Fail Of The Week: How NOT To Smooth A 3D Print

Many of the Fail Of The Week stories we feature here are pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. At worse, gears are ground, bits are broken, or the Magic Blue Smoke is released. This attempt to smooth a 3D print released far more than a puff of blue smoke, and was nearly a disaster of insurance adjuster or medical examiner proportions.

Luckily, [Maxloader] and his wife escaped serious injury, and their house came out mostly unscathed. The misadventure started with a 3D printed Mario statue. [Maxloader] had read acetone vapor can smooth a 3D print, and that warming the acetone speeds the process. Fortunately, his wife saw the looming danger and wisely suggested keeping a fire blanket handy, because [Max] decided to speed the process even more by putting a lid on the pot. It’s not clear exactly what happened in the pot – did the trapped acetone vapors burp the lid off and find a path to the cooktop burner? Whatever it was, the results were pretty spectacular and were captured on a security camera. The action starts at 1:13 in the video below. The fire blanket came in handy, buying [Max] a few seconds to open the window and send the whole flaming mess outside. Crisis averted, except for nearly setting the yard on fire.

What are we to learn from [Maxloader]’s nearly epic fail? First, acetone and open flame do not mix. If you want to heat acetone, do it outside and use an electric heat source. Second, a fire extinguisher is standard household equipment. Every house needs at least one, and doubly so when there’s a 3D printer present. And third, it’s best to know your filaments – the dearly departed Mario print was in PLA, which is best smoothed with tetrahydrofuran, not acetone.

Anything else? Feel free to flame away in the comments.

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Beyond WD-40: Lubes for the Home Shop

If your shop is anything like mine, you’ve got a large selection of colorful cans claiming to contain the best and absolutely only lubricant you’ll ever need. I’ve been sucked in by the marketing more times than I care to admit, hoping that the next product will really set itself apart from the others and magically unstick all the stuck stuff in my mechanical life. It never happens, though, and in the end I generally find myself reaching for the familiar blue and yellow can of WD-40 for just about every job.

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Tie-Fighter Quadcopters Anyone Can Build

These are things of beauty, and when in flight, the Tie Fighter Quadcopters look even better because the spinning blades become nearly transparent. Most of the Star Wars-themed quadcopter hacks we’ve seen are complicated builds that we know you’re not even going to try. But [Cuddle Burrito’s] creations are for every hacker in so many different ways.

tie-fighter-drone-partsFirst off, he’s starting with very small commodity quadcopters that are cheap (and legal) for anyone to own and fly. Both are variations of the Hubsan X4; the H107C and the H107L. The stock arms of these quadcopters extend from the center of the chassis, but that needs to change for TFFF (Tie Fighter Form Factor). The solution is of course 3D Printing. The designs have been published for both models and should be rather simple to print.

ABS is used as the print medium, which makes assembly easy using a slurry of acetone and ABS to weld the seams together. Motor wires need to be extended and routed through the printed arms, but otherwise you don’t need anything else. Even the original screws are reused in this design. Check out test flights in the video after the break As for the more custom builds we mentioned, there’s the Drone-enium Falcon.

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Even Easier Toner Transfer PCBs

One of the most popular methods of homebrew PCB fabrication is the toner transfer process. Compared to UV-sensitive films and CNC mills, the toner transfer process is fantastically simple and only requires a laser printer. Being simple doesn’t mean it’s easy, though, and successful toner transfer depends on melting the toner to transfer it from a piece of paper to a copper clad board.

This is heatless toner transfer for PCB fabrication. Instead of using a clothes iron or laminator to transfer toner from a paper to board, [simpletronic] is doing it chemically using acetone and alcohol.

Acetone usually dissolves laser printer toner, and while this is useful for transferring a PCB from paper to board, it alone is insufficient. By using a mixture of eight parts alcohol to three parts acetone, [simpletronic] can make the toner on a piece of paper stick, but not enough to dissolve the toner or make it blur.

From there, it’s a simple matter of putting a piece of paper down on copper clad board. After waiting a few minutes, the paper peels off revealing perfectly transferred board art. All the usual etching techniques can be used to remove copper and fabricate a PCB.

