The Smart Cap and 3D Printing

The Lempert Report
August 13, 2015

A spoiled milk indicator printed right at home!

PHIL: Imagine being able to download 3D-printing files from the Internet with customized shapes and colors to print out useful devices at home! Well it actually might not be too long before consumers can just hit print!  Take for example these innovative engineers who are really putting 3D printing to the test with a wireless “smart cap” for a milk carton that can detect signs of spoilage.

Liwei Lin Professor, Mechanical Engineering & Co-Director of the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center The Smartcap works by putting electrical wires into the plastic cap of the milk, and this electrical element is a capacitor and a conductor work as a sensor.  It's picking up the electrical property of the milk, and if your milk is spoiled it gives out a signal that it's spoiled. But this has to be converted into an electrical signal.  The good thing for this is that there is no battery involved on the cap for the reader, and the reader  eventually  could be used on your smartphone. 

The device is perfect for 3D printing type of manufacturing process, the reason is it's  a complicated 3 dimensional structure, and if we use 3D printing to make this kind of a device, you can actually do it at home.   So in the next 2 - 3 years it’s very likely that we will have a 3D printer that could print out electronic components inside the plastic structure.  Any arbitrary shape and could potentially do many different things.  

So I think down the road if we have something like Smartcap that could potentially help consumers as well as the manufacturer to make sure that the ingredient or the food they are using is safe, that would be a tremendous help in terms of money, safety and other things