Imagine a bottle of laundry detergent that can sense when you’re running low on soap — and automatically connect to the internet to place an order for more.
University of Washington researchers are the first to make this a reality by 3-D printing plastic objects and sensors that can collect useful data and communicate with other WiFi-connected devices entirely on their own.
With CAD models that the team is making available to the public, 3-D printing enthusiasts will be able to create objects out of commercially available plastics that can wirelessly communicate with other smart devices. That could include a battery-free slider that controls music volume, a button that automatically orders more cornflakes from Amazon or a water sensor that sends an alarm to your phone when it detects a leak.
“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,” said co-lead author and UW electrical engineering doctoral student Vikram Iyer. “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 system is described in a paper presented Nov. 30 at the Association for Computing Machinery’s SIGGRAPH Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Asia.
To 3-D print objects that can communicate with commercial WiFi receivers, the team employed backscatter techniques that allow devices to exchange information. In this case, the team replaced some functions normally performed by electrical components with mechanical motion activated by springs, gears, switches and other parts that can be 3-D printed — borrowing from principles that allow battery-free watches to keep time.
Backscatter systems use an antenna to transmit data by reflecting radio signals emitted by a WiFi router or other device. Information embedded in those reflected patterns can be decoded by a WiFi receiver. In this case, the antenna is contained in a 3-D printed object made of conductive printing filament that mixes plastic with copper.
Physical motion — pushing a button, laundry soap flowing out of a bottle, turning a knob, removing a hammer from a weighted tool bench — triggers gears and springs elsewhere in the 3-D printed object that cause a conductive switch to intermittently connect or disconnect with the antenna and change its reflective state.
Information — in the form of 1s and 0s — is encoded by the presence or absence of the tooth on a gear. Energy from a coiled spring drives the gear system, and the width and pattern of gear teeth control how long the backscatter switch makes contact with the antenna, creating patterns of reflected signals that can be decoded by a WiFi receiver.
“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,” said senior author Shyam Gollakota, an associate professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. “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.”
The team from the UW Networks & Mobile Systems Lab 3-D printed several different tools that were able to sense and send information successfully to other connected devices: a wind meter, a water flow meter and a scale. They also printed a flow meter that was used to track and order laundry soap, and a test tube holder that could be used for either managing inventory or measuring the amount of liquid in each test tube.
They also 3-D printed WiFi input widgets such as buttons, knobs and sliders that can be customized to communicate with other smart devices in the home and enable a rich ecosystem of “talking objects” that can seamlessly sense and interact with their surroundings.
Using a different type of 3-D printing filament that combines plastic with iron, the team also leveraged magnetic properties to invisibly encode static information in 3-D printed objects — which could range from barcode identification for inventory purposes or information about the object that tells a robot how to interact with it.
“It looks like a regular 3-D printed object but there’s invisible information inside that can be read with your smartphone,” said Allen School doctoral student and co-lead author Justin Chan.
The Latest Bing News on:
3-D printing plastic objects and sensors
- 3D printed house shows potential affordable housing solutionon July 3, 2021 at 1:02 pm
A revolutionary way to build homes is coming to Virginia that could be a potential solution to constructing more affordable houses. You might have heard of a 3D printer making small, plastic items for ...
- Could 3D printing a house be an affordable housing solution? In Richmond, they’re testing it out.on July 3, 2021 at 7:50 am
You might have heard of a 3D printer making small, plastic items for doll furniture and models, but 3D printers can also make life-size projects, including a 1,550-square-foot home planned for South ...
- DIY on steroidson June 30, 2021 at 11:37 am
3-D printing enables UB students and researchers to create amazing things Imagine performing an operation tailored to a patient’s unique medical characteristics—before stepping into the operating room ...
- Will a new 3D printing process end high school wood shop as we know it?on June 29, 2021 at 11:01 am
The Forust process, launched by Desktop Metal, 3D-prints all types of products from sawdust and other waste wood.
- 3D System can Produce Objects with Spatially-Various Glosson June 28, 2021 at 5:00 pm
Until now, 3D printing has not been a very glamorous endeavor. The additive manufacturing fabrication method is known for printing plastic or metal industrial ... by researchers at MIT that can ...
