3D printed Wi-Fi devices without electronics

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/12/06/3d-printed-wi-fi-devices-witho.html


ProtoPasta makes an electrically conductive PLA for 3D printing, which one might imagine could be useful for these types of devices (https://www.proto-pasta.com/products/conductive-pla). They also make a magnetic PLA.

The main issue I’ve had with conductive PLA is the junction in between regular copper wire and the plastic “circuit”. Croc-clips just don’t work very well, and just melting the plastic onto the wire is also not that great. I found dissolving powdered graphite in glue makes a conductive glue that seems to provide a good junction.

(No affiliation other than as a customer)


Holy crap, that’s cool - buttons, knobs and sliders. I wonder how well the system distinguishes between various kinds of input, given that they’re all the same mechanism.
Is the normal functioning of wi-fi subtle enough (i.e. no peaks and troughs) that normal wi-fi use wouldn’t confuse the devices reading input from this system, and robust enough that these spikes wouldn’t interfere with it? Or does error correction mean that’s not even a concern?


These devices are not wifi-devices. At best, they manipulate reflections of existing wifi signals. This is the same effect (backscatter) that was already used before to create “ultra low-power wifi” (see http://www.ferret.com.au/articles/news/ultra-low-power-wi-fi-using-backscatter-technology-n2516725).

An altogether interesting technique, but for these devices to work you still need fully functional wifi transmitters and receivers. And you’ll also need a bit more than “standard plastics”: the antenna that is at the heart of the devices it a special copper-laced polyester called “Electrifi Conductive 3D filament”…

It’s a bit like saying you can 3D-print a flashlight without batteries or electronics from simple plastics. You just need an existing light-source. And a small mirror. And all you can actually do is block the light or reflect it.


your next computer!


Good thing it’s not the G.G. Allin School of Computer Science and Engineering

1 Like

This one coconut-shell studded, switched terabit optical and Q/M fabric will turn you on to the dark side of the force!
Run out of .001 mil tantalum foils to connect what can’t be done with silver nanorods? Drone delivery wind advisory? Induce spin-stripe flux and commutate it effortlessly with a gravure file and polarized light source from SpumCo! (10-30T field magnet sold separately.)

If that made sense, maybe the M’soft CLO’s Wisconsin Rural Broadband thing also congeals!?
Chief Lurking Officer? Lending? Lupophilia? Lupinmania?

1 Like

This is neat! If they can make it work in real situations, then there is so much they can do. Though I do wonder how strong the wifi source needs to be and how susceptible the devices are to interference from other wifi sources.

Given how flaky and fickle a typical wifi signal is, bouncing off of wall studs, copper wires, pets, creepy portraits of one’s mom hanging in a closet (don’t ask), and the occasionally misplaced dinner chair, you’d really really really really really really really really need to place your plastic “wifi” device carefully and precisely to maximize its signal interference.

Furthermore, I’d like to know exactly what their “receiver” consists of. That data they’re grabbing looks pretty darn clean. A little too clean for what they’re implying is a typical 802.xyz antenna’s RSSI (which to be honest I don’t even know if any of those chipsets actually produce an RSSI – I’ve never seen one available in user-space).

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.