Simple 3D-Printed Circuitry

One of the problems encountered thus far with 3D-printing circuits with conductive filament is that it doesn’t really bond to anything, let alone solder, so how does one use it?

[mikey77] wrote an Instructable showing how to print circuit boards and create simple circuits, using shape of the plastic as a way to control the circuit. We like how he used using the flexible nature of the filament to make buttons, with two layers of conductive material coming together with the press of a finger.

He also created a linear potentiometer with a 3D-printed wiper that increases the ohms of the connection the farther it’s pushed. The filament doesn’t have the same conductivity as copper so [mikey] was able make resistors by stringing pieces of conductive plastic between two leads. There are also some hexagonal touch pads that turned out very nice.

We’ve published a lot of posts about DIY circuitry, including a previous effort of [mikey]’s, 3D-printed solderless circuits, plus another post about printing point-to-point circuits on a 3D printer.

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Using Nanotubes to Strengthen 3D Prints

3D printing has brought the production of plastic parts to the desktops and workshops of makers the world over, primarily through the use of FDM technology. The problem this method is that when squirting layers of hot plastic out to create a part, the subsequent vertical layers don’t adhere particularly well to each other, leading to poor strength and delamination problems. However, carbon nanotubes may hold some promise in solving this issue.

A useful property of carbon nanotubes is that they can be heated with microwave energy. Taking advantage of this, researchers coated PLA filament in a polymer film containing carbon nanotubes. As the layers of the print are laid down, the nanotubes are primarily located at the interface between the vertical layers. By using microwaves to heat the nanotubes, this allows the print to be locally heated at the interface between layers, essentially welding the layers together. As far as results are concerned, the team reports an impressive 275% improvement in fracture strength over traditionally printed parts.

The research paper is freely available, which we always like to see. There’s other methods to improve your print strength, too – you could always try annealing your printed parts.

[Thanks 𐂀[d] 𐂅 for the tip]

Animated Bathroom Sign

Once upon a time, pants were created. After a while, women were allowed to wear them too. This has made a lot of people happy and been widely regarded as a good thing. There is a problem, however – bathroom signage is largely predicated on the idea that there are two rigid genders which all humans must be sorted into, and they’re defined by whether you’re wearing pants or a dress. [Robb Godshaw], among others, disagrees with this, and set about building a gender fluid bathroom sign.

The sign assembled on the motor.

The project seeks to exploit the traditional symbols of “male” and “female” – the human figures wearing pants or a dress – by creating a sign that switches between the two every 15 seconds. This is likely to initially confuse – one might imagine the bathroom is actually changing its gender designation rapidly, forcing users to complete their business in an incredibly short timeframe. However, the message behind the project is to highlight the absurdity of defining gender by pants, colours, or indeed in a binary nature at all. [Robb] also helpfully points out that all humans have to pass waste, regardless of gender.

The sign is built with 3D-printed components, using a crank mechanism to actuate the moving parts. The mechanism is designed to give equal time to the pants and dress configurations. [Robb] shares the important details necessary to replicate the build, such as how to assemble the metal crank pin insert with a paperclip and a lighter. It’s particularly tidy the way the mechanism is integrated into the parts themselves. In true hacker style, the motor is a standard microwave oven turntable motor, which can be harvested easily from a junk appliance and can be plugged straight into mains power to operate, if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t, check out our primer on the topic.

Overall, the project is a great use of hacker techniques, like 3D printing and harvesting parts, to make a statement and start a conversation, while being fun, to boot. We’ve also seen some of [Robb]’s work before, like this giant hamster wheel for people. Video after the break.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: A 3D Printer Management System

Since the first desktop 3D printers, people have been trying to figure out a way to manage desktop 3D printers and turn them into tiny little automated factories. One of the first efforts was a conveyor belt build plate that was successfully used by MakerBot until it wasn’t anymore. Octoprint has been a boon for anyone who wants to manage a few printers, but that’s only half the solution.

For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Mike] has come up with a solution that turns a desktop 3D printer into a completely automated factory. Not only does this project take care of removing the part from the bed when the print is done, it also manages a web-based print queue. It is the simplest way to manage a printer we’ve ever seen, and it’s a great entry for the Hackaday Prize.

First up, the software stack. [Mike] has developed a web-based queue and slicing software that ingests 3D models and spits out Gcode to a printer. This, really, is nothing new. Octoprint does it, Astroprint does it, and even a few 3D printers have this capability. This is only one part of the project though, although it is geared more as a maker space management software than simply a dedicated 3D printer controller.

