3D Printering: Pastestruders

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While bits of plastic are the usual material for 3D printers, there are hundreds of other materials that are equally well suited for 3D printing. One of the most famous is chocolate, a material so popular and easy to manipulate inside an extruder there are even Kickstarters for 3D printed chocolate bars.

teapotThere are many more materials deserving of being 3D printed, though: wax for lost wax castings, other foodstuffs for improbably shaped edibles, and ceramics so I can finally print a life-sized, functional version of the Utah Teapot.

Unfortunately, for all the progress of plastic extrusion, little has been done about extruding pastes, foods, and clay with a 3D printer. The RepRap paste extrusion working group is fairly close to being dead, so let this volume of 3D Printering explore what has been done in the world of paste printing.

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Type4me is a hardware clipboard for your digital copy and paste needs

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It doesn’t happen often, but every now and again we find ourselves wanting for a more extensible cut and paste experience. Most notably we’ve searched for something that makes is very easy to keep multiple things in the clipboard and paste them as needed. Although we’ve tried several software offerings nothing really made it up to grade, but this hardware clipboard looks very promising. [Luca Dentella] calls it Type4me as it functions as a USB keyboard.

The PIC 18F14K50 enumerates as a USB keyboard, allowing it to send characters anywhere the cursor is located. It sends whatever string is stored inside, with an optional return character at the end. In addition to its keyboard properties it also establishes a serial connection, which allows you to push new strings to the device. This setup does require you to do copy or type your strings into a serial terminal, along with one of four special commands which are parsed by the microcontroller. One of these commands allows you to save the string to EEPROM so that it will be persistent through a power cycle.

The pasting back to the computer takes a mere push of the button. We’ve embedded the video demo after the break. It’s in Italian but there are English subtitles. Near the end [Luca] shows off the device as a macro button for gaming.

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Vapor phase reflow soldering

Ditch that old toaster oven and move to the next level of surface mount soldering with this vapor phase reflow method. [Ing.Büro R.Tschaggelar] put together this apparatus to use vapor phase reflow at his bench instead of sending out his smaller projects for assembly. It uses the heating element from an electric tea kettle to boil Galden HT 230 inside of a Pyrex beaker. There’s a copper heat break part way up the beaker to condense the chemical and keep it from escaping. When a populated board is lowered into the heated chamber, the solder paste reflows without the need to stress the components with unnecessary heat. Better than traditional reflow? At this level it’s hard to say, but we do find his method quite interesting.

[Thanks Chris]

Solder Paste How-to Tutorial

The application of Solder Paste is an essential part of short run manufacturing and prototyping. After getting back bare boards from a PCB shop, its time to get down to business and populate those boards. This new tutorial set assumes you have access to things such as stencils for your boards, but does mention a couple of resources on commercially available ways to purchase stencils. Of course, if you have a laser cutter, we can help you out. After getting your solder paste chops down, make sure you check out our guide to toaster oven reflowing.

[Thanks to P. Torrone]

QFN or MLF soldering without solder paste

Take a few minutes to watch this amazingly informative video on how to solder QFN or MLF components without solder paste.  The quality of the video and the information within is quite nice. Even if you don’t intend to work with these parts, you could pick up some tips for soldering with hot air.

Flux paste applicator gun

[Luciano] didn’t want to drop a lot of cash into a flux and solder paste applicator so he built his own for about $5. He re-purposed a hot glue gun which you can usually find at a dollar store. After removing the heating element he inserted the body of a syringe. The plunger has been modified to use a knitting needle inside of some plastic tubing. After taking the picture above he made an improvement by adding a milliliter scale to the plunger, allowing you to meter out the paste and also gauge how much remains.

Diamond thermal paste

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[Jared Bouck] over at InventGeek  writes about his experience making his own thermal paste. Diamonds can be up to five times as thermally conductive as silver, the primary ingredient in most popular thermal compounds.  He combines 60,000 mesh diamond dust he ordered off eBay with non-conductive silicon grease using a special mixer he constructed to keep down the dust. After some experimentation he achieved a max load temperature of 38 degrees Celsius versus a leading silver paste’s  temperature of 57c on the same system.

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