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3D printed objects track and store how they are used

3D printed objects have been developed which can track and store how they are used without using batteries or electronics. Instead a process called backscatter is deployed.

Washington - Scientists and engineers have built 3D printed devices that have the functionality to track and store how they are used. This is based on a method called backscatter. Via this process a device can share information to another device by reflecting signals that are transmitted to it through an antenna.
The research comes from the University of Washington, and according to the developers there are a number of applications for this type of technology. These include low-cost and customizable 3-D printed devices for use with assistive technology, such as prosthetics, or for manufacturing "smart" pill bottles. Pill bottles could, for example, assist patients by issuing reminders about when to take daily medications.
Lead researcher Professor Jennifer Mankoff describes how the research came about: "We're interested in making accessible assistive technology with 3-D printing, but we have no easy way to know how people are using it. Could we come up with a circuitless solution that could be printed on consumer-grade, off-the-shelf printers and allow the device itself to collect information? That's what we showed was possible in this paper."
The development of the objects is illustrated in the following video "Wireless Analytics for 3D Printed Objects":
Sticking with the medicine pill bottle example, the video shows how to track a bidirectional motion like the opening and closing of a pill bottle. This is tracking achieved through the use of two antennas, one of which located at the the top and one on bottom. These are contacted by a switch which is attached to a gear. When a pill bottle cap is opened this moves the gear in one direction, which pushes the switch and this contacts one of the two antennas. In reverse, closing the pill bottle cap turns the gear in the opposite direction, resulting in the switch hitting the other antenna. The teeth of the gear have a specific sequencing that encodes a message, which the research say is analogous to Morse code.
The research findings will be presented to the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology in Berlin on October 15, 2018. The conference is a forum for innovations in human-computer interfaces.