An e-ink-printed multitouch sensor customizable with scissors

October 10, 2013
cuttable_touch_sensor

Printable multitouch sensor can be cut to make almost any surface interactive (credit: Saarland University)

Computer scientists at Saarland University in Germany and the MIT Media Lab have developed a printable multitouch sensor film that you can cut to any desired shape.

a) Backside of the fabricated multitouch sensor featuring a grid of 6×6 electrodes. b) To guide the user, the front side features fine printed lines (credit: Saarland University)

Electronic-ink wires are printed (using conductive inkjet printing) on flexible, thin film in one of two configurations.

Star (left) and tree (right) topologies (credit: Saarland University)

Star topology has the controller in the center (supports basic forms like triangles, rectangles, or ovals). Tree topology also has the controller in its center connected to each electrode  separately (supports large areas)..

The researchers were also able to combine both layouts in a space-saving way, so that the sensor supports all basic forms.

Multitouch sensor prototype (credit: Saarland University)

Examples of uses include interactive walls used for discussions and brainstorming and novel ultra-thin computer interfaces with irregular shapes.

“The factory costs are so low that printing our A4-size [8.27 x 11.69 or 210 x 297 mm] film on our special printer in the lab costs us about one U.S. dollar,” says Max-Planck Institute for Informatics researcher Jürgen Steimle.

Possible substrates include paper, cardboard, acrylic and plywood. For use with transparent materials, the sensor grid could be made transparent using indium tin oxide (ITO).

The Organic and Printed Electronic Association has forecast that flexible consumer electronics will be available for end users between 2017 and 2020.

References:

  • Simon Olberding et al., A Cuttable Multi-touch Sensor, Proceedings UIST 2013, 2013