Soon, your video game joystick can be 100% 3D printed

Researchers at MIT, USA, created 3D printed objects that can detect how the user interacts with them. The mechanism identifies how power is applied and responds in real time, making it possible to use it in interactive input devices such as video game joysticks.

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The new system uses electrodes embedded in structures made of metamaterials, elements divided into a grid of repeating cells. Dedicated 3D editing software developed by scientists allows the construction of these interactive devices quickly and intuitively.

“Metamaterials can support different mechanical functionalities. By creating a handle with these materials, we can also know if the door handle is being turned and by how many degrees at the same time”, explains engineering student Jun Gong, lead author of the study.

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As metamaterials are artificial elements that have a pre-drawn grid of cells, when a force is applied to them, some of these inner cells stretch or are compressed. Taking advantage of this feature, the researchers created flexible cells made with two opposite walls of conductive filament and two others with filaments that do not conduct electricity.

When moving the handle of a joystick, for example, the so-called shear conducting cells react to the force applied to them, changing the distance and area of ​​overlap between the electrodes. With a capacitive sensing system, these changes can be used to calculate the amplitude, direction, rotation and acceleration of movements.

“This will enable new intelligent environments in which our objects can sense every interaction with them. A chair made with our material will be able to detect the user’s body when he sits and trigger specific functions such as turning on the light or the TV, or collect data to correct body posture”, adds engineering professor Stefanie Mueller, co-author of the study.

Easy to use

To make the manufacturing process more Quick and easy, researchers created a 3D editor called MetaSense. With it, it is possible to manually integrate the detection of a metamaterial design or let the computer program define the ideal place to place the conductive cells.

The software allows a designer to create devices Flexible input options such as a sound volume controller designed to fit in the user’s hand, sending signals to a digital synthesizer. “The tool will simulate how the object will be deformed when different forces are applied, and then it will use that simulated deformation to calculate which cells can interact best,” says Cong.

Software detects the force applied to the metamaterial (Image: Reproduction/MIT)504840

To print more complex structures, scientists need to overcome some challenges, such as developing capable 3D printers to work with several materials at the same time, without harming or interfering with the electrical properties of each of them during the manufacturing process.

“In a multi-material 3D printer, a nozzle would be used for a non-conductive filament and the other for the conductive filament. But this is quite complicated because the two materials can have very different properties, requiring different speeds and temperatures. As 3D technology advances, this will be much easier for users in the future,” predicts Jun Gong.

Source: MIT

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