Scientists have printed on the 3D printer flexible sensors for robots

Scientists from the University of Minnesota have developed a technique for 3D printing of flexible sensor devices. “Cloth” on a silicone base can stretch and take any desired shape. According to the developers, it can be a step towards creating a full-fledged artificial skin equipped with highly sensitive sensors.
 
The technology allows printing such devices on any curved surface. The prototype was performed on the finger pads of an artificial hand. In the future, such sensors can be built into the skin tissue, also printed on a 3D printer.
 
The device consists of several layers. The first is a flexible silicone base, the second is an electrically conductive polymer containing silver particles. At the center of the resulting square, a 3D printer lays out a vertical polymer spiral, then it is isolated with the help of a silicone compound. Another electrically conductive layer is placed on top. For printing, four different nozzles are used: each contains a separate type of “ink” for printing. Electrically conductive compounds scientists have developed specifically for this project.
 

Sensor Print Scheme, Advanced Materials
 
The developers suggest that in the future, sensors of this type will help create an artificial skin that can truly convey sensations. A sphere where development can be applied now is the manufacture of surgical robots. These are robotic manipulators, which the doctor remotely controls. Robot-assisted operations distinguish accuracy and a relatively low risk of infection during the procedure. Today, such devices are most often equipped with cameras, the doctor is guided by the image of the operated organ. The development of flexible sensors will allow the “hands” of robots to convey to the surgeon-operator sensations – this will make such operations even more accurate and safer.