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  1. Purpose The purpose of this study is to understand how printing parameters and subsequent annealing impacts porosity and crystallinity of 3D printed polylactic acid (PLA) and how these structural characteristics impact the printed material’s tensile strength in various build directions. Design/methodology/approach Two experimental studies were used, and samples with a flat vs upright print orientation were compared. The first experiment investigates a scan of printing parameters and annealing times and temperatures above the cold crystallization temperature ( T cc ) for PLA. The second experiment investigates annealing above and below T cc at multiple points over 12 h. Findings Annealing above T cc does not significantly impact the porosity but it does increase crystallinity. The increase in crystallinity does not contribute to an increase in strength, suggesting that co-crystallization across the weld does not occur. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) images show that weld interfaces between printed fibers are still visible after annealing above T cc , confirming the lack of co-crystallization. Annealing below T cc does not significantly impact porosity or crystallinity. However, there is an increase in tensile strength. AFM images show that annealing below T cc reduces thermal stresses that form at the interfaces during printing and slightly “heals”more »the as-printed interface resulting in an increase in tensile strength. Originality/value While annealing has been explored in the literature, it is unclear how it affects porosity, crystallinity and thermal stresses in fused filament fabrication PLA and how those factors contribute to mechanical properties. This study explains how co-crystallization across weld interfaces is necessary for crystallinity to increase strength and uses AFM as a technique to observe morphology at the weld.« less
  2. This work presents the design, fabrication, and characterization of an airflow sensor inspired by the whiskers of animals. The body of the whisker was replaced with a fin structure in order to increase the air resistance. The fin was suspended by a micro-fabricated spring system at the bottom. A permanent magnet was attached beneath the spring, and the motion of fin was captured by a readily accessible and low cost 3D magnetic sensor located below the magnet. The sensor system was modeled in terms of the dimension parameters of fin and the spring stiffness, which were optimized to improve the performance of the sensor. The system response was then characterized using a commercial wind tunnel and the results were used for sensor calibration. The sensor was integrated into a micro aerial vehicle (MAV) and demonstrated the capability of capturing the velocity of the MAV by sensing the relative airflow during flight.
  3. Soft, stretchable sensors, such as artificial skins or tactile sensors, are attractive for numerous soft robotic applications due to the low material compliance. Conductive polymers are a necessary component of many soft sensors, and this work presents the electromechanical characterization of 3D-printable conductive polymer composites. Dog-bone shaped samples were 3D printed using a digital light processing (DLP)-based 3D printer for characterization. The 3D printable resin consists of monomer, crosslinker, conductive nano-filler, and a photo-initiator. The characterization was performed in two tracks. First, the effect of two different crosslinkers was investigated with different compositions and second, the effect of concentration of conductive nano-fillers was explored. Crosslinkers were chosen by referring to previous studies, and carbon nanotubes (CNTs) were utilized as conductive nano-fillers. The samples were 3D printed and characterized using an electromechanical test setup. To demonstrate utility for 3D printed soft robotics, a capacitance-based joystick sensor composed of both conductive and non-conductive resins was 3D printed.
  4. This work presents the design, modeling, and fabrication of a whisker-like sensor capable of measuring the whisker's angular displacement as well as the applied moments at the base of the whisker. The sensor takes advantage of readily accessible and low-cost 3D magnetic sensors to transduce whisker deflections, and a planar serpentine spring structure at the whisker base is used to provide a mechanical suspension for the whisker to rotate. The sensor prototype was characterized, calibrated, and compared with analytical models of the spring system and the magnetic field. The prototype showed a moment sensing range of 1.1N·mm when deflected up to 19.7°. The sensitivity of the sensor was 0.38°/LSB for the angular displacement sensing, and 0.021 Nmm/LSB for the moment sensing. A fully integrated system is demonstrated to display real-time information from the whisker on a graphical interface.
  5. Rats rely heavily on tactile information from their whiskers to acquire information about their surroundings. A whisker has no sensors along its length. Instead, mechanical deformation of the whisker is sensed via receptors at its base. The present study introduces a micro-sensor developed specifically to imitate the sensing of biological rat whiskers. The sensor responds to bending moments resulting from touch and/or airflow in two axes. The sensor was designed based on analytical models from cantilever beam theory, and the models were validated with finite-element analysis. Sensors were then fabricated using micro-milled molds and integrated into an Arduino-based circuit for simple signal acquisition. The present work begins to develop the technology to allow investigation of important engineering aspects of the rat vibrissal system at 1x scale. In addition to its potential use in novel engineering applications, the sensor could aid neuroscientists in their understanding of the rat vibrissal-trigeminal pathway.
  6. We developed a novel whisker-follicle sensor that measures three mechanical signals at the whisker base. The first two signals are closely related to the two bending moments, and the third is an approximation to the axial force. Previous simulation studies have shown that these three signals are sufficient to determine the three-dimensional (3D) location at which the whisker makes contact with an object. Here we demonstrate hardware implementation of 3D contact point determination and then use continuous sweeps of the whisker to show proof-of principle 3D contour extraction. We begin by using simulations to confirm the uniqueness of the mapping between the mechanical signals at the whisker base and the 3D contact point location for the specific dimensions of the hardware whisker. Multi-output random forest regression is then used to predict the contact point locations of objects based on observed mechanical signals. When calibrated to the simulated data, signals from the hardware whisker can correctly predict contact point locations to within 1.5 cm about 74% of the time. However, if normalized output voltages from the hardware whiskers are used to train the algorithm (without calibrating to simulation), predictions improve to within 1.5 cm for about 96% of contact points andmore »to within 0.6 cm for about 78% of contact points. This improvement suggests that as long as three appropriate predictor signals are chosen, calibrating to simulations may not be required. The sensor was next used to perform contour extraction on a cylinder and a cone. We show that basic contour extraction can be obtained with just two sweeps of the sensor. With further sweeps, it is expected that full 3D shape reconstruction could be achieved.« less