Aug 8, 2018 | By Thomas

Using advanced additive manufacturing technology, scientists at the United Technologies Research Center and UConn have created ‘smart’ machine components that alert users when they are worn or damaged with voltage reading.

(Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The key to the innovation is the use of direct-write technology. Direct-write technology is an additive manufacturing technique in which semisolid metal ‘ink’ is extruded from a small nozzle while the nozzle is moved across a platform. The object is thus built by 'writing' the required shape layer by layer. Direct-write technology has many advantages over traditional, as it offers advantages of lower cost with increased flexibility of manufacturing. This process allowed the UConn-UTRC scientists to create fine lines of conductive silver filament that could be embedded into 3D printed components while they were made.

During the manufacturing process, parallel lines of silver filament, each coupled with a tiny 3D-printed resistor, are embedded into a component and form an electrical circuit when voltage is applied. "As lines are embedded deeper and deeper into a component from the surface, each new line and resistor are assigned an increasingly higher voltage value," explain the researchers. Any damage or wear caused by friction from moving parts would cut into one or more of the lines, breaking the circuit. The greater the damage, the more lines that are broken. Engineers can assess potential damage with real time voltage readings without having to take an entire machine apart.

The UConn-UTRC team was able to embed sensor lines that were just 15 microns wide (an average human hair is 100 microns wide) and 50 microns apart, thus allowing them to detect very slight damages on the go.

"This changes the way we look at manufacturing," says Sameh Dardona, Associate Director of Research and Innovation at UTRC, which serves as the innovation engine for United Technologies Corp. "We can now integrate functions into components to make them more intelligent. These sensors can detect any kind of wear, even corrosion, and report that information to the end user. This helps us improve performance, avoid failures, and save costs."

Creating such a precise sensor is not easy. UConn Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Anson Ma and a Ph.D. student from Ma's Complex Fluids Laboratory, Alan Shen, measured and optimized the flow properties of the silver-infused ink so that micron-sized lines could be reliably deposited without clogging the nozzle or causing substantial spreading after deposition. UTRC's Dardona has applied for a patent for the embedded wear sensor technology.

A 3D-printed magnet created using direct write technology at the UTC Research Center. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The researchers also used direct write technology to create polymer-bonded magnets with intricate geometries and arbitrary shapes. "This opens up a lot of exciting opportunities," says Ma. "Imagine magnets that can take on different shapes and fit seamlessly between other functional components. Also, the resultant magnetic field that is created may be further manipulated and optimized by changing the shape of the magnets."

Current methods for creating custom 3D-printed magnets rely on high-temperature curing, which unfortunately reduces a material's magnetic properties as a result. The scientists at UConn and UTRC used low-temperature UV light to cure the magnets, similar to how a dentist uses UV light to harden a filling. The resultant magnets exhibited significantly better performance than magnets created by other additive manufacturing methods.

Embedding magnetic material directly into components could lead to new product designs that are more aerodynamic, lighter, and efficient, Dardona says.



Posted in 3D Printing Application

Source: UConn


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