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Ultra-precise 3D printing conquers sensor technology

Additive manufacturing processes are now so fine and accurate that they can be used to produce functional sensors - and even the impulse generator for atomic clocks.

02 Apr. 2018
HMI-ID03-061ts_Universität Neuenburg
Ultra-precise 3D printing conquers sensor technology (Photo: Universität de Neuchatel)

Researchers at the Swiss University of Neuchâtel have succeeded in manufacturing microwave cavity resonators using the 3D printing process. The parts are the core component of atomic clocks: they produce an extremely stable frequency that is used as a high-precision impulse generator. Atomic clocks are mainly needed for calibration in industry. However, it is precisely this required accuracy that usually makes the production of cavity resonators so complex and expensive. The additive manufacturing process could now save not only costs, but also lower the weight by 30%. The Université de Neuchâtel plans to continue expanding ongoing research, which is funded by the Swiss Space Office (SSO), in the direction of precision sensors.

3D-printed sensors are already so accurate that they can be used for robot control . It is therefore conceivable that 3D printing will significantly reduce the cost of industrial sensors that require networked manufacturing. Additive processes are thus making an important contribution to broadening Industry 4.0 strategies such as integrated automation or predictive maintenance.