A TDE funded activity, performed by CSEM (Switzerland), successfully designed and manufactured the first ever tribology free (providing potentially infinite life) flexible mechanism element with built-in electrical signal transfer and sensing technology. Each flexible element contained custom printed strain gauge sensors and electrical transfer lines (including printed connectors) for positioning and potentially health monitoring. Additive Manufacturing (AM), three-dimensional (3D) printing techniques, were used throughout.
The flexible structures are representative of complaint mechanisms, such as, flexible pivots and tape springs for the deployment of solar panels and antenna booms. Two different breadboards were designed and tested raising the technology readiness level from two (application formulated) to four (functional verification). Aerosol Jet Printing was also shown to be a promising technique for integrating sensors, especially when combined with additive manufacturing.
Contract 4000132312 closed in 2022. The results were presented at the 2023 Technology Sharing Day. A follow-on activity, known as EU-ATTRACT, also performed by CSEM will develop a 3D printed heat pipe with embedded temperature sensors for the cooling and monitoring of advanced detectors.
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