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article image3D printed objects connect to WiFi without electronics

By Tim Sandle     Jan 5, 2018 in Technology
Washington - Researchers have created the first ever 3D printed objects that can connect to WiFi without the need for electronics. Such devices can, for example, signal when they are empty.
The technology comes from the University of Washington, and an example of the engineering designed technology is a laundry bottle that can detect when soap or detergent is running low and then automatically order more product. This provides a smart solution to domestic laundry services as well as a potential time-saver for the domestic setting.
There are other useful applications for such technology. Imagine a battery-free slider to control the music volume of a device; or a button that can automatically orders more cornflakes from an e-commerce site when the packet is almost empty; or perhaps a water sensor that is capable of beaming a signal that sounds an alarm to a person's smartphone if a leak is detected.
The concept is with designing plastic objects that contain sensors, where the sensors collect useful data and communicate with other WiFi-connected devices independently of any additional electronics. The 3D printed technology can be made available to any would-be industrialist.
The video below provides more details about the process:
According to one of the researchers, Vikram Iyer: "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."
Ilyer adds: "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."
This challenge was overcome through the use of backscatter techniques which enable devices to exchange information. Here the researchers replaced some functions typically performed by electrical components with mechanical motion, with the motion activated by springs, gears, switches and other parts that can be 3D printed.
Such backscatter systems use an antenna in order to transmit data by reflecting radio signals emitted by a WiFi router. Information embedded in the reflected patterns can be decoded by a WiFi receiver. Physical motions trigger gears and springs located within the 3D printed object; this causes a conductive switch to intermittently connect or disconnect with the antenna and change its reflective state, enabling communication.
The new technology was recently presented at the Association for Computing Machinery's SIGGRAPH Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Asia.
More about 3D printing, conencted, Wifi
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