Assessment of embedded conjugated polymer sensor arrays for potential load transmission measurement in orthopaedic implants
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© 2017 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Load transfer through orthopaedic joint implants is poorly understood. The longer-term outcomes of these implants are just starting to be studied, making it imperative to monitor contact loads across the entire joint implant interface to elucidate the force transmission and distribution mechanisms exhibited by these implants in service. This study proposes and demonstrates the design, implementation, and characterization of a 3D-printed smart polymer sensor array using conductive polyaniline (PANI) structures embedded within a polymeric parent phase. The piezoresistive characteristics of PANI were investigated to characterize the sensing behaviour inherent to these embedded pressure sensor arrays, including the experimental determination of the stable response of PANI to continuous loading, stability throughout the course of loading and unloading cycles, and finally sensor repeatability and linearity in response to incremental loading cycles. This specially developed multi-material additive manufacturing process for PANI is shown be an attractive approach for the fabrication of implant components having embedded smart-polymer sensors, which could ultimately be employed for the measurement and analysis of joint loads in orthopaedic implants for in vitro testing.