Spray-On Touchscreen Could Change the Way We Interact With Technology

The new technology, dubbed ProtoSpray, is made from a combination of 3D printing techniques and sprayable electronic technology.
Chris Young

Researchers at the University of Bristol have come up with a new kind of touchscreen display that, impressively, can be sprayed onto almost any surface.

The tech, which combines 3D printing techniques and sprayable electronic technology.

The technology could have widespread implications in smart devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) as the researchers hope it will encourage developers and manufacturers to create interactive objects of all shapes and sizes.


'Liberated' displays

The demonstration video below highlights the adaptability of ProtoSpray by showing it how it works on a cube, a hemisphere shape, and a bendable Möbius strip-shaped tube.

“We have liberated displays from their 2D rectangular casings by developing a process so people can build interactive objects of any shape. The process is very accessible: it allows end-users to create objects with conductive plastic and electroluminescent paint even if they don’t have expertise in these materials,” Ollie Hanton, Ph.D. student and lead author of the research, said in a press release.

Mr. Hanton’s paper was presented and received an honorable mention at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) — a prestigious academic conference in the field of human-computer interaction.

The paper outlines the creation of ProtoSpray, which combines a 3D-printed substrate, interconnected electrodes set out in a preset design, and an evenly distributed layer of electroluminescent (EL) ink, in any configuration that is needed.

Making touchscreens an 'expressive medium'

The finished products partially light up when en electrical charge is applied. Seeing as the ProtoSpray can respond to simple touch inputs, it could be used to do anything from opening office doors to guiding visitors around and interactive museum, New Atlas explains.

"Using 3D printing of plastics and spraying of materials that light up when electricity is applied, we can support makers to produce objects of all shapes that can display information and detect touch," adds Hanton. "Our vision is to make screen/display a fundamental expressive medium in the same way people currently use ink, paint, or clay."