Researchers Have Connected 3D Printed Objects to Wi-Fi through Plastic without Electronics or Batteries

A team of researchers at the University of Washington have created a method for 3d printing plastic objects and sensors that can detect useful information and transmit it via WIFi without the help of batteries or electronics.

They showed with the CAD models that 3-D printing objects can be created with commercially available plastics and WiFi receivers. That will include a battery-free slider which can control music volume or a water sensor that will send an alarm to your phone if it detects a leak.

To perform this method, the group used things like 3D-printed springs, switches, gears, and other parts that could be used for 3-D printing and translate the signal into antenna-transmitted information.

The team of researchers from the UW Networks & Mobile Systems Lab 3-D printed some tools such as a water flow meter, a wind meter, and a scale which were capable of successfully sending and detecting useful information to other connected devices. The team also printed WiFi input widgets including knobs, buttons, and sliders.

And lastly, the team also created a method for 3-D printing of iron in distinct patterns to invisibly encode static information in 3-D printed objects.

Allen School doctoral student and co-lead author Justin Chan said, “It looks like a regular 3-D printed object but there’s invisible information inside that can be read with your smartphone.”

The researchers’ team is offering 3D models to the public so that they can use these objects at home.

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