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University of Washington Printed Wi-Fi Project 3D Prints Connected Devices Without Electronics

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The goal of University of Washington’s Printed Wi-Fi project is to 3D print wireless sensors, input widgets and objects that can communicate with smartphones and other Wi-Fi devices, without the need for batteries or electronics. To this end, the researchers presented a novel toolkit for wireless connectivity that can be integrated with 3D digital models and fabricated using commodity desktop 3D printers and commercially available plastic filament materials.

Specifically, the first computational designs introduced can send data to commercial RF receivers including Wi-Fi, enabling 3D printed wireless sensors and input widgets and embed data within objects using magnetic fields and decode the data using magnetometers on commodity smartphones.

3D Printed Wi-Fi Sensors. (a) Anemometer to measure wind speed (b) Flowmeter to measure water speed (c) Scale to measure weight.

To demonstrate the potential of these techniques, the first fully 3D printed wireless sensors were designed including a weight scale, flow sensor and anemometer that can transmit sensor data. Furthermore, the team 3D printed eyeglass frames, armbands as well as artistic models with embedded magnetic data. Finally, the researchers presented various 3D printed application prototypes including buttons, smart sliders and physical knobs that wirelessly control music volume and lights as well as smart bottles that can sense liquid flow and send data to nearby RF devices, without batteries or electronics.

Wi-Fi input widgets. (a) Button (b) Knob (c) Slider
3D Printed Wi-Fi Smart Objects. (a) Tide bottle instrumented with a bolt-on flowmeter to track the amount of detergent remaining, and automatically order refills. (b) Test tube holder can be used for managing inventory and measuring the amount of liquid in each test tube.
Printed MagLink objects. Examples of functional and artistic 3D printed objects that are encoded with magnetic fields.
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