Researchers at Georgia Tech are excited about a new technology they have in the works capable of revolutionizing the aviation industry.
The team is developing electronics that are 3D printed to order, a concept that utilizes a 3D printer in collaboration with a separate machine that prints electronic circuitry.
The result is the ability to produce a network of sensors accompanying an aircraft part that is essentially intertwined throughout the material.
From there, it’s simple to outfit an entire plane with a network of sensors since they are literally already embedded in the aircraft parts.
Obviously, this technology would be extremely beneficial to pilots because they would be able to receive an unprecedented amount of data about the health of the entire aircraft in real-time.
“When these sensors are combined with new control and command systems that can process the data, pilots should be able to pinpoint the precise location of a problem,” said Chuck Zhang, a professor in the Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering.
The printed electronics industry has been steadily gaining steam as new printers are capable of “printing” circuits in a matter of minutes, similar to how an inkjet prints words on paper.
In regards to increased demand for flexible electronics, Zhang added, “They want flexible solar energy cells, batteries, and circuits, and the traditional way of making electronics with a wafer of silicon doesn’t work.”
While developing electronics that are 3D printed to order could certainly help the aviation industry, the concept could also find applications in healthcare, for example putting strain sensors on 3-D printed heart valve models.