3D printed circuit boards using conductive ink

The thought of using a 3D printer to fabricate PCBs is tantalizing and the good news is that it’s a reality. This project shows that it’s possible to use a special printer head to apply traces to an extruded substrate.

This is similar to the point-to-point 3D printer circuits with one big upgrade. Now the traces can be printed directly onto the ABS using conductive ink. The process starts with the design files, which are used to model a substrate that has a trench for each trace. A Makerbot then prints out this model. Once complete, the ABS extruder head is swapped for a special ink head. Each trace is then filled with the conductive fluid, which is kept in place by the trench walls until it can dry. We think this improves on the trace printing techniques we’ve seen before because it doesn’t require your printer heat to use molten metals.

The circuit above uses printed traces for the high and low side of an LED circuit. It’s a bit rough at the edges, but it shows a lot of promise. Don’t miss the demo video embedded after the jump.

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Macetech’s LED glasses prototype

While there was no mention of it on their blog, [Garret] from mace tech was spied wearing some pretty cool looking LED glasses at MakerFaire last weekend. This morning, we noticed a Lytro gallery of the glasses and they look pretty cool (as a toy, not a fashion accessory). For those who haven’t played with Lytro, you can click around and refocus the image. Neat right? Back to the glasses.

Someone who we’re guessing is [Garret] spoke up on Reddit this morning explaining some tech specs and dropping a video of them in action.

The shades are a 20×6 matrix (with some pixel missing of course) driven by SPI from an integrated Arduino-compatible in the right temple. There is a Lithium-Polymer battery on the left temple. You can charge the glasses through USB, and download new code to it over the same connection. A button on the right temple allows switching between modes or auto cycling animated patterns.

Win $40,000 for squirting plastic out of a nozzle

3D printers such as the RepRap and Makerbot turn spools of plastic filament into just about any object imaginable. There’s a problem though: this filament costs about $40 a kilogram, and raw plastic pellets cost about 1/10th of that. Obviously, there’s a lot of room for improvement. The folks at Inventables are throwing $40,000 at the problem in a contest to build a machine that takes plastic pellets and turns it into usable plastic filament.

The object is simple: build a device that takes ABS or PLA pellets and turns them into a 1.75mm filament. The machine has to cost less than $250, be able to add colorant to the plastic, and be usable in a 3D printer. The winner gets $40,000, a laser cutter, a 3D printer, and a CNC milling machine courtesy of Inventables. Sign up on the official contest website and don’t be shy about sending your progress into the Hackaday tip line

If you’d like to get started, here’s a great page that goes over the basics of plastic extrusion, and a few attempts (1, 2) from [Adrian Bowyer] and [Forrest Higgs] that show exactly how hard this is. There’s also the Filabot that had a successful Kickstarter, but there’s apparently been no (or very limited) progress in the four months since the Kickstarter. I’ve even given this idea a go, but am currently stuck at manufacturing a proper auger. To put this in perspective, this is the moonshot of the current crop of 3D printers; a simple device to lower the barrier of entry to 3D printing is desperately needed, and we’ve got to give props to the Inventables crew for putting this contest together.

More Kinect holograms from [programming4fun]

[programing4fun] has been playing around with his Kinect-based 3D display and building a holographic WALL-E controllable with a Windows phone. It’s a ‘kid safe’ version of his Terminator personal assistant that has voice control and support for 3d anaglyph and shutter glasses.

When we saw [programming4fun]‘s Kinect hologram setup last summer we were blown away. By tracking a user’s head with a Kinect, [programming] was able to display a 3D image using only a projector. This build was adapted into a 3D multitouch table and real life portals, so we’re glad to see [programming4fun] refining his code and coming up with some really neat builds.

In addition to robotic avatars catering to your every wish, [programming4fun] also put together a rudimentary helicopter flight simulator controlled by tilting cell phone. It’s the same DirectX 9 heli from [programming]‘s original build. with the addition of Desert Strike-esque top-down graphics. This might be the future of gaming here, so we’ll keep our eyes out for similar head-tracking 3D builds.

As always, videos after the break.

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3D printing with Nylon for a more useful objects

[taulman] over on Instructables has been working on his own version of a 3D printer. Unlike the usual PLA or ABS filament all the RepRaps and Makerbots use, this printer uses nylon to make parts with very interesting properties.

Most extrusion printers are designed to print with ABS (a very hard plastic that melts around 220-230° C) or PLA (a somewhat softer plastic that melts at about 180° C). [taulman] is using Nylon 6, a very slippery and bendable plastic that melts around 320° C (about 600 degrees Fahrenheit). He’s doing this with a hot end of his own design and a ‘spiky’ extruder bolt that allows high-temperature thermoplastics to be extruded into any shape imaginable.

For the longest time, the 3D printer community has been using low-temperature thermoplastics such as PLA and ABS. There are obvious benefits to these materials: it’s pretty easy to source a spool of filament, and the low melting point of these plastics makes building a printer easier and safer. Now that [taulman] has the high-temperature plastic nut cracked, he’s moving on to easily-machiniable Delrin and transparent Polycarbonate. Very cool, and hopefully in a year’s time we’ll have a choice of what material to run in our printers.

After the break, there are a few videos [taulman] put up showing his printer at work and the properties of his 3D printed objects. It looks like [taulman] can print objects that are impossible on any other 3D printer we’ve seen; the flexible iPhone case probably couldn’t be made on any other DIY machine.

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Volt teardown shows more than just what’s under the hood

The Chevrolet Volt is one of the top contenders in mass-market electric vehicles. Now you can get a look at the components that make up the electrical system with this Chevy Volt teardown article.

The adventure starts with a look at the 288 cell battery. It forms a T shape and takes up the space that forms the hump down the center of the interior of a vehicle. Theses have a liquid cooling system build into the enclosure to make sure things don’t get too hot during use or charging. The sights are then set on the control and monitoring hardware, and there’s a lot of it. In fact, the image above is an overview of the eighteen modules that pull the new plug-in EV technology together. If you’re brave enough to void the warranty on one of these, this should be a helpful road map to get you started.

Has anyone seen a teardown of the home charging station for one of these?