Innovation That Matters

The ProtoSpray could liberate display screens from their 2D rectangular casings | Photo source University of Bristol

Spray turns 3D objects into display screens

Computing & Tech

A new process can turn 3D-printed objects into interactive displays using a spray-on material

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Spotted: Tired of the same old rectangular-shaped touch screen? A team at the University of Bristol has developed a way to spray an interactive display onto almost any shape. The team were inspired by the work of graffiti artists to develop the technique — ProtoSpray — which creates displays on a wide variety of surfaces. 

The ProtoSpray technique works by using a novel combination of sprayable electronics and 3D printing. Objects are 3D-printed with conductive plastic, then sprayed with electroluminescent paint. The lead researcher, PhD student Ollie Hanton, has said that the process should allow people to build interactive objects of any shape, “even if they don’t have expertise in these materials”.

The ProtoSpray process was developed in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab, and described in a paper by Hanton, which was presented at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, considered the most prestigious academic conference in the field of human-computer interaction.

According to Hanton, his team’s work takes 3D printing one step further, printing “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.”

The field of 3D printing is developing rapidly. At Springwise, we have recently covered innovations such as a 3D-printed house and 3D-printed furniture. In the future, printed objects like these might also come with a spray-on interactive display. 

Written By: Lisa Magloff

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