ProtoSpray takes displays beyond 2D

A team at Bristol University has developed ProtoSpray, an interactive display that can be sprayed in any shape.

Using a novel combination of sprayable electronics and 3D printing, ProtoSpray  allows the creation of displays on surfaces that go beyond the usual rectangular and 2D shapes.

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“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,” said Ollie Hanton, PhD student and lead author of the research.

Hanton’s paper on the innovation was presented and received an honourable mention at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI).

According to Bristol University, the aim of the EPSRC-funded research was to broaden the scope of how people can interact with digital technologies. The ProtoSpray process, developed in collaboration with the MIT media lab, opens up potential for makers, hobbyists and researchers to develop interactive objects of different shapes.

The ProtoSpray process opens up potential to develop interactive objects of different (arbitrary) shapes (Image: Bristol University)

In a statement, Hanton said: “3D printers have enabled personal fabrication of objects but our work takes this even further to where we print not only plastic but also other materials that are essential for creating displays.

“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.

“Our vision is to make screen/display a fundamental expressive medium in the same way people currently use ink, paint, or clay.”

Dr Anne Roudaut, Associate Professor in Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Bristol, who supervised the research, said the next step would be to create a machine that can 3D print and spray automatically onto the 3D printed objects.