These Power-Free 3D Printed Objects Can Talk With WiFi


Researchers at the University of Washington recently developed a way for 3D printed objects to connect to WiFi… without electronics or batteries. So, how does it work?
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Researchers at the University of Washington have figured out a way to 3D print devices that can use Wi-Fi to communicate with other devices like smartphones, without the need for batteries or electronics. The trick is the devices the researchers created relied on ambient WiFi signals, the electromagnetic waves your modem is always emitting. This technique is what’s known as Wi-Fi backscattering. Instead of sending its own signal, the devices used an antenna to reflect these waves and talk to other receivers.

The antenna was made using a 3D printer and consists of composite plastics which are conductive thanks to copper and graphene filings. But just making an antenna to reflect ambient WiFi wasn’t enough; the researchers needed a way to modulate the reflected waves and encode information.

Once again, 3D printing was their answer. A switch was attached to a spiral shaped spring, and a gear pressed against the spring. When the gear spun, it forced the switch to rapidly make and break contact with the antenna, quickly changing the amplitude of the reflected signal. The spikes and troughs in the signal can be used to represent 1s and 0s, and voila, a 3D printed Wi-Fi device that uses mechanical motion instead of electricity. Something like this could have a huge range of applications, so long as whatever it’s attached to is providing that movement of the gear in some way.

#wifi #technology #3dprinting #science #seeker #elements

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