Computer-aided paint brush

[Nirav] painted this masterpiece by hand… with a little help from a computer. He calls it the semi-automatic paintbrush because you do need to move it over the canvas by hand, but a computer decides when to dispense the ink.

He’s using a piece of hardware we looked at back in September called the InkShield that got a boost from Kickstarter. It’s an Arduino shield that drives an inkjet printer cartridge. The trick is how to know when the cartridge is in position for printing.

The system uses visual processing for that. [Nirav] added an IR led to the cartridge, and uses a camera to extrapolate its position. He actually reused a Python homography module which he had written for use with a projector. That setup was developed as a digital white board, but works just as well for this purpose.

He mentions that results like this won’t be featured in an art museum. But the look is unique, and we’d love to make a set of geeky thank-you notes using the technique.

Printable solar cells that can be folded up when not in use

Here’s a photovoltaic cell that can be printed onto paper. The manufacturing technique is almost as simple as using an inkjet printer. The secret is in the ink itself. It takes five layers deposited on the paper in a vacuum chamber. But that’s a heck of a lot easier than current solar cell fabrication practices. In fact, is sounds like the printing process is very similar to how potato chip bags are made. This is significant, because it could mean a fast track to mass production for the technology.

It isn’t just the easy printing process that excites us. Check out the video after the break where a test cell is placed on top of a light source while being monitored by a multimeter. It’s been folded like a fan and you can see a researcher sinch up the cell into a small form for storage. It’s a little counter-intuitive; for instance, you wouldn’t want to make a window shade out of it because it would have to be down during the day to get power. Be we think there’s got to be some great use for these foldable properties. Continue reading “Printable solar cells that can be folded up when not in use”

Modding an inkjet for PCB production

Like all of us, [Ryan] is tired of waiting for board production houses. To reduce some of that turnaround time, he modded an Epson inkjet into a PCB printer. The Instructable of his build is extremely thorough and it looks like he’s getting some quality boards out of his project

The build started off by disassembling an Epson C86 printer he had lying around the house. Going with an Epson printer is important – Epsons have a piezo print head accepts ink that would clog other printers. After tearing all the plastic off his printer, [Ryan] set to work raising the printer (or lowering the bed, whatever) and was off to the races.

The cartridges were filled with etch-resistant yellow ink and a piece of copper clad put onto the printer. After printing, [Ryan] etched his board in ferric chloride. Sadly, he’s getting small pinholes in his traces where a bit of the ink was eaten during etching. He’s tried HCl and Peroxide, but those turn his boards into green junk.

If you’ve got any tips to help [Ryan] out, leave them in the comments. Before that, check out the printing demo [Ryan] put up.

Continue reading “Modding an inkjet for PCB production”

Inkjet print head driver shield

[Nicolas C Lewis] is churning out inkjet print head shield kits for Arduino. If you’ve always wanted to label or brand objects as part of a project this greatly simplifies the process. Using his all through-hole design, an Arduino can print at 96 dpi. At first we had trouble figuring out what we could use this concept for, but [Nicolas] has the answer. In is FAQ he links to a couple of his own flat-bed inkjet printer builds based on earlier prototypes, but he also links to other projects using the same concepts like the Nickel-O-Matic, or the ping-pong ball printer (we’ve embedded video of that one after the break).

The shield only requires five connections with a microcontroller. We love the jumper-based connection system that [Nicolas] chose which lets you use several print heads at once by selecting different drive pins. The project is still in the funding stage but is already over funded. Schematic and code will be posted as soon as the first production run is complete.

Continue reading “Inkjet print head driver shield”

Scavenging ambient electromagnetic energy

energy_harvesting_from_radio_waves

At this very moment, unseen radio waves are bouncing off almost everything that surrounds you. Emitted by everything from radio and TV stations to cell phone networks and satellites, these waves are full of unharnessed energy. That is, until now. Researchers at the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering have been working diligently to harness this unused energy, and recently unveiled their new antenna technology at the IEEE Antennas and Propagation Symposium.

The team, led by professor [Manos Tentzeris] has been working to develop ultra-wideband antennas to tap into the energy all around us. Using printers filled with a specially-formulated ink compound, they have been able to print these antennas on paper and polymer substrates. The antennas can harness energy stored in radio frequencies ranging from 100 MHz all the way up to 60 GHz, depending on the printing medium.

The team can currently power temperature sensors using television signals, and is preparing a demo in which they will power a microcontroller simply by holding it up in the air. The technology is still in its infancy, but the list of applications is almost endless. We doubt you’ll be powering your TV with this technology any time soon, but it definitely holds promise for things such as wireless sensor mesh networks and the like.

[Thanks, morganism]

Direct to PCB resist printing requires minimal additional components

epson_inkjet

Printing PCBs using the toner transfer method works pretty well, but there are some downsides, such as incomplete trace transfers and the like. HackHut user [rucalgary] decided to go the inkjet route instead, and picked up an Epson printer on clearance at his local electronics shop. This method is not new by any means, but his printer conversion is one of the simplest we’ve seen as it does not rely on any additional sensors to function.

Once he got home, he tore the printer down immediately, removing the paper input and output trays as well as the scanner bed. After all of the extraneous parts were removed, he got to work raising up the printer head, as well as the printer head rest mechanism. He mentions that the latter component is absolutely crucial to proper functionality down the line. Once the print head and its associated components were relocated, he added a pair of aluminum rails for feeding his print tray into the machine.

With everything complete, he filled up a spare cartridge with ink (he says that MISPRO yellow works best) and ran some test boards through. He is quite pleased with how things turned out, and is more than happy to give you a quick tour of his completed printer via the video below.

Continue reading “Direct to PCB resist printing requires minimal additional components”

Direct to PCB etch resist printing

Here’s a step-by-step guide for printing etch resist directly to copper clad boards. Two methods of making printed circuit boards at home have long dominated as the favorites; using photo-resist, and the toner-transfer method. The latter involves printing board artwork on a laser printer and then ironing it onto the copper clad. We’ve seen some efforts to print toner directly to the copper, or to use ink to adhere toner and then heat fuse it, but this hack is the first one we remember seeing that uses an inkjet printer directly.

The best reason inkjet printing isn’t often used is do to the ink’s iability to protect copper from the etchant. This method uses MISPRO ink that is pigment based and will resist the acid. An Epson Stylus Photo R260 printer was chosen because you can get refillable printer cartridges which work with the ink, and they’re fairly easy to modify. In order to feed substrate through the device it needs some physical alteration to make room for the thickness of the material, and an ATtiny13 has been added to trick one of the sensors.

Unfortunately we didn’t find photos of the printed resist. But there is source code available for the tiny13 if you do give this a try.

[Thanks Pavlejo]