Acrylic Mold Makes For Professional-Looking Silicone Keyboards

The border between consumer electronics and DIY projects is getting harder and harder to define. First it was PCBs, which quickly went from homemade to professional with quick-turn services. Then low-cost CAD/CAM packages and high-end fabrication services gave us access to enclosures that were more than black plastic boxes with aluminum covers. Where will it end?

That’s a question [arturo182] begins to answer with this custom-molded silicone keyboard for a handheld device. There’s no formal writeup, but the Twitter thread goes into some detail about the process he used to make the tiny qwerty keypad. The build started by milling a two-part mold from acrylic. Silicone rubber was tinted and degassed before injecting into the mold with a baster. The keys are connected by a thin membrane of silicone, and each has a small nub on the back for actuating a switch.

There’s clearly room for improvement in this proof of concept – tool marks from the milling process mar the finish of the keys slightly, for instance. There may be tips to be had from this article on silicone keyboard refurbishment to improve the process, but overall, we’d say [arturo182] is well on his way here.

Hackaday Podcast 038: Cyberdecks Taking Over, Resin 3D-Printing Vs FDM, Silicone Injection Molding, And The Pickle Fork Fiasco

Hackaday Editors Tom Nardi and Mike Szczys comb through their favorite hacks from the past week. We loved Donald Papp’s article on considerations before making the leap from FDM 3D Printers to a resin-based process, and we solidify our thoughts on curing cement in low-gravity. Tom’s working on a Cyberdeck build, and he also found an ancient episode of an earlier and much different version of the Hackaday podcast. We’re impressed with a mostly 3D-printed useless machine, a thermal-insert press that’s also 3D-printed, and the Raspberry-Pi based Sidekick clone that popped up this week. A DIY wire-bending robot is an incredible build, as is the gorgeous wire-routing in a mechanical keyboard, and the filigree work on this playing card press. Plus you need to spend some time getting lost in this one hydrogen-line telescope project.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

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Null Shard Build Blurs Line Between Game And Reality With Laser Cutting, Mold Making, 3D Printing

In The Room Three, players are tasked with collecting mysterious objects known as “Null Shards”. But it seems one player, who goes by the name [Juiceman], took this challenge a bit literally. Starting with promotional art released for the game, he embarked on an epic journey to create a replica “Null Shard” that ended up looking so good that one of them is currently residing in a place of honor at the headquarters of developer Fireproof Games.

The developers had previously released image files to create a papercraft version of the Null Shard on their website, so [Juiceman] based his initial CAD work on these designs. But it turned out the surface texture was a little too complex to laser etch into acrylic without making a soupy mess. He simplified it a bit, while trying to retain the overall effect. From the superb laser-etched acrylic master he made a silicone mold started casting the eight triangular panels needed for two copies of the Shard.

To hold it all together [Juiceman] create a “skeleton” pyramid by first experimenting with designs on a traditional plastic FDM printer. After a few tries he had a workable design and switched over to a laser sintering machine, giving the final frame a gorgeous texture. With the cast panels installed and a few coats of paint, he had his Null Shards.

The final step was to turn down a piece of ash to make a nice base, and 3D print the feet and “claw” mount for the Shard using the same laser sintering process. The finished product looks fantastic, and apparently lives on a shelf next to a similarly constructed replica of the “Lament Configuration” puzzle cube from the Hellraiser films. [Juiceman] says the two replicas are the first entries into his “Geometries of Hell” collection, which incidentally, we’ve decided will officially be the name of our first metal album. All we need to do now is learn how to play instruments.

We’ve previously looked at how 3D printing and a dash of dedication can create some incredible prop builds, and once upon a time, we even ran a Sci-Fi Contest that challenged our readers to bring their favorite movie and game objects into the real world. Builds like this are a perfect example of what happens when a dedicated hacker or maker gets inspired by a piece of entertainment that really resonates with them.

[Thanks to Lauren for the tip]

Making Flexible Overmolded Parts With Urethane Resin

Resin casting videos have taken social media by storm of late. Everything from inlaid driftwood tables to fancy pens are getting the treatment. Pouring some nicely colored epoxy is straightforward enough, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. [Eric Strebel] has some serious skills in resin casting, and has lately been working on some overmolded electroniics with urethane resin (Youtube link, embedded below).

The build starts with the creation of a silicone mold, using a 3D printed SLA master. The part in question is for a prototype medical device, and requires overmolding, in which a flexible PCB is covered in flexible urethane. Wooden pins are used to allow the flexible PCB to clip into the mold for accurate location, and a small shield is placed over the metal contacts of the PCB to avoid them being covered in silicone.

Initial tests are done with an empty mold to determine the correct material to use, before the actual parts are ready to produce. [Eric] takes great care with the final production, as any mistakes would waste the expensive prototype PCBs provided to him by the client. With the electronics placed in the mold, the resin is degassed and carefully injected, using a syringe to minimise the chance of any air bubbles. With some delicate cleanup by hand, the completed parts are ready for delivery.

It’s a process that covers the basics of overmolding for a prototype part, as well as showing off [Eric]’s skill at producing quality prototype parts. We’ve seen [Eric]’s work before, too – like his discussion of the value of cardboard in product design. Video after the break.

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Injection Molding With A Hot Glue Gun

Injection molding is an industrial process used the world over for the quick and economical production of plastic parts. [Nikodem Bartnik] wanted to experiment with this at home, so whipped up some molds and got to work (Youtube link, embedded below).

[Nikodem] produced aluminium molds, using a Dremel-based CNC platform. This allowed for the design to be created in CAD software, and helps with the production of the geometry for both the part, as well as the gates and vents. Having learned about thermal issues with an early attempt, the mold was then clamped in a vice. Wood was used as an insulator to minimise heat lost to the vice.

With this setup, it was possible to mold M5 washers using hot glue, with good surface finish. Later attempts with a larger mold were unsuccessful, due to the glue cooling off before making it through the entire mold. [Nikodem] has resolved to improve his setup, and we look forward to seeing what happens next. We’ve seen others experiment in this area before, too. Video after the break.

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Hackaday Podcast Ep16: 3D Printing With Steel, Molding With Expanded Foam, QUIP-Package Parts, And Aged Solder

Join editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys to recap the week in hardware hacking. This episode looks at microfluidics using Shrinky Dinks, expanding foam to build airplane wings, the insidious effect of time on component solder points, and Airsoft BBs used in 3D printing. Finishing out the episode we have an interview with two brothers who started up a successful business in the Shenzhen electronics markets.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

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Casting Concrete With 3D Printed Molds

[Thomas Sanladerer] wanted to create some molds using 3D printing for concrete and plaster. He used a delta printer with flexible filament and documented his process in the video below.

If you’ve printed with flexible filaments before, you know you need an extruder that has a contained path. [Tom] borrowed a printer, but it didn’t have that kind of set up. The first step was to swap extruders with another printer.

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