Computer scientists from Saarland University have developed a technique that could virtually enable anyone to print out customized displays and touchscreens on their own. Researcher Jurgen Steimle presented this approach by printing the display on a regular inkjet printer. The DIY display is electroluminescent; it emits light under the action of an electric current. The same effect is used to illuminate dashboards in vehicles at night. Steimle is head of the research group “Embodied Interaction” within the Cluster of Excellence “Multimodal Computing and Interaction.” A regular home printer could be used to print wafer-thin displays onto paper, so these printed displays might present custom designed icons or even respond to touch.
The technique developed is as follows: Users can create a digital template of the display they are designing, using software like Microsoft Word or Powerpoint. Making use of one of the two methods the researchers have been presenting, the template can then simply be printed out. Both methods can be performed by laymen in minutes. To cover an entire standard printer page with a display layer costs around 20 Euros, the most expensive part being the special ink that is required. The method is not limited to paper, so plastics, leather, ceramics, stone metal or wood could be used as a base for all kinds of two-dimensional and three-dimensional printed shapes.
“So far, nothing like this has been possible,” said researcher Simon Olberding. “Displays were produced for the masses, never for one individual user.” The process, dubbed “PrintScreen” might just be the beginning of better things to come. Lead researcher Jürgen Steimle said, “And if we now combine our approach with 3D printing, we can print three-dimensional objects, which are able to display information and respond to touch as well.” The researchers are presenting their award winning approach at the computer trade show Cebit in Hanover from March 16th to March 20th.