This is an entirely novel method of PCB fabrication, but it’s not exactly original. A few days ago, we saw a very similar method of transferring laser printed graphics to cloth, wood, and metal. While these are probably independent discoveries, it is great evidence there are still new techniques and new ways of doing things left to be discovered.

Thanks [fridgefire] for the tip.

Ultrasonic Misting Vapor Polisher for 3D Printed Parts

If you’ve ever seen 3D printed parts form an extrusion type printer, one of the first things you’ll notice is the texture. It’s caused by the printer laying down its plastic layer after layer. This surface texture isn’t always desirable, so people have found a few ways to smooth the 3D printed part out. For example if you are using ABS, you can rinse or “paint” the part with acetone. Another method of smoothing is heat up some acetone in a container, and let the acetone vapors do work to smooth the finished part.

[Mike] from thinks he may have found a more elegant solution using an inexpensive ultrasonic humidifier you can buy online for about $40 USD. This room humidifier uses a piezoelectric transducer that can vibrate liquids at a high frequency to produce a mist. [Mike] removed the transducer and electronics from the humidifier and mounted it into a paint can.  This is where the acetone is stored, and turned into a vapor by the transducer. An aquarium pump is used to transfer the highly concentrated vapors into the polishing chamber (an extra large pickle jar.) He added a spring loaded, electrical timer (the kind you might find in the bathroom at an office building) to make his vapor polisher as easy to use as a microwave oven.

[Mike] concludes his post with some strength testing of parts before and after acetone treatment, and was surprised to find that the parts were weaker after the treatment.  You can read more about that on his blog and see a video of the vapor polisher after the break.

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3D Printing an Arcade Controller

A keyboard and mouse simply can’t stand in for games originally meant to be played with a joystick and buttons. We are of course thinking of coin-op here and building your own set of arcade controls is a great project to give back some of the thrill of those classics. But these are not trivial builds and may push your comfort zone when it comes to fabrication. Here’s one alternative to consider: 3D printing an arcade controller housing.

3d-printed-arcade-controller-thumb[Florian] already had experience building these using laser cut acrylic and MDF. This is his first foray into a 3D printing build method for the controller body. The top is too large to easily produce as a single piece on inexpensive printers. He broke it up into sections; eleven in total. When the printing is complete he chemically welds them together using a slurry of acetone and leftover ABS.

We think one possible extension of this technique would be to build a mounting system that would allow you to swap out segments (instead of welding them all) while you dial in the exact placement that you want for each component. You know, like when you decide that rectangular button pattern doesn’t fit your hand. That said, this looks like a beautiful and functional build. At the least it’s a great way to practice your 3D printing skills and you end up with a wicked controller at the end of it.

Simple Hack Puts an RFID Tag Inside your Mobile Phone

RFID security systems have become quite common these days. Many corporations now use RFID cards, or badges, in place of physical keys. It’s not hard to understand why. They easily fit inside of a standard wallet, they require no power source, and the keys can be revoked with a few keystrokes. No need to change the locks, no need to collect keys from everyone.

[Shawn] recently set up one of these systems for his own office, but he found that the RFID cards were just a bit too bulky for his liking. He thought it would be really neat if he could just use his cell phone to open the doors, since he always carries it anyways. He tried searching for a cell phone case that contained an RFID tag but wasn’t able to come up with anything at the time. His solution was to do it himself.

[Shawn] first needed to get the RFID tag out of the plastic card without damaging the chip or antenna coil. He knew that acetone can be used to melt away certain types of plastic and rubber, and figured he might as well try it out with the RFID card. He placed the card in a beaker and covered it with acetone. He then sealed the beaker in a plastic bag to help prevent the acetone from evaporating.

After around 45 minutes of soaking, [Shawn] was able to peel the plastic layers off of the electronics. He was left with a tiny RFID chip and a large, flat copper coil. He removed the cover from the back of his iPhone 4S and taped the chip and coil to the inside of the phone. There was enough room for him to seal the whole thing back up underneath the original cover.

Even though the phone has multiple radios, they don’t seem to cause any noticeable interference. [Shawn] can now just hold his phone up to the RFID readers and open the door, instead of having to carry an extra card around. Looking at his phone, you would never even know he modified it.

[Thanks Thief Dark]