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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Can 3D Printing Protect Your Smartphone from Cyber Criminals?

Draper technology can radically change antenna design

Bank deposits, credit card payments, and other financial transactions are increasingly taking place via smartphones and other wireless devices. However, consumer concerns about privacy and security are holding back wide adoption of new services.

While stronger passwords can help, what if cyber criminals could not begin the process of stealing your data because they could not spot your device’s transmissions? Draper Laboratory is applying advanced additive manufacturing technology to develop antennas that can fit inside handheld devices and transmit narrowband signals that are more difficult to detect than typical broadband transmissions.

By applying its additive manufacturing approach in this area, Draper is developing antennas with drastically reduced power requirements that better integrate with tiny hardware packages, including antennas made with flexible fabrics.

“Engineers are often forced to sacrifice performance to fit antennas and electronics into small packages,” said Brenan McCarragher, Draper’s director of internal research and development. “Draper’s additive manufacturing approach helps design electronics and antennas that conform to a package’s shape, enabling more capable hardware.”

Draper’s additive manufacturing capabilities enable antenna designs that otherwise cannot be built. This is accomplished using aerosol jet metal 3D printing and a patent-pending hybrid 3D-microelectronics process, which combines two of the Laboratory’s advanced technologies: 3D printing and microelectronics. The function-based approach to development reduces manufacturing cost, size, weight, and power requirements, and enables diversified design shape and structure in emerging technology spaces. Draper has demonstrated its approach with a flexible, woven antenna that could be wrapped around a writing utensil to transmit written text to a wall or screen.

Looking towards the future, Draper is exploring the application of its additive manufacturing approach to develop sensing and monitoring systems that provide accurate, real time information, including health symptoms and diagnostics. Wirelessly transmitting this information from patients to clinicians could help head off health problems at an early stage and reduce emergency room visits.

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