Here, we report a facile method to fabricate multidirectional embedded strain sensors using additive manufacturing technology. Pure thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and TPU/multiwall carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) nanocomposites were 3D printed in tandem using a low-cost multi-material FDM printer to fabricate uniaxial and biaxial strain sensors with conductive paths embedded within the insulative TPU platform. The sensors were then subjected to a series of cyclic strain loads. The results revealed excellent piezoresistive responses of the sensors with cyclic repeatability in both the axial and transverse directions and in response to strains as high as 50%. Further, while strain-softening did occur in the embedded printed strain sensors, it was predictable and similar to the results found in the literature for bulk polymer nanocomposites. This works demonstrates the possibility of manufacturing embedded and multidirectional flexible strain sensors using an inexpensive and versatile method, with potential applications in soft robotics and flexible electronics and health monitoring.
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Josef F. Christ, Cameron J. Hohimer, Nahal Aliheidari, Amir Ameli, Changki Mo, Petra Pötschke, "3D printing of highly elastic strain sensors using polyurethane/multiwall carbon nanotube composites," Proc. SPIE 10168, Sensors and Smart Structures Technologies for Civil, Mechanical, and Aerospace Systems 2017, 101680E (12 April 2017);