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Design and Fabrication of 3D-Printed Stretchable Tactile Sensors

Illustration of multimaterial 3D printing process for flexible and stretchable tactile sensor.

Illustration of multimaterial 3D printing process for flexible and stretchable tactile sensor.

December 4, 2017 | Source: Nanowerx, nanowerk.com, 5 June 2017, University of Minnesota

Researchers at the University of Minnesota, led by Professor Michael C. McAlpine, have developed a series of novel inks, which can be cured at room temperature with tunable printability, high flexibility, electrical conductivity, and sensitivity.

The printed flexible, stretchable, and sensitive sensors were found proven to be capable of detecting and differentiating human movements, including radial pulse, and finger pressing and bending.

The researchers point out that their work represents a proof-of-concept illustration that image-coupled 3D multimaterial printing approaches can facilitate customized wearable devices in previously inaccessible ways.

Future studies will focus on several directions including: 1) further optimization of the inks, including incorporation of semiconducting materials and devices; 2) development of other critical devices such as temperature sensors to monitor tissue; and 3) development of new 3D printing platforms with closed-loop feedback control for real-time printing of objects on arbitrary and moving substrates.

"Overall, we expect that our methodologies will open new routes to fabricating various sensors with the potential for advancing prosthetic skins, bionic organs, and human–machine interfaces," conclude the authors.