3-D printed plastic communicates without power or electronics
Imagine if your bottle of laundry detergent automatically ordered its replacement as it got nearly empty. All while just sitting on the shelf, with no buttons, subscriptions, or even electronics or batteries involved.
That's one small application of a new 3-D printed plastic that is able to connect to wifi networks and send information, with no circuitry or power.
Their idea was inspired by old-style mechanical, automatic wristwatches, which work by using the kinetic energy created by the motion of the wearer's arm and don't require a battery.
"The design harvests mechanical energy to communicate wirelessly," Justin says.
So far they've made a flow rate sensor, wind speed sensor, and a scale. They've also made their designs freely available to anybody. "There are lots of people in the 3-D printing world who could do a lot with this," Vikram says, adding that anybody with access to a 3-D printer could try to make their own.
But perhaps more important, the material can be used in all sorts of larger scale applications, such as measuring how well critical urban infrastructure like underground pipes are working - all without requiring a costly installation that uses energy and needs maintenance.