Combined 3D printing technologies and material for fabrication of tactile sensors

  • Morteza Vatani
  • Yanfeng Lu
  • Erik D. Engeberg
  • Jae-Won Choi


Recently, 3D printing technology has taken the spotlight internationally with the recognition of the importance of the manufacturing industry. Currently, there are many mature 3D printing processes and materials. However, an absence of fabrication capability of smart structures such as sensors and actuators remains. In this research, we present a hybrid manufacturing process including directprint/cure (DPC) and projection-based stereolithography, along with printable materials for stretchable tactile sensors. The suggested DPC system consists of a robotically controlled micro-dispensing head, and a light curing module combined with projection stereolithography (PSL) retrofitted from a commercial projector. The materials developed in this research are based on a photocurable and stretchable liquid resin filled with multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWNTs); this polymer/nanocomposite exhibits the piezoresistive property used in tactile sensing. We also used another hybrid process to develop a tactile sensor using a commercial machine to build the sensor body while a dispensing system was used to create the sensing elements. We have characterized the fabricated sensors with several experiments to detect the locations where forces are applied to the surfaces of the sensors. It is concluded that the suggested processes and materials are promising in developing accurate and reliable stretchable tactile sensors.


3D Printing Additive manufacturing Tactile sensor Piezoresistive polymer/nanocomposite 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Lipson, H, and Kurman, M., “Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing,” John Wiley & Sons, 2013.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Wohlers, T. T., “Wohlers Report 2013: Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing State of the Industry: Annual Worldwide Progress Report,” 2013.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Lopes, A. J., MacDonald, E., and Wicker, R. B., “Integrating Stereolithography and Direct Print Technologies for 3D Structural Electronics Fabrication,” Rapid Prototyping Journal, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 129–143, 2012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Wicker, R. B. and MacDonald, E. W., “Multi-Material, Multi-Technology Stereolithography: This Feature Article Covers a Decade of Research into Tackling One of the Major Challenges of the Stereolithography Technique, which is Including Multiple Materials in One Construct,” Virtual and Physical Prototyping, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 181–194, 2012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Lu, Y., Vatani, M., and Choi, J. W., “Direct-Write/Cure Conductive Polymer Nanocomposites for 3D Structural Electronics,” Journal of Mechanical Science and Technology, vol. 27, no. 10, pp. 2929–2934, 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Kim, M. S., Chu, W. S., Kim, Y. M., Avila, A. P. G., and Ahn, S. H., “Direct Metal Printing of 3D Electrical Circuit Using Rapid Prototyping,” Int. J. Precis. Eng. Manuf., vol. 10, no. 5, pp. 147–150, 2009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Aguilera, E., Ramos, J., Espalin, D., Cedillos, F., Muse, D., et al., 3D Printing of Electro Mechanical Systems, Proc. of 24th Annual Solid Freeform Fabrication Symposium, pp. 950–961, 2013.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Weiss, L., Merz, R., Prinz, F. B., Neplotnik, G., Padmanabhan, P., et al., “Shape Deposition Manufacturing of Heterogeneous Structures,” Journal of Manufacturing Systems, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 239–248, 1997.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Willis, K., Brockmeyer, E., Hudson, S., and Poupyrev, I., “Printed Optics: 3D Printing of Embedded Optical Elements for Interactive Devices,” Proc. of the 25th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, pp. 589–598, 2012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Ahn, B. Y., Duoss, E. B., Motala, M. J., Guo, X., Park, S. I., at al., “Omnidirectional Printing of Flexible, Stretchable, and Spanning Silver Microelectrodes,” Science, vol. 323, no. 5921, pp. 1590–1593, 2009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Sun, K., Wei, T. S., Ahn, B. Y., Seo, J. Y., Dillon, S. J., and Lewis, J. A., “3D Printing of Interdigitated Li-Ion Microbattery Architectures,” Advanced Materials, vol. 25, no. 33, pp. 4539–4543, 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Engeberg, E. D., Vatani, M., and Choi, J. W., “Detection of the Direction and Speed of Motion of Forces on the Surface of a Compliant Tactile Sensor,” Proc. of IEEE 13th International Conference on Control, Automation and Systems, pp. 158–163, 2013.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Engeberg, E. D., Vatani, M., and Choi, J. W., “Direction of Slip Detection For A Biomimetic Tactile Sensor,” Proc. of IEEE 12th International Conference on Control, Automation and Systems, pp. 1933–1937, 2012.