Sensors and electrical controls are used widely in all industries. A common problem, however, is degradation of exposed components over time from corrosion, impact, and wear. Ideally, in such situations, it would be best to bury the electronics in solid metal. Using conventional manufacturing technologies this is difficult and requires complicated sealing. Conventional processes such as casting and welding have been attempted, but the high temperatures required may damage, melt or change the properties of the desired circuits. Fabrisonic’s UAM process can help to eliminate these common issues.
The solid-state nature of Fabrisonic’s UAM bond allows for of all manner of wires, fibers, and sensors into a metallic substrate. Since the metals do not have to be heated for bonding, many electronics can be embedded without damage. This enables sensors, communication circuits, and actuators to be embedded into fully dense metallic structures.
One exciting area of current study involves embedding “smart materials that can convert from one form of energy into another. This conversion can take place between the mechanical domain and either the electrical, magnetic, thermal, or optical domain. The most common materials associated with these phenomena are piezoelectric, electrostrictive, and electroactive polymers (electromechanical coupling), magnetostrictive (magnetomechanical coupling), and shape memory alloys (thermomechanical coupling). The direct conversion from mechanical energy into another energy form is used for sensing and the inverse can be used to force material changes based on an external input. The key challenge in joining smart materials using conventional welding techniques is that any melting greatly degrades the properties of the smart materials. Thus, typical construction of smart material devices relies on mechanical fastening. Since the UAM process is solid-state and requires no melting, the process can be used to embed smart materials without damaging the materials. Wires, strips, and foils have successfully been embedded in aluminum blocks with UAM technology. Composites with NiTi volume fractions up to 50% have been constructed using SonicLayer systems.