You can’t have an automated mini factory without an automated build plate, though, and here [Mike] has come up with something really great. His solution for dispensing prints after they’re completed is brilliant in its simplicity. All you need to do is drop the floor out from underneath the print. [Mike]’s solution is a trap door print bed. At the beginning of the print, an inkjet printer spits out a piece of paper, with a few lines of text, onto the print bed. When the print is finished, a stepper motor unwinds a cable, and a trap door opens up underneath the print. The part drops into a bin, the door closes, and the next print is loaded up in the queue. It’s brilliantly simple.

You can check out [Mike]’s demo of this system after the break. It’s awesome and so sublimely simple we’re shocked no one has thought of this before.

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Reverse Engineering The Monoprice Printer

When the Monoprice MP Select Mini 3D printer was released last year, it was a game changer. This was a printer for $200, yes, but it also held a not-so-obvious secret: a 3D printer controller board no one had ever seen before powered by a 32-bit ARM microcontroller with an ESP8266 handling the UI. This is a game-changing set of electronics in the world of 3D printing, and now, finally, someone is reverse engineering it.

[Robin] began the reverse engineering by attaching the lead of an oscilloscope to the serial line between the main controller and display controller. The baud rate is weird (500 kHz), but apart from that, the commands readily appear in human-parsable text. There is a web server built into the MP Mini printer, and after inspecting the web page that’s served up from this printer, [Robin] found it was possible to send G-code directly from the controller board, get a list of files on the SD card, and do everything you would want to do with a 3D printer.

After deconstructing the circuit on the display board, [Robin] found exactly what you would expect from such a simple board: an SPI display driven by an ESP, and a big flash chip sitting off to the side. [Robin] found the the model of the display, and quickly built a project on Platform.io to draw text to the LCD. This isn’t the end of the project – there’s still a lot that must be done before this printer is squirting out parts with custom firmware.

While this isn’t a hack of the driver board inside the MP Mini, that’s not really a problem. The motor driver board in this printer doesn’t really need any changes, and was already ahead of its time when this printer was released last year. As with most things, the UI is the weak point, and upgrading the firmware and built-in web server for this printer is the best way forward.

[Robin] put together a truly phenomenal video of how he reverse engineered this display controller. You can check that out below.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Printing Bones

You would be forgiven to think that 3D printing is only about rolls of filament and tubs of resin. The fact is, there are many more 3D printing technologies out there. Everything from powders to paper can be used to manufacture a 3D model. [Jure]’s Hackaday Prize entry is meant to explore those weirder 3D manufacturing techniques. This is a printer that lays down binder over a reservoir of powder, slowly building up objects made out of minerals.

The key question with a powder printer is exactly what material this printer will use. For this project, [Jure] is planning on printing with hydroxyapatite, a mineral that makes up about 70% of bones by weight. Printing bones — yes, they do that — is quite expensive and has diverse applications.

The design of this printer is about what you would expect. It’s a Cartesian design with a roller to distribute powder, a piston to drop the part down into the frame, and an industrial inkjet printhead designed for wide format printers. It’s a fantastic piece of work and one of the better powder printers we’ve seen, and we can’t wait to see what [Jure] is able to produce with this.

TORLO is a Beautiful 3D Printed Clock

What if you could build a clock that displays time in the usual analog format, but with the hands moving around the outside of the dial instead of rotating from a central point? This is the idea behind TORLO, a beautiful clock built from 3D printed parts.

The clock is the work of [ekaggrat singh kalsi], who wanted to build a clock using a self-oscillating motor. Initial experiments had some success, however [ekaggrat] encountered problems with the motors holding consistent time, and contacts wearing out. This is common in many electromechanical systems — mechanics who had to work with points ignition will not remember them fondly. After pushing on through several revisions, it was decided instead to switch to an ATtiny-controlled motor which was pulsed once every two seconds. This had the benefit of keeping accurate time as well as making it much easier to set the clock.

The stunning part of the clock, however, is the mechanical design. The smooth, sweeping form is very pleasing to the eye, and it’s combined with a beautiful two-tone colour scheme that makes the exposed gears and indicators pop against the white frame. The minute and hour hands form the most striking part of the design — the indicators are attached to a large ring gear that is turned by the gear train built into the frame. The video below the break shows the development process, but we’d love to see a close-up of how the gear train meshes with the large ring gears which are such an elegant part of the clock.

A great benefit of 3D printing is that it makes designing custom gear trains very accessible. We’ve seen other unconventional 3D printed clock builds before. 

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