Purdue University’s printing process turns any paper into a keyboard.

At Purdue University, engineers have developed a new technology that turns pieces of paper from notebooks into human-machine interfaces. Purdue University’s processes can also make food packaging interactive. The university has developed a simple printing process that turns any paper or cardboard package into a keyboard, keyboard, or other person’s machine interface. Researcher Ramses Martinez said the process was the first to show self-powered paper electronic devices. The team developed a process that makes highly fluorinated molecules repellent of water, oil and dust by applying them to paper. The resulting all-around coating prints multiple layers of circuitry on paper without applying ink from one layer to the next.

Because the innovative technology can get energy from contact with the user, vertical pressure sensors that do not require an external battery can be built. This technology is compatible with traditional large-scale printing processes. It can be implemented quickly and easily, transforming cardboard packaging or paper into smart packaging or intelligent human-machine interfaces. The team designed a standard piece of paper that can be used in the music player interface, allowing users to select songs, play them, and change the volume. Some of the technologies developed by the team have been patented.

There is no indication yet when the technology will appear on commercial products. However, universities are looking for companies to license the technology. Perhaps one day, the technology could be used to relay interactive information about whether food in a package is safe to eat, or to ask users to sign the arriving package and drag the box with their fingers to identify themselves.

Purdue University's printing process turns any paper into a keyboard.