If like me you’re the tinkering type, then you’ve probably taken apart a LOT of electronics. It doesn’t take a genius to tear apart a radio, but once you get past the bulk of plastic packaging and down to the guts, you begin to realize that reading the mess of circuits, chips and components is like trying to navigate your way through a foreign country with a map from the 18th century.But it doesn’t have to be so complicated, says Coralie Gourguechon. “Nowadays, we own devices that are too complicated considering the way we really use them,” she says. Which is why the France-based product designer decided to totally deconstruct them. In her most recent project, Gourguechon has created a series of paper electronics—an amplifier, speaker and radio—stripped down to their most basic components and fitted onto a single sheet of paper. “The idea was that the sheet of paper become the object, with no complicated assembly needed,” she says.
The anatomy of each gadget’s operating system is outlined in bold icons, like an anatomical roadmap that teaches users how to build the object. Each graphical representation has a function: the circuit icons teach users what connects to what, the anatomical chart shows the inner workings of the components and the patterns of the paper modules help users to shape their own paper circuit. “I saw this as a map, that could help for the assembly of the product, or in order to repair it,” she says.
All of the components are linked together through a series of lines that are printed with conductive ink, which allows the paper electronics to actually function. To turn the speaker on, for example, you pop out the sound cone in order to amplify your input. To close the circuit and turn it off, you simply lay the cone flat.
It’s hard to believe, but the devices are totally functional, if a little on the weak side. “It does sound quite good considering the simplicity of the device; of course it’s not as clear as a regular speaker, the sound is lower and low frequencies do not go out very well.”
Though this is just a prototype, Gourguechon says that she can envision a day where paper electronics could be part of a massive database of pattern modules that users could simply print out and assemble. I’m particularly interested into open systems and about the oncoming technologies that could help building this alternatives,” she says. I’m looking forward to the progress of printed electronics, both 2D and 3D. I hope that we will find an effective way of solving the problem of electronic waste, which is growing quickly.”