PhotoSpray process opens up new shapes

July 01, 2020 //By Julien Happich
The aim of the EPSRC-funded research was to broaden the scope of how people can interact with digital technologies. The ProtoSpray process, developed in collaboration with the MIT media lab, opens up potential for makers, hobbyists and researchers to develop interactive objects of different (arbitrary) shapes.

Inspired by the way an artist creates graffiti on a wall and using a novel combination of sprayable electronics and 3D printing, the technique, called ProtoSpray, allows the creation of displays on surfaces that go beyond the usual rectangular and 2D shapes.

This innovation might also change the world of controls for lighting applications. The "ProtoSpray" process opens up potential to develop interactive objects of any shapes.

"We have liberated displays from their 2D rectangular casings by developing a process so people can build interactive objects of any shape. The process is very accessible: it allows end-users to create objects with conductive plastic and electroluminescent paint even if they don't have expertise in these materials," explained Ollie Hanton, PhD student and lead author of the research.

"3D printers have enabled personal fabrication of objects but our work takes this even further to where we print not only plastic but also other materials that are essential for creating displays. Using 3D printing of plastics and spraying of materials that light up when electricity is applied, we can support makers to produce objects of all shapes that can display information and detect touch. Our vision is to make screen/display a fundamental expressive medium in the same way people currently use ink, paint, or clay," added Mr. Hanton.

Dr. Anne Roudaut, Associate Professor in Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Bristol, who supervised the research, said the next step would be to create a machine that can both 3D print and spray automatically onto the 3D printed objects.

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