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The University of Southampton

Research project: Structronics research

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Rapid prototyping, whereby complex 3D parts can be made directly from computer models is now becoming widely established as a viable process. The next research step is being pioneered by the University of Southampton. This involves the production of "intelligent" 3D parts whereby structures can be produced containing sensors and electronic components (commonly called "structronics").The University has just won a £3.5 million grant from the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) to develop this research. The diagram below shows three large investments that are going to be made to develop this exiting technology.

Strucronics research facilities

This project will consist of the latest laser processing machine to melt plastic and metallic powders. The initial aim will be to make simple structures containing conductors. These parts will be tested for reliability and endurance. Eventually the research will involve the production of complex parts as illustrated below.

Example Structronics part

This shows a fuel tank from an unmanned vehicle which will be printed incorporating some electronics devices to provide fuel level sensing, as well as vibration and strain to check the "health" of a structure in the same way that nerves are used in an animal.

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