Connect Plastic to Wi-Fi Without Any Electronics

Recently developed by some scientists, some new 3D-printed objects can connect to Wi-Fi without any electronic circuitry or batteries. All future household devices could become smarter without complicated circuits on the device.

Connect Wi-Fi Plastic
Isn’t it intriguing? And if that does not tickle the excitement then think like this: this new technology can be used to manufacture a laundry bottle that automatically orders refill online as soon as it runs out, or even a simple volume slider that could connect to the speakers, any cable or also power source – no more tangling cables and stuffed sockets.

What makes this tech possible? It is a team from the University of Washington created a system using a plastic switch, gear, antenna and spring. When this system is activated with a press or any other movement, the system absorbs or reflects passing Wi-Fi signals, establishing communication in between.

The goal of the scientists was to build something that can be printed using a 3D printer at home and holds the ability to communicate crucial information with other devices.

Let’s understand how plastic is able to send and receive Wi-Fi signals. In the core of the plastic mechanism is a conducting filament that is made from plastic and copper –it is also 3D printed. The core sporadically connects and disconnects with a Wi-Fi antenna while altering the signals as they pass it on.

The scientists used the same tech to create similar mechanisms into switches, dials, and sliders –the movement generates transitions thus, sending a simple signal on the Wi-Fi, which could be targeted to a smartphone or some other device.

There are tiny teeth on a gear that connects with the filament, which transmits the 0s and 1s for binary communication.

This methodology is known as backscattering or reflecting waves, in this case, these are Wi-Fi signals.

Iron fillings worked the same way as copper fillings did and the object becomes an invisible barcode type of thing.

The system looks like any regular 3D printed object but there’s an astronomical amount of information which is invisible to you but visible to your smartphone.

Every smartphone has a magnetometer –a sensor that is used by your phone to know its exact location on the Earth’s magnetic field. The same sensor can detect the 0s and 1s that were transmitted by iron filings and plastic.

These 3D-printed gadgets are chunky and not yet ready for the masses, but for sure this tech will find its way in the future as it can be adapted to serve all sort of purposes –with the rise of IoT and every appliance getting connected to the internet. The approach makes it simple to connect more and more devices to the web and each other.

The invention is a part of the long term vision of the scientist to democratize the creation of IoT devices, which can communicate information effortlessly; everywhere and any time. For now, the research has to be peer-reviewed and thus the patents are pending but one can read the published papers.


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