The next step in connected devices: 3D-printed objects that can connect to WiFi without electronics

A future of interconnected devices both in your home and in the plant seems inevitable. But what if these devices could be 3D-printed and function without the use of electronics or batteries? The University of Wisconsin is working to make this a reality. In a recent paper, a U of W team explains how it 3D-printed wireless sensors, including a weight scale, a flow sensor, and an anemometer, that can transmit sensor data. The electrical components have been replaced with mechanical parts such as springs, gears, and switches that are motion-activated and entirely 3D-printed.

According to Jennifer Langston for the University of Wisconsin News: "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.'"

To learn more, read "In first, 3-D printed objects connect to WiFi without electronics" from the University of Wisconsin News.