Printed Sensors

Operating fluids are essentials engine components which have to be serviced or replaced according to set criteria, e.g., the number of operating hours. The use of online sensor systems enables condition-based maintenance and therefore optimized economic use of operating fluids. Given the wide variety of applications and operating conditions, there exists an equally large number of operating fluids. For example, lubricants are used in engines, transmissions, compressors, pumps, turbines, etc. This results in the need for customized sensor solutions that are not economically feasible with current sensor systems and their manufacturing processes.

For this reason, a universally applicable technology concept for highly individualized sensor systems will be developed within the scope of this project. 3D printing processes are to be used as a key technology with which sensor (system) versions made of novel or alternative materials can be produced in small numbers, down to a lot size of 1, at competitive costs. Currently, no printable materials for sensors are available that can be used with conventional 3D printing processes.

The development of such materials for sensor elements involves the development of filament materials for conductive tracks, sensor surfaces, and possibly microfluidic structures, e.g. from substrates filled with metals or graphene, insulating lacquers, selectively permeable filters and ion exchange membranes. The design and manufacture of these printed sensor elements are oriented towards a number of promising applications which will be selected according to defined criteria at the start of the project. The basic sensor functionality (TRL3) is to be tested in the laboratory under as realistic conditions of use as possible.

Moreover, this way of manufacturing sensors opens the door to the elimination of sensitive production devices such as clean rooms and the abandonment of chemicals, as they are commonly used in electroplating. In this manner resources can be spared and toxic waste could be significantly reduced.

Graphical abstract