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Choi, J. W., Vatani, M., and Engeberg, E. D., “Direct-Write of Multi-Layer Tactile Sensors,” Proc. of IEEE 13th International Conference on Control, Automation and Systems, pp. 164–168, 2013.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Vatani, M., Engeberg, E. D., and Choi, J. W., Force and Slip Detection with Direct-Write Compliant Tactile Sensors using Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotube/Polymer Composites, Sensors and Actuators A: physical, vol. 195, pp. 90–97, 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Arafat, M. T., Gibson, I., and Li, X., “State of the Art and Future Direction of Additive Manufactured Scaffolds-Based Bone Tissue Engineering,” Rapid Prototyping Journal, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 13–26, 2014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Geng, L., Feng, W., Hutmacher, D. W., San-Wong, Y., Loh, H. T., and Fuh, J. Y., “Direct Writing of Chitosan Scaffolds using a Robotic System,” Rapid Prototyping Journal, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 90–97, 2005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Jiang, C. P., Huang, J. R., and Hsieh, M. F., “Fabrication of Synthesized PCL-PEG-PCL Tissue Engineering Scaffolds using an Air Pressure-Aided Deposition System,” Rapid Prototyping Journal, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 288–297, 2011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Khalil, S., Nam, J., and Sun, W., “Multi-Nozzle Deposition for Construction of 3D Biopolymer Tissue Scaffolds,” Rapid Prototyping Journal, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 9–17, 2005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Phattanaphibul, T., Koomsap, P., Idram, I., and Nachaisit, S., “Development of SVM Rapid Prototyping for Scaffold Fabrication,” Rapid Prototyping Journal, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 90–104, 2014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Cohen, D. L., Malone, E., Lipson, H., and Bonassar, L. J., “Direct Freeform Fabrication of Seeded Hydrogels in Arbitrary Geometries,” Tissue Engineering, vol. 12, no. 5, pp. 1325–1335, 2006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Mironov, V., Boland, T., Trusk, T., Forgacs, G., and Markwald, R. R., “Organ Printing: Computer-Aided Jet-based 3D Tissue Engineering,” Trends in Biotechnology, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 157–161, 2003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Lewis, J. A. and Gratson, G. M., “Direct Writing in Three Dimensions,” Materials today, vol. 7, no. 7, pp. 32–39, 2004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Guo, S. Z., Gosselin, F., Guerin, N., Lanouette, A. M., Heuzey, M. C., and Therriault, D., “3D Printing: SolventCast ThreeDimensional Printing of Multifunctional Microsystems (Small 24/2013),” Small, vol. 9, no. 24, pp. 4090–4090, 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Ahn, B. Y., Shoji, D., Hansen, C. J., Hong, E., Dunand, D. C., and Lewis, J. A., “Printed Origami Structures,” Advanced Materials, vol. 22, no. 20, pp. 2251–2254, 2010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Malone, E. and Lipson, H., “Multi-Material Freeform Fabrication of Active Systems,” Proc. of ASME 9th Biennial Conference on Engineering Systems Design and Analysis, vol. 1, pp. 345–353, 2008.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Vatani, M., Lu, Y., Lee, K.-S., Kim, H.-C., and Choi, J.-W., “Direct-Write Stretchable Sensors using Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube/Polymer Matrix,” Journal of Electronic Packaging, vol. 135, no. 1, Paper No. 011009, 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Ahn, B. Y., Lorang, D. J., Duoss, E. B., and Lewis, J. A., “Direct-Write Assembly of Microperiodic Planar and Spanning ITO Microelectrodes,” Chemical Communications, vol. 46, no. 38, pp. 7118–7120, 2010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Castillo, S., Muse, D., Medina, F., MacDonald, E., and Wicker, R., “Electronics Integration in Conformal Substrates Fabricated with Additive Layered Manufacturing,” Proc. of the 20th Annual Solid Freeform Fabrication Symposium, pp. 730–737, 2009.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Adams, J. J., Duoss, E. B., Malkowski, T. F., Motala, M. J., Ahn, B. Y., et al., “Conformal Printing of Electrically Small Antennas on Three Dimensional Surfaces,” Advanced Materials, vol. 23, no. 11, pp. 1335–1340, 2011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Vatani, M., Engeberg, E. D., and Choi, J. W., “Hybrid Additive Manufacturing of 3D Compliant Tactile Sensors,” Proc. of ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, Vol. 2A, Paper No. V02AT02A004, 2013.