Printing circuitry on a RepRap

Over on the RepRap blog, [Rhys] has been experimenting with molten metal to build circuits with the RepRap.

Last June, [Rhys] found a neat alloy made of Tin, Bismuth, and a little bit of Indium that melts at around 130° C, and has just the right properties to be extruded with a standard RepRap setup. The results were encouraging, but the molten metal quickly dissolved the brass and aluminum nozzles [Rhys] was pushing liquid metal through.

The solution to this problem was solved by anodizing the heck out of a RepRap nozzle to make a hard, protective oxide layer. Already [Rhys] has logged hundreds of hours squirting molten metal out of his RepRap with no signs of any damage to the nozzle.

Since [Rhys] figured out how to print in metal, he whipped up an extremely minimal Sanguino board. You can see this RepRapped PCB running a LED blink program after the break. Now to work on the RepRap pick and place…

Comments

  1. jaf says:

    while this is impressive it is also over a month old a little disappointing for some one like me who regularly checks the reprap blog

  2. conundrum says:

    Nice, wonder if he can plate copper onto the printed tracks to increase the current capacity?

  3. qwkhyena says:

    Got to love it! I can’t wait to start seeing repraps extruding plastic, electronic traces and dropping components all in one unit.

  4. Conundrum says:

    Another worthwhile trick is to use sodium silicate to coat the nozzle.

  5. mikesowbug says:

    You might want to spell that “RepRapped.”

  6. NewCommentor1283 says:

    wow, really? we can “print” solder now? and on the same machine as 3d plastic printing?

    its just BEGGING for an arm… (pick&place arm)

    JUST DONT GIVE IT LEGS!!!

  7. Dax says:

    The obvious problem is, that when you print traces with this metal, you can’t solder parts to them with ordinary tin because it has a higher melting point.

    Melting the traces themselves may result in them running away and drawing into a blob and ruining your whole setup. So, as you can see in the pictures, all the components have to be pre-placed in a plastic mold and the traces drawn into plastic channels in the mold. This works, but it’s slow and wasteful, and doesn’t provide any cooling for the components that remain encased in plastic.

  8. conundrum says:

    Another useful idea, suspend iron particles in the mix and induction heat them to make the alloy liquefy to solder parts together.

  9. Can anyone find the schematic and parts list?

  10. mess_maker says:

    While this is an interesting project, I almost wonder if he would be better off printing an etch resist layer of plastic with the rep rap and then etching the board and removing the printed later…

    • phiren says:

      Depends on what your end goal is.

      If you want a nice clean PCB, then that would probably be a good idea.

      But if you want to send a series of self replicating robot to an asteroid that mine and process materials found on the asteroid to reproduce themselves (and anything else needed), then not having to produce an etchant might be a plus.

  11. Nvoid82 says:

    Now all that is needed is a pick and place delta arm, and the machines will have the ability to begin their revolution.

  12. Dark Chaos says:

    I’ve actually seen this kind of printing method used before with a training device known as the Nida Modular Trainer. Link, http://www.nida.com/

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