[Jesse Burstyn] and some colleagues at Queen’s University and Carleton University (both in Canada) are delivering a paper at the INTERACT 2015 about PrintPut, their system for printing sensors directly into 3D printed objects. Using a printer with dual extrusion and conductive ABS filament, they have successfully formed capacitive touch sensors, digital resistive sensors, and analog resistive sensors.
In practice, this means they can print buttons, sliders, and even touch pads directly into objects. They also have a design for several pressure sensors and a flex sensor. The system includes scripts for the Rhinoceros 3D CAD package. Designers can create a model in any CAD package they want (including Rhinoceros) and then use these scripts to define the interactive areas.
Sure, you could stuff traditional sensors into the object, but it is difficult to, for example, match contours in the object. It also means increased manual finishing time after the object prints. We’ve covered a similar process using carbomorph. Of course, you could always just print with copper wire, instead. You can see some actual prints made with the PrintPut process in the video below.