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Farahani, R. D., Dalir, H., Le Borgne, V., Gautier, L. A., El Khakani, et al., “Direct-Write Fabrication of Freestanding Nanocomposite Strain Sensors,” Nanotechnology, vol. 23, no. 8, Paper No. 085502, 2012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Lebel, L. L., Aissa, B., Khakani, M. A. E., and Therriault, D., “Ultraviolet Assisted Direct Write Fabrication of Carbon Nanotube/Polymer Nanocomposite Microcoils,” Advanced Materials, vol. 22, no. 5, pp. 592–596, 2010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Yousef, H., Boukallel, M., and Althoefer, K., “Tactile Sensing for Dexterous In-Hand Manipulation in Robotics-a Review,” Sensors and Actuators A: Physical, vol. 167, no. 2, pp. 171–187, 2011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Tiwana, M. I., Redmond, S. J., and Lovell, N. H., “A Review of Tactile Sensing Technologies with Applications in Biomedical Engineering,” Sensors and Actuators A: Physical, vol. 179, pp. 17–31, 2012.pCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Engeberg, E. D. and Meek, S. G., “Adaptive Sliding Mode Control for Prosthetic Hands to Simultaneously Prevent Slip and Minimize Deformation of Grasped Objects,” IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 376–385, 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Karnati, N., Kent, B. A., and Engeberg, E. D., “Bioinspired Sinusoidal Finger Joint Synergies for a Dexterous Robotic Hand to Screw and Unscrew Objects with Different Diameters,” IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 612–623, 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Engeberg, E. D., Meek, S. G., and Minor, M. A., “Hybrid Force-Velocity Sliding Mode Control of a Prosthetic Hand,” IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, vol. 55, no. 5, pp. 1572–1581, 2008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Wettels, N., Parnandi, A. R., Moon, J. H., Loeb, G. E., and Sukhatme, G., “Grip Control Using Biomimetic Tactile Sensing Systems,” IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics, vol. 14, no. 6, pp. 718–723, 2009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Rocha, J. G., Santos, C., Cabral, J. M., and Lanceros-Mendez, S., “3 Axis Capacitive Tactile Sensor and Readout Electronics,” Proc. of IEEE International Symposium on Industrial Electronics, vol. 4, pp. 2767–2772, 2006.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Ohmura, Y., Kuniyoshi, Y., and Nagakubo, A., “Conformable and Scalable Tactile Sensor Skin for Curved Surfaces,” Prof. of IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, pp. 1348–1353, 2006.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Hammond, F. L., Kramer, R. K., Wan, Q., Howe, R. D., and Wood, R. J., “Soft Tactile Sensor Arrays for Micromanipulation,” Proc. of in IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, pp. 25–32, 2012.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Kim, M. S., Shin, H. J., and Park, Y. K., “Design Concept of High-Performance Flexible Tactile Sensors with a Robust Structure,” Int. J. Precis. Eng. Manuf., vol. 13, no. 11, pp. 1941–1947, 2012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Elango, N., Faudzi, A. A. M., Hassan, A., and Rusydi, M. R. M., “Experimental Investigations of Skin-Like Material and Computation of Its Material Properties,” Int. J. Precis. Eng. Manuf., vol. 15, no. 9, pp. 1909–1914, 2014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Zhang, Y. F., Liu, Y. W., Jin, M. H., and Liu, H., “Design of a Finger-Tip Flexible Tactile Sensor for an Anthropomorphic Robot Hand,” Springer, pp. 762–773, 2010.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Yu, J., Grossiord, N., Koning, C. E., and Loos, J., “Controlling the Dispersion of Multi-Wall Carbon Nanotubes in Aqueous Surfactant Solution,” Carbon, vol. 45, no. 3, pp. 618–623, 2007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Choi, J. W., MacDonald, E., and Wicker, R., “Multi-Material Microstereolithography,” The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology, vol. 49, no. 5–8, pp. 543–551, 2010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Vatani, M., Engeberg, E. D., and Choi, J. W., “Detection of the Position, Direction and Speed of Sliding Contact with a Multi-Layer Compliant Tactile Sensor Fabricated using Direct-Print Technology,” Smart Materials and Structures, vol. 23, no. 9, Paper No. 095008, 2014.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Johnson, K. O., Yoshioka, T., and Vega-Bermudez, F., “Tactile Functions of Mechanoreceptive Afferents Innervating the Hand,” Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology, vol. 17, no. 6, pp. 539–558, 2000.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Srinivasan, M. A., Whitehouse, J., and LaMotte, R. H., “Tactile Detection of Slip: Surface Microgeometry and Peripheral Neural Codes,” Journal of Neurophysiology, vol. 63, no. 6, pp. 1323–1332, 1990.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Johnson, K. O., “The Roles and Functions of Cutaneous Mechanoreceptors,” Current Opinion in Neurobiology, vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 455–461, 2001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Korean Society for Precision Engineering and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Morteza Vatani
    • 1
  • Yanfeng Lu
    • 1
  • Erik D. Engeberg
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jae-Won Choi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringThe University of AkronAkronUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical EngineeringThe University of AkronAkronUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ocean and Mechanical EngineeringFlorida Atlantic UniversityBoca RatonUSA

Personalised recommendations