Sensors track many parts of our lives, especially when it comes to physical activity. Sensors even watch the environment and road conditions. This information helps drones fly and even cars and trains to run independently. Currently, the sensors are separate devices from the sensed components, which causes design limitations. Imagine, however, if smart sensing materials featured a structural component. Researchers at Polytechnique Montreal are shooting for the goal of 3D printing multi-material parts that are embedded with sensors, which combine structural and functional materials. They 3D printed a piezoelectric sensor on a plastic wing to study its pulsating response.


The materials generate charges from being deformed and serve as self-powered. By using a coextrusion technique they were able to 3D print the sensors in a single step. These sensors were put directly on a miniature wing to monitor its flapping motion to detect changes in its vicinity. The filaments were also used as smart filaments woven into fabrics to tell the difference between respiration cycles and limb movements. Although these sensors were used for drones they open a path towards multiple uses in the near future. An example would be 3D printed smart running shoes, which can connect with headphones to give you feedback base on the pressure movements that are under your feet.


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