Hsu Develops Technique to Build Smart Materials

Working with student and postdoc researchers, ME Professor Keng Hsu has developed a flexible technique to produce new stimuli-responsive composites with applications in soft robotics and energy harvesting and storage.

Polymer-based heterogeneous materials become preferable to traditional single-phase materials in a wide range of critical applications in aerospace engineering where performance requirements such as strength-to-weight ratio, space constraints, and overall system energy efficiency are important.  Among these critical applications, the development of stimuli-responsive polymers such as PVDF as active material systems in the areas of robotics and human support in space applications not only represents an important area of current research, but it also plays a key role as the future of space exploration takes its shape.  While there is a need for new breakthroughs in polymer chemistry, the main barrier to constructing actual devices with theoretically-predicted performances and required reliability lies in the lack of a manufacturing approach in which the material and spatial composition of the end product can be precisely planned, executed, and controlled: a closed-loop hybrid metal-polymer direct digital manufacturing approach.  Working with the DoD and an aerospace company, Hsu and his team of students and researchers have developed a set of flexible material processing techniques to address the multitude of issues preventing the application of manufacturing processes to the prototyping and fabrication of multi-scale polymer-metal heterogeneous materials [1-5]. In combining these techniques and additive manufacturing process is formed where solid metals and polymers can be shaped and fused at the voxel level to form highly complex 3-dimensional composites. These processing techniques can eventually become manufacturing tools to produce high performance soft sensors, actuators, and energy harvesting and storage devices.


  1. Anagh Deshpande**, Alireza Tofangchi%, Keng Hsu#, “Microstructure evolution of Al6061 and copper during ultrasonic energy assisted compression”, Materials Characterization, vol. 153, 240-250, 2019.
  2. Alireza Tofangchi%, Pu Han**, Julio Izquierdo**, Adithya Iyengar, Keng Hsu#, Effect of Ultrasonic Vibration on Interlayer Adhesion in Fused Filament Fabrication 3D Printed ABS”, Polymers, 11, 315; doi:10.3390.
  3. Anagh Deshpande**, Abinesh Kurapatti Ravi**, Scott Kusel**, Raymond Churchwell**, Keng Hsu#, “Interlayer thermal history modification for strength isotropy in Fused Filament Fabricated parts”, Progress in Additive Manufacturing, 2018, DOI 10.1007/s40964-018-0063-1
  4. Deshpande**, K. Hsu#, “Acoustoplastic Metal Direct-write: Towards Solid Aluminum 3D Printing in Ambient Conditions”, Journal of Additive Manufacturing, Vol. 19, 73-80, 2017.
  5. Ravi**, A. Deshpande**, K. Hsu#, “Inter-layer bonding strengthening in Fused Deposition Modeling using Optical In-process local pre-deposition heating,” Journal of Manufacturing Processes, 24, 179-185, 2016