A couple of additive developers do offer ways to add electronics into the additive build cycle to create components, such as sensors. One example is a fiber optic strain sensor, made through the technology offered by Fabrisonic.
The Fabrisonic’s system uses high frequency ultrasonic vibrations to scrub metal foils together layer by layer as opposed to using a directed energy heat source, such as a laser. The company calls its technology Ultrasonic Additive Manufacturing (UAM). UAM is really a hybrid 3D metal printing technology to build near-net shape parts which are later machined to a specific finish.
Ultrasonic joining is a solid-state (no melting) process, which enables direct integration of temperature sensitive components into the 3D metal part.
To embed small fiber materials into a metal part, a channel path is cut during a CNC stage that can be part of the UAM process. The fiber is then placed into the channel and consolidated using the additive stage.
Metal flow in the UAM process (which is similar to metal flow in friction stir) creates a strong mechanical joint between the matrix and sensor material, which in turn enables excellent strain transfer to the metal matrix for stress and temperature measurements. The fiber is fully integrated with the metal matrix.
Building fiber optic strain sensors into metal using UAM is still in its infancy, yet shows strong promise.