While it has been a topic of discussion against many people over the years, it’s finally been proven by researches at Dartmouth University – 3D printed signal reflectors, made up of a thin layer of plastic and metal, can make drastic improvements to the quality of wireless signals (both wireless speed and connectivity) around a home, and at a much cheaper price than routers or access points!
If you’ve heard of this trick before, then you’re probably familiar with the idea of using an aluminum soda pop can placed behind a router to redirect the full force of the WiFi signal into the area of operation, rather than deadening walls and other obstructions.
The team of researchers, led by Dartmouth College, were able to create a custom reflector after analyzing a given space. The reflector can then optimize the WiFi signal in the given room. The data was then fed into a custom program called WiPrint which then provided details for the optimal plastic reflector and then printed it on a 3D printer.
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Once the plastic object has been printed, the last step is to cover it in aluminum foil and place it on your router.
Not only is this a very cheap way to increase your wireless speed and connectivity, but it also solves other problems which people experience with WiFi signals; such as allowing you to prevent your WiFi signal from reaching places where you don’t need it (great for security, and ensuring neighbours can’t access your network).
The total cost (if you have access to a 3D printer) is less than $35 to provide a custom solution for your room and router. The result is a $35 piece of kit which rivals antennas which can cost thousands of dollars.
The team of researchers are now looking at ways to produce the reflectors using a material other than 3D printed plastic. The perfect solution would be to create an object which can adjust it’s shape to adapt to different rooms. While this solution doesn’t necessarily expand the coverage area of your router, it does ensure that you get a much stronger wireless signal in the areas that you need it most, without losing any of your signal to obstructions, deadening walls and alike.
You can read the full report on EurekAlert.