In the “Electronic functional integration in additively manufactured components” research project, researchers from the Center for Additive Manufacturing Technologies at Fraunhofer IPA have succeeded in using a 3D printer to produce inductive proximity sensors in any shape, although the printing process had to be repeatedly interrupted in order to lay the conductor tracks in the housing.
Consequently, in the second phase of the project, Stefan Pfeffer’s research team joined forces with plastics processing machinery manufacturer Arburg to investigate which conductive plastics could be used instead of silver or copper. To this end, the researchers experimented with various thermoplastic elastomers (TPE). These are flexible plastics that can be processed when heated. TPEs are conductive if, for example, they contain a sufficient amount of carbon black particles. First, the research team looked for the TPE with the lowest electrical resistance, since the lower the resistance, the greater the number of potential applications there are.