In this posting, Supply Chain Matters continues to provide reader awareness to up and coming item-level sensing and tracking technology that has the potential to benefit specific industry supply chains. We previously highlighted the initial development of a premium wine as well as premium liquor bottle smart-labels that utilize NFC or smartphone technology.  UC_Berkeley Smart Cap

Engineers at UC Berkeley, in collaboration with colleagues at Taiwan’s National Chiao Tung University, are expanding a portfolio of 3D printing technology that includes electrical components, such as resistors, inductors, capacitors and integrated wireless electrical sensing systems. They are now reportedly applying such technology by printing a wireless “smart cap” for a milk carton that can detect signs of spoilage using embedded sensors.

According to an update published in UC Berkeley News: “Major advances over the past 10 years have enabled the creation of a wide array of 3D-printed products, including prosthetics, medical implants, toys, vehicle parts, building materials and even food. What had been missing from the repertoire until now was the ability to produce sensitive electronic components.” Utilizing 3D printing methods, researchers developed a “smart cap” that can detect the changes in electrical signals that accompany increased levels of bacteria, which equates to a spoilage condition. The cap can be monitored by an RFID device, and perhaps someday in the not too distant future, retailers and consumers can utilize a smartphone or RFID device to check the freshness of certain food.

The researchers point out that while using current integrated circuits made by batch fabrication might not be practical from a unit cost perspective, the use of custom 3D printed microelectronic devices are far more promising for such uses. Further noted is that UC Berkeley researchers are developing this technology for health and pharmaceutical monitoring applications.

Supply Chain Matters could not help but wonder the many other unique item-level monitoring opportunities that could become available utilizing 3D printing methods.