How to 3D-Print a Human-Machine Interface Paper

A team of engineers from Purdue University, Indiana, developed an innovative printing technology, transforming simple paper into the first wireless human-machine interface.


Your paper notebook could become your next tablet.”

What sounds like a science fiction claim is in fact the title of a recent article by the Purdue University, Indiana USA. A team of engineers from this university developed a technology to turn normal paper into a human-machine interface, which is the first ever kind of self-powered electronic paper interface. 

Bring The Paper to Life

The researchers, led by Ramses Martinez, assistant professor at Pardue, created a simple printing process transforming any paper into a keyboard/pad or other easy-to-use interfaces. This became possible through an omniphobic coating, which is made with highly fluorinated molecules that allow multiple layers to be printed without smearing the ink from one layer to the next. Thanks to that coating, the paper even becomes repellent to water, oil and dust. 

The technology behind also makes the production of  vertical pressure sensors, that do not need any battery, as they charge themselves through the contact with the user, easier.  All in all this is a big advantage to common paper interfaces that require wires and batteries, making them less user-friendly.


“The fabrication of multifunctional electronic devices on ubiquitous paper substrates is gaining considerable attention due to their low cost, environmental friendliness, light weight, and flexibility. Unfortunately, the development of paper-based electronics is subject to significant challenges, such as rapid degradation with moisture, battery dependence, and limited compatibility with existing mass production technologies,” the team states in its scientific abstract. 

Further Steps

The technology is also compatible with conventional large-scale printing processes, enabling it to be easily adopted for and implemented in cardboard packaging production, for example. Being aware of the opportunities their technology offers the team worked together with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent some of its technologies related to robots and other design innovations.

“I envision this technology to facilitate the user interaction with food packaging, to verify if the food is safe to be consumed, or enabling users to sign the package that arrives at home by dragging their finger over the box to properly identify themselves as the owner of the package,”

Martinez said.


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