In the age where tablet computers and smartphones are defining way of life, you cannot overlook the significance of a touch-sensitive surface. These are also very brittle which is one of the reasons why many people prefer to carry the older tougher version of cell phones (like Nokia 1100) along with their phones. So, if we need robots or bridges or airplanes with touch sensitive surfaces we will need to devise better technologies than the existing ones. At the same time, it needs to be cost-effective and a flexible one and manufacturing in bulk should not be an issue. The solution was recently discovered by a team of researchers working at the computer science and artificial intelligence laboratory at MIT, they believe that 3-D printing could give a simple answer to this problem.
In order to showcase the scope of flexibility, they used printable electronics that fused sensors with processed circuitry and can easily act in their surroundings, the researchers designed and created a device that reacts to mechanical stresses by altering their color at one spot over the surface. This instrument was inspired by “goldbug”, the golden tortoise beetle – an insect that appears golden from outside but turns reddish orange whenever it is prodded or poked i.e. Application of mechanical stress. A graduate student from electrical engineering and computer science, who also led this project, Subramanian Sundaram, explains, “In nature, networks of sensors and interconnects are called sensorimotor pathways. We were trying to see whether we could replicate sensorimotor pathways inside a 3D-printed object. So we considered the simplest organism we could find.” When asked about printable electronics, he further adds, “We believe that only if you’re able to print the underlying substrate can you begin to think about printing a more complex shape”
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