July 20, 2015

3D-printed ‘smart cap’ uses electronics to sense spoiled food

(July 20, 2015)  It might not be long before consumers can just hit “print” to create an electronic circuit or wireless sensor in the comfort of their homes.

UC Berkeley engineers, in collaboration with colleagues at Taiwan’s National Chiao Tung University, are expanding the already impressive portfolio of 3D printing technology to include electrical components, such as resistors, inductors, capacitors and integrated wireless electrical sensing systems. They have put the new technology to the test by printing a wireless “smart cap” for a milk carton that detected signs of spoilage using embedded sensors.

The findings are published Monday, July 20, in a new open-access journal in the Nature Publishing Group called Microsystems & Nanoengineering.

Major advances over the past 10 years have enabled the creation of a wide array of 3D-printed products, including prosthetics, medical implants, toys, vehicle parts, building materials and even food. What had been missing from the repertoire until now was the ability to produce sensitive electronic components.

“Our paper describes the first demonstration of 3D printing for working basic electrical components, as well as a working wireless sensor,” said senior author Liwei Lin, a professor of mechanical engineering and co-director of the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center. “One day, people may simply download 3D-printing files from the Internet with customized shapes and colors and print out useful devices at home.”

journal reference (Open Access) >>