Checking Populated PCB Clearance with a 3D Printer

Laying out one PCB, sending it out to a fab, stuffing it with components, and having the whole thing actually work when you’re done is a solved problem. Doing the same thing and having it plug in to another PCB… well, that’s a bit harder. Forget about building a PCB and having it fit inside an enclosure the first time.

The usual solution to this problem is printing the board to be fabbed on a piece of paper, take some calipers, and measure very, very carefully. Extra points for sticking a few components you’re worried about to the paper before lining the mechanical prototype up to the existing board. [N8VI] over at the i3 Detroit hackerspace had a better idea – print the whole thing out on a 3D printer.

[N8VI] is working on a software defined radio cape for a BeagleBone. He was a bit concerned about a few caps getting in the way of a board stack. This was tested by printing out a bit of plastic in the shape of the new board, adding header spacers and parts that might be troublesome.

While the idea is great, there’s not much in the way of a software solution or a toolchain to make plastic copies of completed boards. We know rendering 3D objects from KiCAD is rather easy, but there aren’t many tools available for those of us who are still stuck with Eagle. If you know of a way to print populated boards, drop a note in the comments.

SwiitBoard: high impact Wii balance board

swiitboard

[Frits] sent us the SwiitBoard, an improvised version of the Wii balance board. He wanted to be able to do something a little higher impact than he could on the Wii balance board, and required more space to do it in too. Using two different kinds of foam and a piece of plywood, he put together the SwiitBoard.  We’re not completely clear on how he is handling direction control. He states that it is derived from gforce.x. Can anyone clarify?  Stay tuned after the break for a video of his demo software.

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Wii Fit World of Warcraft


By now you’ve probably seen the video of two researchers from the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) navigating through maps on Google Earth by using the Wii Fit Balance Board. They’ve gone even further now by using the board to navigate World of Warcraft. It’s obvious that the board is usable with any 3D environment. The hack is entirely software based, as the board is completely unmodified. It relays data to a laptop via Bluetooth, where the pressure data in converted to directional instructions by their custom app written in C#. No notes on the project are available on DFKI’s site, but we’re betting they’ll release the software to the public once all the kinks are worked out.

[via Balance Board Blog]