A machine’s sensors take a beating during its lifetime. They can degrade over their lifetime of use due to force, corrosion, or the simple wear of everyday usage. It may be possible to significantly extend the lives of this important sensor equipment by housing them in solid metal. While it wouldn’t keep them operational forever, such a protective case could conceivably give them a much longer life cycle.
One of the problems with embedding sensors in protective metal casings, however, has been that some of them are damaged by exposure to the high temperatures necessary for the process. With the development of a new process, known as Ultrasonic Additive Manufacturing (UAM), sensors can be embedded in metal without the concurrent damage.
Ultrasonic additive manufacturing, a solid-state printing process, uses waves of sound to merge layers of metal foil. As a result, true, full density metallurgical bonds can be created for a variety of metals. When combined with other additive and subtractive processes, a number of highly complex geometries can be created and integrated. It would not be possible to create these complex forms with other conventional subtractive manufacturing processes when performed alone. UAM can create hollow, latticed, or honeycombed internal structures in addition. A number of different types of sensors have been successfully integrated into components using UAM processes, including thermocouples, strain sensors, accelerometers, and pressure transducers. One type of sensor, utilizing fiber optic Bragg gratings to give precise strain measurements, has been embedded in aluminum, increasing the amount of time between necessary maintenance operations. … (Read more)