- The next wave of innovation in photonicson June 28, 2021 at 4:03 am
More end products are integrating lasers with sensors and optics, opening new opportunities for photonics manufacturers.
- Jabil (JBL) Announces Development of Omnidirectional Sensoron June 23, 2021 at 8:37 am
The sensor is being designed to support lower cost autonomous mobile robotics and collaborative robotics platforms. It allows for seamless detection and tracking of objects in a robot’s path to ...
- 3D Printing Process Combines Plastic and Metalon June 21, 2021 at 5:00 pm
where a team has developed a metal-plastic hybrid 3D printing technique that fabricates plastic objects with an adhesive metal coating on defined areas. The approach, which uses a printer with a dual ...
- Design with Digital Technology: 3D Printing Opens New Possibilities in Chinaon June 18, 2021 at 2:47 am
It is a technology that uses powdered metal or plastic and other bondable materials to construct objects by printing ... “Mobile Platform of Robotic 3-D Printing in Concrete” contains a ...
- Scientists develop lightweight tactile sensors that could pave the way for robot 'skins' and medical deviceson June 17, 2021 at 6:15 am
NTU Singapore scientists develop lightweight ultra-sensitive tactile sensors that could pave the way for robot 'skins' and medical devices ...
The Latest Google Headlines on:
3-D printing plastic objects and sensors
The Latest Bing News on:
- INHD India Awards Multibeam Echosounder Contract to Teledyne Marineon June 29, 2021 at 2:25 am
Teledyne Marine has been awarded the contract for the supply of two RESON HydroSweep DS Deep-Sea multibeam echosounder systems by the Indian Naval ...
- First author John Kimionis (image)on June 25, 2021 at 12:37 pm
First author John Kimionis explains that the backscatter breakthrough only requires a single mmWave transistor and much lower frequency electronics, such as the ones found in cell phones or WiFi ...
- Backscatter breakthrough runs near-zero-power IoT communicators at 5G speeds everywhereon June 24, 2021 at 5:00 pm
Backscatter breakthrough runs near-zero-power IoT communicators at 5G speeds everywhere Low-cost, low-power devices work over mmWave and use a single transistor to transfer high-volume data ...
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection Launches Multi-Technology Screening Solutionon June 23, 2021 at 4:01 am
The company's Vacis MEP system consists of a QR code and RFID reader, as well as license plate recognition (LPR) technology to capture data about each driver and vehicle from documentation, ...
- Backscatter Your Own FM Pirate Radio Stationon June 22, 2021 at 5:00 pm
Frequency-modulating this backscatter carrier frequency adds audio (or data) to the product station. One of the cooler tricks that they pull off with this system is to inject a second (stereo ...
- backscatter radaron June 13, 2021 at 5:00 pm
But what is a phased array antenna system? How do they work? With the help of 1024 LEDs we’ll show you.
- Technology Notebook: Solid-state backscatter technology boosts film-gauging performanceon June 9, 2021 at 5:00 pm
Data collection and report generation is accomplished through an integrated data collection and management system. Cost comparisons between various backscatter gauges must address the total cost of ...
- Assistive Objects Can Track Their Own Useon June 7, 2021 at 5:00 pm
Instead, they use what’s called backscatter to transmit information—technology ... and other devices, she said. “This system will give us a higher-fidelity picture of what is going on,” she said. “For ...
- Deep-Implantable Blood-Oxygen Sensor Blends Multiple Sophisticated Technologieson June 3, 2021 at 11:27 am
The system merges multiple technologies for sensing ... The reflected ultrasound backscatter from the sensor’s piezocrystal is captured by the same external piezo transducer and digitized ...
- Conductive Plastic, Wi-Fi Backscatter Yield Zero-Power Wireless Sensor Connectivityon May 23, 2021 at 5:00 pm
The technique uses RF backscatter so that the Wi-Fi system sees the change in physical appearance or location of the sensed object (they call them “widgets”). The result is a low-cost ...