16:21 06 December 2017
Researchers from the University of Washington are the first to invent 3-D printed plastic objects and sensors that can collect useful information and communicate to other WiFi connected devices to carry out specific tasks. These could include a battery-free slider that controls music volume or a water sensor that sends an alarm to the phone when leak is detected.
Co-lead author and UW electrical engineering doctoral student Vikram Iyer said: “ “Our goal was to create something that just comes out of your 3-D printer at home and can send useful information to other devices. But the big challenge is how do you communicate wirelessly with WiFi using only plastic? That’s something that no one has been able to do before.”
The team used backscatter techniques that allow devices to carry out functions normally performed by electrical components with mechanical motion activated by springs, gears, switches and other parts that can be 3-D printed.
Providing an example, senior author Shyam Gollakota, an associate professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, said: “As you pour detergent out of a Tide bottle, for instance, the speed at which the gears are turning tells you how much soap is flowing out. The interaction between the 3-D printed switch and antenna wirelessly transmits that data. Then the receiver can track how much detergent you have left and when it dips below a certain amount, it can automatically send a message to your Amazon app to order more.”
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