Bidirectional and Stretchable Piezoresistive Sensors Enabled by Multimaterial 3D Printing of Carbon Nanotube/Thermoplastic Polyurethane Nanocomposites.Polymers (Basel). 2018 Dec 21; 11(1)P
Fabricating complex sensor platforms is still a challenge because conventional sensors are discrete, directional, and often not integrated within the system at the material level. Here, we report a facile method to fabricate bidirectional strain sensors through the integration of multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) and multimaterial additive manufacturing. Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU)/MWCNT filaments were first made using a two-step extrusion process. TPU as the platform and TPU/MWCNT as the conducting traces were then 3D printed in tandem using multimaterial fused filament fabrication to generate uniaxial and biaxial sensors with several conductive pattern designs. The sensors were subjected to a series of cyclic strain loads. The results revealed excellent piezoresistive responses with cyclic repeatability in both the axial and transverse directions and in response to strains as high as 50%. It was shown that the directional sensitivity could be tailored by the type of pattern design. A wearable glove, with built-in sensors, capable of measuring finger flexure was also successfully demonstrated where the sensors are an integral part of the system. These sensors have potential applications in wearable electronics, soft robotics, and prosthetics, where complex design, multi-directionality, embedding, and customizability are demanded.