The Wyss Institute at Harvard University, Harvard’s John A. Paulson from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the Air Force Research Laboratory have developed a new 3D printing platform that integrates hard and soft electronic elements into durable stretchable sensors. Its applications and construction are explained and demonstrated throughout the video. Soft electronics are an emerging class or electronic devices that are flexible and stretchable. Designed to move with the body, the new 3D printing platform enables rapid design and manufacturing of soft electronics.
The process in making this first starts with printing a stretchable conductive ink. As the printed ink is stretched, its electrical resistivity increases, as reflected by changes in LED intensity. Next, surface mounted electrical components are digitally pick-and-placed in precise locations. A machine is used to place electronic elements in the fabric, over the conductive ink. Because the soft matrix and conductive electrodes are 3D printed, researchers have complete control over where the electronic features are placed. The 3D integrated electronic device is mounted on a stretchable textile fabric. The design of which is based on the function of the device through visible wiring.
Using these low-cost wearable sensors, one can visually monitor the strain that arises during bending of one’s arm. This platform accelerates the design and additive manufacturing of customized wearable electronic devices.