16:37 11 December 2017
A team of researchers from the University of Washington has successfully created 3D-printed baubles that can communicate over WiFi with other devices without using batteries or electronics.
The team, which is composed of UW doctoral students Vikram Iyer and Justin Chan, developed the technique with the help of associate professor Shyam Gollakota. It involves embedding plastic materials with metallic threads that allow them to reflect WiFi signals.
"We realised we can't 3D print a Wi-Fi chip or electronics on 3D printers today," said Chan. "But we can print 3D objects with conductive filaments."
The grapheme and copper embedded in the objects reflects WiFi signals that can be detected by WiFi-enabled devices. The process is very much similar to signaling a bright light and rotating mirror that can modulate the message into on or off states.
"We have these devices that can actually reflect the Wi-Fi signal away or toward the source," Chan added.
As a proof of concept, the team made a flow meter that can be fitted to the spout of a detergent bottle to transmit the detergent pour-rate. Chan said that the attachment could be used to reorder more detergent.
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