's or driving small speakers. The most interesting stuff happens when you combine these properties into something new."

According to the company, Bare Paint has a surface resistivity of approximately 55 ohms/square at 50 microns layer thickness.

The product is water-based but it is not waterproof. One can paint over it with a waterproof paint or varnish, they said, depending on the application. The paint is only available in black, but it can be over-painted with any material with a wide range of other paints.

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1 / 5 (1) May 26, 2013
" One can paint over it with a waterproof paint or varnish, they said, depending on the application. The paint is only available in black, but it can be over-painted with any material that is compatible with a water based paint."

Should that not be, "it can be over-painted with any material that is not water based"?

If I used a water based latex, acrylic, urethane etc. I'd expect a water based 'ink' would bleed into the finish and destroy the circuit.
3 / 5 (6) May 26, 2013
This is anything but new. (Nor Hi-tec or innovative )
Silver loaded paint pens for repairing circuit boards have been around for many years. They are normally silver in colour, though if you want black the "aquadag" water based graphite conductive paint used on the back of cathode ray TV tubes has been around for even more years.
not rated yet May 26, 2013
...the novelty being it's non-toxic paint?
not rated yet May 26, 2013
Probably, plus some of the other conductive paints don't work so well on flexible or porous surfaces, and are basically a "wire in a bottle". If this works on paper, and to make other devices, it is an advance.

I would like to know what the resistance is. "55 ohms /square" sounds like an editing error.
5 / 5 (1) May 26, 2013
@nkalanaga - Ohms / square is a common way of describing resistivity in circuit-board layers.
A square twice as big is twice as long, doubling resistance, but also twice as wide, cutting resistance in half. These cancel, leaving the resistance (Ohms) of a larger square the same as a smaller square.

If you have a layer twice as thick then the resistance is half as great, so the Ohms per square depends on layer thickness and is really only useful in planar conductors such as circuit-board layers. But there it is handy as one can look at a conductive trace and estimate its resistance pretty quickly if one knows the Ohms per square of that layer.
2 / 5 (4) May 26, 2013
The "draw a circuit" graphic at the top: With one battery one LED and the about 200 'squares' of scribbled path would indicate about 10k ohms. The LED would be barely visible in the dark.
This article is just free advertising disguised as innovation.
5 / 5 (1) May 26, 2013
Realscience: Thank you! I've had some electronics, years ago, and am familiar with Ohm's Law, but all of that dealt with wires and other truly 3-D conductors. I'll have to remember this one as well.
not rated yet May 26, 2013
Should that not be, "it can be over-painted with any material that is not water based"?

If I used a water based latex, acrylic, urethane etc. I'd expect a water based 'ink' would bleed into the finish and destroy the circuit.
Perhaps "compatible with a water-based paint" means "is not water-based, so the two kinds of paint will not affect each other"...(sounds plausible to me)
5 / 5 (1) May 26, 2013
@nkalalanga - I am used to 3D conductors as well, so when I first got into integrated circuits and heard of 'Ohms per square' I thought it was silly. But in a context where the conductors on a layer are all etched from that layer and hence are all the same thickness and same material (like a layer of a chip or of a circuit board), it is a great shortcut for visualizing or calculating how much resistance a trace will have, so I learned to like it.
5 / 5 (1) May 27, 2013
Yes, I can see where it would be. It would automatically tell how wide a given trace needed to be for a given length, unlike wires. Much easier than looking up the resistance per foot/meter for a wire size, then measuring the length of the wire...

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