Cheap and easily customizable, 3D printed devices are perfect for assistive technology like prosthetics or "smart" pill bottles that can help patients remember to take their daily medications. But these plastic parts don't have electronics, which means they can't monitor how patients are using them. Now, National Science Foundation-funded scientists have developed 3D printed devices that can track and store their own use -- without using batteries or electronics. Instead, this system uses a method called backscatter through which a device can share information by reflecting signals that have been transmitted to it with an antenna. Previously, the team developed the first 3D printed objects that connect to Wi-Fi without electronics. These purely plastic devices can measure if a detergent bottle is running low and then automatically order more online.
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