3D printing continues to disrupt many traditional industries by making complex objects easy and quick to produce with little or no waste. And the design can be changed with a few lines of code, rather than wait to make extensive tooling. We’ve seen many health tech projects based on 3D printing, from custom prosthetics to flexible electronics. One of the latest developments comes from Korea where researchers have printed a new type of sensor.
Scientists at Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST) have created a flexible pressure sensor. Most pressure sensors can only detect a force from a single direction, but this new design can detect pressure from multiple directions. They accomplished this by embedding multi-wall carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) in a plastic that can conduct electricity.
One problem with this sort of sensor is that the signal changes along with temperature. While this behavior is predictable and consistent, it means that the sensor must be calibrated for the existing operating temperature. The new sensor from DGIST is also to take its own temperature, which means that the sensor output can be calibrated in real time to provide more accurate and useful readings.
The applications for such a device are nearly endless. It could be used to measure the gait of a subject to determine fall risk or possible diagnosis of nerve or muscular disease. It could give a robot or powered prosthetic a more robust sense of touch. And it could open up new areas of interest that have not been thought of yet. The low cost and scalable 3D printing process could make it widely available.