Printed Electronic Papercrafts

This research investigates leveraging digital fabrication with electronic papercrafts. The field of digital fabrication, especially 3D printing, is taking a central place in HCI research. Currently, the most widely used material for 3D printing is plastic. Compared to plastic, paper is inexpensive, lightweight, ubiquitous, and environmentally friendly, and easily affords creative expression. Unlike plastic we can fold, bend, or cut paper; and draw, paint, or print on it. And as electronic components become smaller, thinner and lighter they can be attached and embedded in artifacts made of paper. We can draw or print circuits on paper and in place of soldering, we can glue or tape electronic components.

While traditional paper crafts commonly cut, bend, and fold paper in its natural sheet form, cutting and laminating many sheets together creates solid objects similar to what 3D printing methods produce. In this project, I integrate electronics into 3D printed papercraft and ask: What unique expressive and technical possibilities might this combination enable? How can we integrate unique combinations of digital fabrication technologies and handcrafting skills with paper and electronics? How would we invite and support more designers with varying abilities to this exploration?

This project was initiated while I was at the Autodesk Pier 9 residency in 2017, and continued in a collaboration with Tung Ta DucLining Yao, and Ryo Suzuki. We developed a set of fabrication techniques and a design editor to afford the integration of electronic-based interactive functionality into 3D printed papercrafts.