Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a way for 3D-printed object to transmit information via WiFi without the help of batteries or electronics. They show that it could be done with commercially available plastics and WiFi receivers. “Our goal was to create something that just comes out of your 3D printing device at home and can send useful information to other devices,” Vikram Iyer, a graduate student on the project, said in a statement.
How does this work?
To do this, the team used things such as 3D-printed objects- springs, gears and switches that could be used to convert motion into antenna-transmitted information. For example, they created an anemometer, which measures wind rate, and attached it to a gear. When the gear spins, teeth connects with an antenna embedded into the object and that antenna then shows ambient WiFi signal, which can be decoded by the WiFi receiver. The faster the wind, the faster the gear spins and the more rapidly those signals are transmitted. They also created a scale and a flowmeter that can measure water speed.
Additionally, they printed three widgets — a button, a knob and a slider, which work in similar ways and may be used to talk to other smart devices. The research workers also developed two smart items — a detergent bottle with an attached flowmeter that can track the amount of left over detergent and order it when it gets low and a test tube holder that can be used to measure the amount of liquid test tubes contain and monitor inventory.
they have also developed ways to print iron into 3D objects in distinct patterns, which when read by a magnetometer in a smartphone, for example, can be used to convey important information about that object such as what it is, who made to or how a robot is meant to interact with it. “It looks like a regular 3D-printed object but there’s invisible information inside that may be read with your smartphone,” said Justin Chan, another student on the project.
The team is making their 3D models available to the public so that anyone can utilize these objects at home. The work was recently presented at the Association for Computing Machinery’s SIGGRAPH Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Asia.