Function Integration

In addition to shaping processes, the experts at Fraunhofer IFAM have mastered various technologies for integrating functions into components and their surfaces. On the one hand, there are functional carriers such as conductors, antennas, or sensors which can be integrated directly into the materials. On the other hand, there are surface functionalizations such as corrosion protection, electrical or thermal conductivity, and electrical insulation. Here we present some technologies and possible functionalizations. Please contact us for individual advice on optimizing your product.

Printed sensor technology


In numerous applications, sensor systems record and evaluate various technical states. In addition, actuators also play an important role, particularly for controlling processes. We integrate sensors and actuators into various parts and components. Different materials and processes are used depending on the respective requirements. Printed mechanical actuators made of electroactive polymers or piezoceramic materials can have a controlling effect as needed. By combining the sensors with the actuators, complex sensor-actuator systems can be realized, which increase the reliability of systems.

Functionalized 3D printing


3D printing (also FDM, FFF) enables new design freedoms and additive manufacturing of individualized components made of thermoplastics.

For functional integration, conductive tracks, antennas and sensors can be printed on the surface of such a component using dispensing or aerosol jet processes. Furthermore, by printing an engineering plastic and an electrically conductive plastic, for example, in parallel during the construction process, these functions can also be integrated into the component.

Component Functionalization: 3D Integration on Components


Maskless printing, dispensing and jet processes offer the possibility of function integration on 3D surfaces. The smallest structures can be applied to a wide variety of substrate surfaces and geometries. Line widths down to 10 μm at distances of 20 μm are feasible. 3D surfaces, e.g. rotationally symmetrical components, can also be functionalized using pastes in screen or pad printing.

Functionalization with wet-chemical processes


In the surface treatment of metals, wet-chemical pretreatment still plays a key role in industrial applications - e.g. aerospace and automotive engineering: cleaning, pickling and decapping as well as protecting and activating. In addition, wet-chemical processes can be used to produce different functional coatings, for example biocompatibility, corrosion protection, wear protection or electrical insulation. Further advantageous properties can also be achieved by combining wet-chemically produced coatings with plasma technology and paint technology processes.

Functional plasma coatings


Dry chemical processes such as plasma and VUV technology can also be used to achieve a wide range of surface functions such as adhesion promotion, abrasion protection and friction reduction, corrosion protection, electrical insulation, and water and dirt repellency. Fraunhofer IFAM has also developed coating systems using plasma technology which enable simple, non-destructive and release agent-free demolding of FRP components.

Laser structuring


Laser treatment of components allows surfaces to be structured in a variety of ways. Pulsed laser radiation can be used to imitate surface structures from nature, such as the streamlined skin of sharks or sandfish. Tiny channels can also be worked into metal surfaces using laser technology, which, like veins, can conduct liquids in a targeted manner. These channels enable the storage and transport of medically active substances, can act as microreactors or animate component surfaces with fungi, bacteria and cells.

Functional paints and coatings


Surface protection, including corrosion protection, and decoration of objects have been the classic tasks for paints and coatings for centuries. In recent years, new technical possibilities and raw materials have opened up a wide range of options for adding innovative functions to consumer goods by means of coatings. The developments are aimed at different industrial sectors such as aircraft, automobiles, rail vehicles, shipbuilding and wind energy.

Digitalization of castings


The CASTTRONICS® technology developed at Fraunhofer IFAM enables electronic functional elements to be cast into metallic castings. This results in components with higher functionality than before, so-called "smart castings". They provide the basis for digitizing the manufacture and use of castings and also offer novel capabilities, for example for identifying and tracking castings using integrated RFID transponders or for monitoring the condition of castings using integrated sensors.