Welcome to Engineering Update, brought to you by Mouser Electronics, the electronic components distributor with the widest selection of the newest products. I’m Melissa Barnes, Associate Editor of ECN. In this week’s headlines:

Interactive electronic skin lights up when touched

Drone It Yourself turns random objects into RC quadrotors


Twinkind 3D photo booth scans your body in a flash

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have created a thin and interactive sensor network that can be layered onto the surfaces of virtually any shape. The device gives out light when touched, and could be used to create smart bandages that monitor vitals in a patient in real time, wallpapers that act as touchscreens, or even humanoid robots with a sense of touch.

The researchers deposited a thin layer of polymer on top of a silicon wafer. They then used standard semiconductor manufacturing techniques to layer a transistor, an organic LED, and a pressure sensor on top of each other. After peeling off the plastic from the silicon base, they were left with a freestanding film with an embedded sensor network. The result was a matrix of 16 by 16 sensors that is highly interactive – with a response time of just one millisecond.

Currently, the engineers are working on manufacturing a more advanced version of the sensors that can respond to temperature and light as well as touch.

Jasper van Loenen's Drone It Yourself project turns just about anything into a quadrotor drone with the addition of a few motors and a control unit. All the plastic parts can be 3D printed in ABS, with the appropriate files made available on van Loenen's website. In addition to some nuts and bolts, would-be drone masters will need to track down four motors and propellers (two left- and two right-rotating) as well as all the necessary batteries and electronics.

The potential performance of the DIY quadrotors boasts significant carrying capacity. One example shows a bicycle wheel working as a UAV. Since the product is remote controlled, van Loenen notes that technically this is considered a UAV rather than a drone, though we agree you shouldn't let that get in the way of a clever name.

A company called Twinkind in Hamburg, Germany is offering a 3D portrait service where the lengthy scanning process of the human body has been made as quick and painless as having a photo taken. Like a traditional photography studio, you simply stand inside Twinkind's proprietary photogrammetry 3D scanner.

While inside the scanner, a ring of cameras simultaneously snap photos of you from different angles. Software then analyzes the photos and automatically generates 3D geometry. The photo is then mapped to the digital you, and your Mini Me is ready for printing in about 30 minutes.

The prints are made from a composite powder material that is laser-sintered layer by layer, giving it a clay-like surface. Full-color 3D printing is still an expensive process though, and the price is dependent on the size of the print.


That wraps up this week’s report. Be sure to join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. I’m Melissa Barnes, and this has been your Engineering Update

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