Nowadays, it is possible to 3D print a wide variety of objects from the comfort of your home: owning a home desktop printer allows virtually anyone to manufacture a toothbrush or a toy for example. However, oftentimes, the tricky part is to add electronics to your 3D printed pieces. Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed a unique 3D design environment: called MorphSensor, it enables users to digitally model not only the physical form of an object, but also its electronic function.
Embedding electronics such as sensors, chips, and tags typically means that you need to design them separately, making it difficult to create items where the added functions are integrated with the form. Can that change with the invention of MorphSensor? Lead author on a paper about the project, MIT PhD student Junyi Zhu, says: “MorphSensor fits into my long-term vision of something called ‘rapid function prototyping’, with the objective to create interactive objects where the functions are directly integrated with the form and fabricated in one go, even for non-expert users. This offers the promise that, when prototyping, the object form could follow its designated function, and the function could adapt to its physical form.”