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Scientists Boost Home WiFi Signals via DIY 3D Printed Reflectors

Monday, November 13th, 2017 (9:50 am) - Score 880
3d reflector wifi boost

A new study from a team of researchers working out of Dartmouth College, and the Universities of Washington, Irvine and Columbia in the USA, has demonstrated how it’s possible to easily build a low-cost 3D printed reflector that can be used to improve your home WiFi wireless network signals.

Hopefully most people are already familiar with the so-called Cantenna approach, where it’s possible to improve WiFi reception at home by doing a basic bit of DIY and turning a spare tin can into a simple but effective directional antenna (this allows you to focus the WiFi signal towards a specific direction). But if not, check out Page 2 of our WiFi Tips Guide.

Now a team of scientists have decided to focus their attention towards this method and in doing so they’ve created a system that fabricates a special 3D reflector, which is specifically optimised to improve the WiFi signal for the unique layout of your specific house (Research Paper: Customizing Indoor Wireless Coverage via 3D-Fabricated Reflectors). The result is a reflector that’s uniquely shaped to work the best for your specific environment.

Introduction

Judicious control of indoor wireless coverage is crucial in built environments. It enhances signal reception, reduces harmful interference, and raises the barrier for malicious attackers. Existing methods are either costly, vulnerable to attacks, or hard to configure. We present a low-cost, secure, and easy-to-configure approach that uses an easily-accessible, 3D-fabricated reflector to customize wireless coverage.

With input on coarse-grained environment setting and preferred coverage (e.g., areas with signals to be strengthened or weakened), the system computes an optimized reflector shape tailored to the given environment. The user simply 3D prints the reflector and places it around a Wi-Fi access point [broadband router] to realize the target coverage.

We conduct experiments to examine the efficacy and limits of optimized reflectors in different indoor settings. Results show that optimized reflectors coexist with a variety of Wi-Fi APs and correctly weaken or enhance signals in target areas by up to 10 or 6 dB, resulting to throughput changes by up to -63.3% or 55.1%.

The downside of this is that every reflector needs to be custom built to suit to your own unique home environment and router / signal, which obviously requires a 3D printer and their mapping system (the team call their system WiPrint).

Most people don’t yet own a 3D printer at home or even one that’s big enough to construct a suitably sized reflector, but times are changing and they have become much more affordable. The team has also setup a project website that offers a nice overview of their approach (here), although it doesn’t look as if they’ve made their system available for the public to try.

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Mark Jackson

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.

Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Ultraspeedy

    Just cover a bit of cardboard in tinfoil Fire up software like Inssider/vistumbler/various similar software, note the signal stength. Bend the cardboard and see which position/bend improves things. Takes all of 5 minutes without having to use an expensive 3D printer or the time it takes to print the thing out.

  2. Tim

    I think the Dartmouth College involved is the one in New Hampshire, USA.

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