Printing Circuits On The RepRap


[Rhys Jones] has been working with the RepRap team to develop a way to print circuit boards. The machine first prints the plastic substrate with channels for the metal to be deposited into. They adapted their pinch wheel feeder to work with solid core solder (flux creates a mess). The extruded solder’s specific heat isn’t hot enough to melt the plastic. They made a video (embedded below) of their test piece: an optical endstop. The team has also been experimenting with decoupling the feed mechanism from the extruder.


27 thoughts on “Printing Circuits On The RepRap

  1. hmm, so now a rep rap can make even more of its own parts, i wonder if its possible to layout parts like the rep rap mobo and stepper motor controllers on single sided pbcs?

  2. @nightstar

    That’s a good idea. A while ago, I was thinking about having some sort of thin sheet of plastic on a board or whatever so you could pre-heat the wire and it would melt into the sheet. It would probably require a wire feed mechanism and a cutter, but that would be far less messy and more precise.

    A separate tool head could drill holes, then the wire would be rolled over the hole edge or even circled around to create a solder pad.

  3. This is an excellent advance. It appears the accuracy could be improved if the programming were updated to know what to do towards the start/end of laying down a line. Something like “stop feeding solder x seconds before coming to a stop” and “start feeding x seconds before moving”

  4. Wondering if one could not make a solution that can be conductive but which is fine enough to Really print.

    So an black inkt with a metal in it, what that a basis you can ten use electrolysis to make the paths thicker.


  5. I was thinking the same thing as Joeseph. Print some plastic over the lines and only leave the via areas exposed. You could build a 6 layer board by repeating the process. Only problem would be that the end result would be about 1 inch thick. :)

  6. This is a “solution” looking for a problem.

    The RepRap is an evolutionary dead end and completely not worthy of notice other than the very small group of cultists flogging it.

    There are clearly superior and far better evolved solutions to doing what exactly what Reprap started out trying to do and failed. Some of them are almost consuer-level products by now, and Reprap output still looks like a junior high proof-of-concept science project. Let it go.

  7. Interesting comment Stunmonkey. I have been thinking about purchasing a RepRap only because they are inexpensive and have results that I could work with. I have seen amazing results from the commercial machines which can even mix plastic colors on the fly. But I don’t have 10s of thousands to play with this technology… I also would be interested in a list of these devices.

  8. stunmonkey -the reprap’s goal is to be able to replicate itself. I don’t know of any commercial products that do that. Of course, you can find specialized machines that make all sorts of different parts better than a reprap, but that’s not the point. Just think of the reprap as a challenge in of itself, and not the bestest baddest end-all manufacturing machine evar.

    ruben – good idea. I was thinking of silver epoxy, which is pretty conductive enough already (and no-heat), but the electroplating would help. There are things like tinit, which don’t need electricity… but they need copper to bind to.

  9. It was called ECME:

    Well- Rep’s up to replicating a 1947 or so tech level. And that’s meant as a compliment.

    In serious reflection on this milestone we may consider it closer to full auto replication. The simple mundane bits of a RepStrapping project one could make this way are many. Trading cubic volume for other factors has a long history in both directions.

  10. Stunmonkey missed a step or two. First off, the RepRap already replicates. Been there, done that, got the T Shirt.

    It does look a little clunky, which probably has something to do with it being a V1.0

    RepRap isn’t just designed to replicate, you see, it is designed to evolve as people make subtle changes to their designs. Some RepRap variants are producing output every bit as good as $40,000 commercial machines, others are designed to be built from scrap, or to print with metal. It’s not an evolutionary dead end, it’s an evolutionary starting point.

    Vik :v)

  11. I think that making the design more available and simpler is probably a better move than working on printing motors and CPUs at this stage. In order to drive design evolution you need the maximum number of people tinkering with it. Currently the cost and complexity are the biggest barrier, followed closely by the availability of some components. So a redesign using simpler, more available components will get the user numbers up. These new developers can then work towards other goals.

    Vik :v)

  12. Why on earth would you want to wait til someone can print motors and ICs?

    I can buy steppers an microcontrollers for a trivial sum of money. If I wanted to buy a rapid prototyper, it will cost me two orders of magnitude more.

    Being able to cheaply and easily assemble a capable printer is worth vastly more than being able to print commodity parts that can be made to vastly higher tolerances and at vastly lower expense in a factory.

  13. actually you can print out motors. the trick is to bond several layers of “pcb coils” together, and use a sheet of iron as the rotor.

    seen this trick used in VCR capstan motors..


  14. @ jack
    Some people do not walk very well if they wait for their steps, they need to *take* steps to move. I consider this a valid step. For learners a slow pace can be pleasing.

    Now to those of you not waiting, lets iterate some -so we can start “printing the stepper motor and the cpu” already :)

    I’m at MIT’s Fablab in Norway right now to play some, and this self-replication idea I’ll have to bring to the foundry…

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.