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CSEM creates world’s first 3D printed integrated flex pivot position sensor

Each flexible element contains custom 3D printed strain gauge sensors and electrical transfer lines (including 3D printed connectors)

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According to the ESA, a TDE-funded activity, performed by CSEM (Switzerland), has successfully designed and manufactured the first ever tribology-free (providing potentially infinite life) flexible mechanism element with built-in electrical signal transfer and sensing technology. Each flexible element contains custom 3D printed strain gauge sensors and electrical transfer lines (including 3D printed connectors) for positioning and potentially health monitoring.

The flexible structures are representative of complaint mechanisms, such as flexible pivots and tape springs, for the deployment of solar panels and antenna booms. Two different breadboards were designed and tested – raising the technology readiness level from two (application formulated) to four (functional verification). Aerosol Jet Printing was also shown to be a promising technique for integrating sensors, especially when combined with additive manufacturing.

The results were presented at the 2023 Technology Sharing Day. A follow-on activity, known as EU-ATTRACT, also performed by CSEM will develop a 3D printed heat pipe with embedded temperature sensors for the cooling and monitoring of advanced detectors.

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