Printing Circuitry On A RepRap

Over on the RepRap blog, [Rhys] has been experimenting with molten metal to build circuits with the RepRap.

Last June, [Rhys] found a neat alloy made of Tin, Bismuth, and a little bit of Indium that melts at around 130° C, and has just the right properties to be extruded with a standard RepRap setup. The results were encouraging, but the molten metal quickly dissolved the brass and aluminum nozzles [Rhys] was pushing liquid metal through.

The solution to this problem was solved by anodizing the heck out of a RepRap nozzle to make a hard, protective oxide layer. Already [Rhys] has logged hundreds of hours squirting molten metal out of his RepRap with no signs of any damage to the nozzle.

Since [Rhys] figured out how to print in metal, he whipped up an extremely minimal Sanguino board. You can see this RepRapped PCB running a LED blink program after the break. Now to work on the RepRap pick and place…

20 thoughts on “Printing Circuitry On A RepRap

  1. wow, really? we can “print” solder now? and on the same machine as 3d plastic printing?

    its just BEGGING for an arm… (pick&place arm)


  2. The obvious problem is, that when you print traces with this metal, you can’t solder parts to them with ordinary tin because it has a higher melting point.

    Melting the traces themselves may result in them running away and drawing into a blob and ruining your whole setup. So, as you can see in the pictures, all the components have to be pre-placed in a plastic mold and the traces drawn into plastic channels in the mold. This works, but it’s slow and wasteful, and doesn’t provide any cooling for the components that remain encased in plastic.

  3. While this is an interesting project, I almost wonder if he would be better off printing an etch resist layer of plastic with the rep rap and then etching the board and removing the printed later…

    1. Depends on what your end goal is.

      If you want a nice clean PCB, then that would probably be a good idea.

      But if you want to send a series of self replicating robot to an asteroid that mine and process materials found on the asteroid to reproduce themselves (and anything else needed), then not having to produce an etchant might be a plus.

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