Smoothing 3D Prints with Acetone Vapor

If you’ve ever used an extruding 3D printer, you know that the resulting prints aren’t exactly smooth. At the Southackton hackerspace [James] and [Bracken] worked out a method of smoothing the parts out using vapor. The method involves heating acetone until it forms a vapor, then exposing ABS parts to the vapor. The method only works with ABS, but creates some good looking results.

Acetone is rather flammable, so the guys started out with some safety testing. This involved getting a good air to fuel mixture of acetone, and testing what the worst case scenario would be if it were to ignite. The tests showed that the amount of acetone they used would be rather safe, even if it caught fire, which was a concern several people mentioned last time we saw the method.

After the break, [James] and [Bracken] give a detailed explanation of the process.

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Making high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide at home

Hydrogen peroxide – the same stuff you can pick up from a drug store or beauty supply store – is one of those very interesting chemicals that belongs on every maker’s cabinet. At concentrations of about 30%, it’s perfect for etching PCB boards, and at even higher concentrations – about 70% – it can be used as rocket fuel. Unfortunately for the home hacker, it’s very difficult and expensive to obtain peroxide in concentrations above 3% or so. That’s alright with [Charlie], though, because he’s come up with a way to concentrate peroxide and measure the concentration once he’s done.

There are a few YouTube videos of kitchen chemists concentrating peroxide by heating it on a stove to just under 100°C. Because hydrogen peroxide boils at 150°C, they’re simply boiling off the water and increasing the concentration of peroxide. This is a qualitative method, and you’ll never know what concentration you’re getting. [Charlie] rigged up a small-scale with a pipette to measure the weight of his concentrated peroxide per unit of volume, giving him the density of his concoction and thus the concentration.

We have to note that concentrated peroxide is dangerous stuff, but the results of [Charlie]’s lab work aren’t much more dangerous than what hair stylists work with every day. If you’re going for high-test peroxide, good job, that’s awesome, but do be aware of the risks.

Shocking use of ice cube trays

Looks like ice-cube trays are once again proving their versatility as this one is serving as the vessel for a home made lead-acid battery. With a collection of uniformly sized non-conductive containers, it makes the perfect base for a set of small cells. This project is the culmination of a Hackerspace class about batteries, and was put together to turn theoretical knowledge into a hands-on lab.

This is a captured image from the low-quality video found after the break. [Carpespasm] describes the setup; the black pieces are lead plates which are bent into a U-shape to straddle two ice-cube compartments. The each end of the plate is dipping into the acid to make the connection. Once assembled the battery was connected to a charger for about two hours. It puts out 8.5V and is tested by powering an LED cube. This works for just a short period and really drives home the lesson that battery concepts are easy to understand, but reliable battery technology is a bit harder to achieve.

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DIY Conductive ink lets you freehand circuits on the cheap


[Jordan] likes the flexibility that conductive inks offer when putting together electronic circuits, but says that they are often too expensive to purchase in decent quantities, and that they usually require substrate-damaging temperatures to cure. After reading a UIUC Materials Research Lab article about making conductive ink that anneals at relatively low temperatures, he decided to give it a shot.

[Jordan] started out by picking up various chemicals and lab supplies online, setting up shop at Pumping Station: One. The process is pretty straightforward, and seems like something just about anyone who took high school chemistry can manage. That said, he does note that some of the chemicals, such as Formic Acid, can be quite painful if mishandled.

After just a few minutes of work and about 12 hours waiting time, [Jordan] had himself a decently-sized vial of conductive ink. He tried it out on a few different substrates with varying results, and in the end found that etched glass made the best circuits. He says that there are plenty of experiments to try, so expect even more helpful info from him in the near future.

[via Pumping Station: One]

Making paint with inorganic chemistry

Back during the Renaissance, great artists like Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael would create their own paints. Of course paint is very cheap and readily available, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make your own paint by playing with chemistry.

Last summer, [Sean] at the Philly hackerspace Hive76 did some experiments with ferrofluids. For these experiments [Sean] prepared a bunch of magnetite from rusty iron screws. In the process a lot of iron hydroxide was formed, which can produce wonderful colors. The red-brown eye in the title pic was made from some of the stuff floating on the top of [Sean]’s beaker.

[Sean] was really after something really black, so he turned his efforts towards hematite, a very dark pigment and is now working with other metals to produce some interesting colors. Already he’s made green and yellow pigments with two copper compounds. We’ll just have to hope he uses a fume hood when he starts taking apart mercury switches to make red.

Making aerogel at home

[Ben] outdid himself. He successfully made monoliths of silica aerogel in his garage. Aerogel, the light-weight solid that has been referred to as ‘hard air’ is really freaking expensive especially in non-granulated form.

The techniques behind producing aerogels have been on the Internet for a fairly long time. A few uncommon chemicals and a supercritical drying chamber are required for production, meaning it takes a lot of know-how to make hard air at home. Somehow, [Ben] got ahold of some tetramethoxysilane, the hard to come by ingredient and made a supercritical drying chamber out of pipe fittings and liquid Carbon Dioxide.

In the end, [Ben] was able to make a few small pieces of aerogel. The size of his pieces were constrained by his “mold” (actually a syringe) and the size of his drying chamber. It’s very possible [Ben] could build a larger supercritical drying chamber and make larger pieces of aerogel that would be sold commercially for hundreds of dollars.

Check out the very informative walkthrough of [Ben]’s process after the break. It’s 10 minutes long and makes for a great lunch break video.

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Anodizing and dyeing aluminum without battery acid

While many people have tried their hand at anodizing aluminum at home, there are plenty who would just as soon leave it up to the professionals due to the highly concentrated sulfuric acid required for the process. [Ken] started thinking about the process and wondered if there was a way to get comparable results using chemicals that are easier to obtain and dispose of.

Through some experimentation he found that sodium bisulfate (NaHSO4), which is a sodium salt of sulfuric acid, can easily be used in its place with great results. The chemical is typically advertised in hardware and pool stores as “Aqua Chem”, and can be had at a very reasonable price. When paired with the proper DC current along with a cathode, the sodium bisulfate easily anodizes an aluminum workpiece and renders it ready for coloring with RIT, readily available cloth dye.

We were impressed with the results, and when looking at [Ken’s] test pieces, it seems that the metal dyed with sodium bisulfate has a more uniform, less streaky coloring to it. It’s also worth mentioning that [Ken] has found it is fairly easy to etch the aluminum before anodizing using a solution of sodium hydroxide, which is great for individuals who prefer a more matte finish.

If this is something that interests you, be sure to swing by his site. He has a posted nice video overview of the process that may be of some help.