A simple, low-cost conductive composite material for 3D Printing of Electronic Sensors

In order to meet the demands of entrepreneurs, designers and artists wishing to create ever more complex and high-tech products using 3DP technology, there is a move towards the incorporation of functional elements such as electronic sensors into 3D printed macroscale structures. To achieve this goal, low-cost, easy to use functional materials and 3D printing methodologies are required

Here we present a new paradigm in 3D printing technology with the formulation of a new simple, low-cost conductive composite material (termed ‘carbomorph’) from easily available starting materials. The material is used in conjunction with a low-cost Bits from Bytes BFB3000 3D printer to produce a range of functional sensors as either standalone devices or embedded as part of a 3D printed structure. We demonstrate how the piezoresisitve nature of the conductive composite can be used to sense mechanical flexing when either added to an existing object or for example embedded into an ‘exo-glove’ interface device for sensing the flexing of a hand. Furthermore, we demonstrate how the material can be used to create capacitive sensing devices for custom 3D printed Human-Interface-Devices (HIDs) and to create embedded capacitive sensors to produce smart vessels which are able to sense the amount of liquid placed inside. The printed sensors are simple to interface to and require no complicated electronic circuits or amplification, in-fact the sensors can be monitored using existing open-source electronics and freely available programming libraries.

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Source: Plos One

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