A team from KAUST is using 3D printing to develop a cheap, reliable system to signal danger1.
The system, developed by a team, works by saturating high-risk areas with disposable packages of sensors (sensor nodes) that are linked wirelessly to fewer fixed nodes that raise the alarm.
This proof-of-concept study designed small sensors that can pick up heat and low humidity, both hallmarks of forest fires, as well as hydrogen sulfide, a toxic industrial gas. These small sensors were inkjet-printed onto a 3D-printed, 2-cm3 node containing a battery and microelectronic circuit board along with an antenna that transmits in any direction.
Currently the nodes are built using a combination of 3D and inkjet printing because no 3D printer can accurately deposit all the materials into the complex design. However, they will soon be made by a single machine, which will drastically reduce manufacturing time.