Great innovation is when a number of historically unconnected ideas are merged to produce an unexpected and previously unseen outcome. It’s exciting when the ideas are new technologies developed for different purposes, typically used in unrelated fields and perhaps never before imagined in the new combination.

How about this combination of 3d printing, micro-electronics, wireless communication and biochemistry?

3D printing has come a long way in the last few years, but most of the items produced by 3D printers are all plastic. Printing electrical components would allow these machines to be much more useful, and a team at UC Berkeley might have a solution. To test this circuit printing system, the team created a smart cap that can detect food spoilage with the aid of 3D printed embedded sensors.

Polymers are the preferred material for 3D printing for many reasons, including their flexibility and low cost. They don’t work well for electronic circuits, though. To get around this limitation, the Berkeley researchers printed their circuit design in a combination of plastic and wax (wax standing in for the conductive parts). When the wax was removed, it left hollow tubes which could then be filled with conductive metal, and there you have your circuit. Via

Will this cap make it into production? May be, maybe not. But it’s working proof of the possibility and a trigger for all kinds of other ideas that could work along similar lines.

Image credits