Mechanical flexibility, faster processing, lower fabrication cost and biocompatibility enable poly (vinylidene fluoride) (PVdF) to have a wide range of applications. This work investigated the use of a piezoelectric polymeric material, PVdF, in combination with 3D printing, to explore new strategies for the fabrication of smart materials with embedded functions, namely sensing. The motivation behind this research was to design and fabricate PVdF thin films that will be used to build pressure sensors with applications in active intelligent structures. In this work, 3D printed PVdF thin films with thickness values in the range of 250 to 350 μm were poled under high direct current electrical fields, which were varied from 0.4 to 12 MV/m and temperatures from 80 to 140 °C. Copper electrodes were applied, forming a standard capacitor layered structure, to facilitate poling and to collect piezoelectric output voltage. The poling process enabled the piezoelectric crystalline phase transition of printed PVdF films to transfer from the non-active a α-phase to the piezoelectric active β-phase and rearranged the dipole alignments of the β-phase. The efficiency of poling was evaluated through the piezoelectric constant calculated from measured calibration curves. These calibration curves demonstrated the PVdF sensing device have a positive linear correlation between mechanical input and voltage output. We found that a peak value in piezoelectric constant correlated with poling voltages and temperatures. The highest piezoelectric constant achieved through contact poling was 32.29 pC/N poled at 750 V and 120 °C, and temperature was deemed the most important factors to influence piezoelectric constant. We believe that the present work demonstrates a path towards fully 3D printed smart, functional materials.

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