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.

[Read more...]

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.

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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]

Printable wax as PCB etch resist

What if there were only two steps for making your own printed circuit board; print, etch? That’s what [Jeff Gough] has been working on and he presented the process in his talk at 27C3. In the first portion of the video after the break [Jeff] talks about various industrial PCB manufacturing processes in a depth you may not have heard before. We found it to be interesting but at about thirty minutes into the clip he begins the presentation of his modified printer. It’s an inkjet that can print wax onto copper clad board. The wax acts as a resist for chemical etchants, and provides very high resolution. He’s using a heavily modified print head, which brings to mind that diy piezo inkjet head which also has wax printing in its future plans. This certainly seems promising and if the process can be simplified it might do away with the toner transfer method.

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Inkjet print head made with a 3D printer

This is an inkjet print head made using a RepRap. The manufacturing process is both simple and ingenious. It uses a vibrating piezo buzzer to pump printing liquid through a tiny nozzle. The red disc seen above is exactly the same diameter as the piezo that resides behind it. There is a hole offset from the center to feed ink in between the two discs. Take a look at the test footage after the break.

To make the nozzle a hole was cut in the plastic disc, then a pin inserted and the whole thing was covered with hot glue. The next step was to remove the pin and shave down the glue until the narrow aperture is open. [Adrian Bowyer] is still in the testing phase for this assembly, but once he gets the bugs worked out he plans to test it with a heating element so that it can print using wax and other materials that are liquid when hot.

[Vik] tipped us off about this one after seeing the printable transistors from the other day.

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Direct to PCB inkjet printing

[Rhys Goodwin] has been working on a system to print resist onto copper clad using an inkjet printer. This is a toner transfer alternative as it still uses toner, just not quite as you’d expect. The first step is to modify an inkjet printer, separating the carriage from the feed rollers in order to increase the clearance for the substrate. Instead of printing with etch resistant ink, as we’ve seen before, [Rhys] prints with black ink and then covers the board (ink still wet) in laser toner. Once there’s good adhesion he blows off the excess and bakes the board in a sandwich press, with spacers to keep the iron from touching the surface of the copper clad. This cooks the resist into a hard plastic layer and the board is ready for the acid. Watch him walk you through the process after the break.

[Rhys] uses the same method for silk screen, printing in red and baking the ink onto the substrate without added toner. This produces a nice looking board but it’s still quite a bit of work. It certainly sheds more light on the process than that laser-printer method from back in May. We hope you’ve been inspired by this and come up with the next innovation that makes this process easier.

[Read more...]

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