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Printable sensors for steel components

© Fraunhofer IKTS
Wälzlager mit aufgedruckten und lasergesinterten Sensoren zur Dehnungs- und Körperschallmessung.

Ceramic thick-film technology is typically used to build functional layers, e.g. for ceramic circuit carriers or sensors. The technology processes pastes and is based on the typical process sequence screen printing –  drying – firing. However, the deposition of the required functional pastes has so far been limited to smaller substrate bodies due to the technology and plant.

The Fraunhofer Institutes IKTS, ILT and IZM have now succeeded for the first time in applying sensor layers directly to large 3D steel components. Modern 3D printing processes, such as dispensing or aerosol jet printing, and fast laser processes instead of conventional furnace processes are used to sinter the required functional layers. This makes it possible to deposit insulation, conductor path, resistance and piezoceramic layers on solid steel components (1.4016, 1.3035) and thus implement strain, temperature and structure-borne sound sensors. The focus here is on paste systems that are matched to each other with regard to their absorption properties and shrinkage as well as other layer properties. Due to the significantly shortened interaction times during laser processing, piezoceramic layers as well as insulation and electrode layers exhibit significantly improved material properties as compared to oven-sintered structures.