Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Printed Electronics: A Multi-Touch Sensor Customizable with Scissors

08.10.2013
If a pair of trousers is too long, it is cut shorter. A board that does not fit into a bookcase is sawed to the right length.

People often customize the size and shape of materials like textiles and wood without turning to specialists like tailors or carpenters. In the future this should be possible with electronics, according to the vision of computer scientists from Saarbrücken.


By customizing and pasting the new sensor you can make every surface interactive.
Saarland University

Together with researchers from the MIT Media Lab, they developed a printable multi-touch sensor whose shape and size everybody can alter. A new circuit layout makes it robust against cuts, damage, and removed areas.

Today the researchers are presenting their work at the conference “User Interface and Technology” (UIST) in St. Andrews, Scotland.

“Imagine a kid takes our sensor film and cuts out a flower with stem and leaves. If you touch the blossom with a finger, you hear the buzzing of a bumblebee”, Jürgen Steimle says. He reports that programs and apps are easily imaginable to help parents connect touching a sensor film with the suitable sound effect. Steimle, 33, has a doctoral degree in computer science and is doing research at the Max-Planck Institute for Informatics. He also heads the Embodied Interaction research group at the Cluster of Excellence on Multimodal Computing and Interaction.

Simon Olberding is the doctoral candidate and the lead developer of the new sensor. He sees a further application of the new technology in so-called interactive walls used for discussions and brainstorming. “So far, such a wall frays and scuffs quickly as we hammer nails into it, stick notes or posters on it, and damage it while removing them. By customizing and pasting on our new sensor you can make every surface interactive no matter if it is the wristband of a watch, a cloth on a trade fair table, or wallpaper”, Olberding says.

As basic technology the scientists use so-called “printed electronics”. This term summarizes electrical components and devices which are printed. The approach is similar to that of inkjet printers. Instead of printing with normal ink, electrically-functional electronic ink is printed on flexible, thin films (so-called substrates). “The factory costs are so low that printing our DIN A4 film on our special printer in the lab costs us about one US dollar”, Steimle says.

But you need more than printed electronics to make a sensor robust against cuts, damage, and removed areas. So far the circuit layout of a multi-touch sensor has been similar to graph paper. The wires run horizontally, vertically, and parallel to each other. At the intersection of one parallel and one horizontal layer you find the touch-sensitive electrodes. Via the wires they are connected to a controller. This type of layout requires only a minimal number of wires, but is not robust. Since each wire addresses several electrodes, a small cut has a huge effect: many electrodes become unusable and possibly large sensor areas do not work anymore. “It was not easy to find an alternative layout, robust enough for our approach”, Olberding says. They took their inspiration from nature, looking at the human nerve system and fungal root networks, and thus came up with two basic layouts. The so-called star topology has the controller in the center. It is connected to every electrode separately. The so-called tree topology also has the controller in its center connected to each electrode separately. But the wires are bundled similarly to a tree structure. They all run through a vertical line in the middle and then branch off to reach their electrodes.

The scientists found out that the star topology supports often-used basic forms like triangles, rectangles, or ovals best. Furthermore, it is suitable for shapes commonly used for crafts, like stars, clouds, or hearts. In contrast, with the tree topology it is possible to cut out whole areas. The researchers were also able to combine both layouts in a space-saving way, so that the sensor supports all basic forms.

“We assume that printed sensors will be so inexpensive that multi-touch sensing capability will become an inherent part of the material. Users can take it to create interactive applications or just to write on it”, Steimle explains. This vision is not so far away, as a prediction from the “Organic and Printed Electronic Association” shows. The international industry association forecast that flexible consumer electronics will be available for end-users between the years 2017 and 2020.

Further information:

Project:
http://embodied.mpi-inf.mpg.de/research/cuttable-multi-touch-sensor/
Publication:
Simon Olberding, Nan-Wei Gong, John Tiab, Joseph A. Paradiso and Jürgen Steimle. A Cuttable Multi-touch Sensor. In Proc. UIST 2013 (Full Paper). http://embodied.mpi-inf.mpg.de/files/2012/11/ACuttableMultiTouchSensor.pdf
Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnTG_ZTYdVk
Figure:
www.uni-saarland.de/pressefotos
Further questions are answered by:
Dr. Jürgen Steimle
Max Planck Institute for Informatics
Email: jsteimle@mpi-inf.mpg.de
Simon Olberding
Max Planck Institute for Informatics
Email: solberdi@mpi-inf.mpg.de
Editor:
Gordon Bolduan
Science Communication
Competence Center of Computer Science Saarland
Email: bolduan@mmci.uni-saarland.de
Tel: +49 681 302 70741

Friederike Meyer zu Tittingdorf | idw
Further information:
http://www.uni-saarland.de

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Nano-scale process may speed arrival of cheaper hi-tech products
09.11.2018 | University of Edinburgh

nachricht Nuclear fusion: wrestling with burning questions on the control of 'burning plasmas'
25.10.2018 | Lehigh University

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Nonstop Tranport of Cargo in Nanomachines

Max Planck researchers revel the nano-structure of molecular trains and the reason for smooth transport in cellular antennas.

Moving around, sensing the extracellular environment, and signaling to other cells are important for a cell to function properly. Responsible for those tasks...

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Optical Coherence Tomography: German-Japanese Research Alliance hosted Medical Imaging Conference

19.11.2018 | Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nonstop Tranport of Cargo in Nanomachines

20.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Researchers find social cultures in chimpanzees

20.11.2018 | Life Sciences

When AI and optoelectronics meet: Researchers take control of light properties

20.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>