To create their contraption, the team turned to 3D printing. They used a custom 3D printer called MultiFab to make the T-shaped gizmo, which has a small circular part that changes color when the T's crossbars stretch. MultiFab did everything, from printing the device's thin, sensor-laden plastic skin to depositing and curing the liquid that serves as its semiconductor. "In nature, networks of sensors and interconnects are called sensorimotor pathways. We were trying to see whether we could replicate sensorimotor pathways inside a 3-D-printed object.
Both printers use XYZ's proprietary PLA filament, which is non-toxic in case your kid decides to eat the green hamburger they just conjured. The printers have a resolution of 100 microns, which is far from what the industry considers high resolution, but a lower quality is to be expected for the price. If you fork over an extra $250 for the separately-sold 3-D Scanner Pro, you can make low-res 3-D clones of every object in your home.
In all likelihood, 3-D printing will forever remain a niche thing. But if you or your kid happen to reside in that niche, making your own stuff has become crazy accessible. Much of the reason is software: Microsoft's Paint 3-D app in the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update makes designing 3-D objects super simple, and kids can even print out their own Minecraft creations. But the hardware is following suit, as 3-D printers are now much cheaper and easier to use. For less than $300, you can now buy a capable and beginner-friendly 3-D printer.
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