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Hybrid Extrusion 3D Printing of Self-Deployable Smart Solar Panel Hinges
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Shape memory polymers (SMPs) have been applied in many fields to make functional devices since they can recover their original shapes upon exposure to external stimuli. This project investigated a new hybrid direct ink writing (DIW) and embedded 3D printing (e-3DP) method to fabricate self-deployable smart, SMP solar panel hinges with embedded features. A SMP nanocomposite (SMNC) was designed to maintain its shape at a liquid state after being printed via DIW to inhibit the e-3DP of a strain sensor from conductive ink. Using this new SMNC ink, a complex hinge structure with an embedded strain sensor was successfully printed via the hybrid 3D printing method. The hinge was crosslinked under ultra-violet (UV) radiation and a resistance wire was used to control the transition from folded to unfolded states. The hybrid extrusion 3D printed SMNC hinge demonstrated SMP characteristics by successfully deploying mock solar panels on a mock space shuttle.