A TV crime show I saw recently centered on the ability of forensic scientists to identify a plastic bag as coming from a particular roll: it’s all down to the striations, apparently. This development isn’t fiction, though: researchers at the University of Buffalo have figured out how to identify the individual 3D printer that produced a particular print. The development, called PrinTracker, uses unique differences in the way a printer lays down print material to identify a printer with a claimed 94 percent accuracy.
We probably all used to make our Lego fly by throwing it across the room, but Flite Test have come up with a slightly more elegant solution: they converted a Lego quadcopter to fly. They did it by adding a miniature flight controller, battery and motors/rotors to replace the Lego ones in the Lego City Arctic Air Transport kit. This combination flies surprisingly well, thanks to a thoughtful design that balances the heavier components inside the case.
A strip of LEDs may be a simple and flexible way to add light to a project, but they don’t always look natural. There is an easy way to make them look better, though: add a diffuser. That’s what [Nate Damen] did using a 3D printer. He created a diffuser using PETG giving a standard string of LEDs a softer and more natural look that makes them look more like older light sources such as fluorescent strips or EL wire, but with the flexible colors of LEDs. The PETG material he used has a naturally somewhat cloudy look, so it acts as a diffuser without needing any extra treatment.
Got a 3D printer? With a bit of work, you may also have a PCB miller. That’s the basis of this neat hack by [Gosse Adema], who converted an Anet A8 3D printer into a PCB miller by building a holder for a Dremel rotary tool and adapting the GCode. This approach means that the adaptations to the printer are minimal: the only hardware is a 3D-printed holder for the Dremel that replaces the print head. The result is an impressive PCB milling machine that can do double-sided PCBs and make through holes.
The excellent write-up that [Gosse] did on this hack describes how he converted the printer, and how he took an EagleCAD design and converted it into four GCode files. That’s one for each side of the PCB, one for through holes and one for the final outline of the PCB. These are then fed to the 3D printer and cut in turn with an appropriate milling bit on the Dremel.
We’ve featured a few similar conversions before, such as this vintage conversion of a Makerbot and this cheap engraver conversion, but this one is much more detailed than those, covering the entire process from PCB design to final product.
Looking for a cheap way to keep an eye on something? [Kevin Hester] pointed us to a way to make a WiFi webcam for under $10. This uses one of the many cheap ESP32 dev boards available, along with the Internet of Things platform PlatformIO and a bit of code that creates an RTSP server. This can be accessed by any software that supports this streaming protocol, and a bit of smart routing could put it on the interwebs. [Kevin] claims that the ESP32 camera dev boards he uses can be found for less than $10, but we found that most of them cost about $15. Either way, that’s cheaper than most commercial streaming cameras.
Like many of us, [Benjamin Poilve] was fascinated when he took apart a broken printer. He kept the parts, but unlike most of us, he did something with them, building a neat little plotter called the Liplo. Most pen plotters work by moving the pen on two axes, but [Benjamin] took a different approach, using the friction drive bars from the printer to move the paper on one axis, and a servo to move the pen on the other. He’s refined the design from its initial rough state to create a very refined final product that uses a combination of salvaged, 3D-printed, and CNC-milled parts.
3D printing isn’t something you would usually associate with a high precision device, but this one shows that it can be used to create rather intricate things when needed. The Openflexure is a microscope stage that offers a mechanical stage that can be maneuvered precisely. The optics can be swapped out so it uses anything from a webcam to a very high-powered 100x magnification lens, but still move the stage smoothly and precisely. It can be driven by turning a knob or by three small motors. The plan is that the motors will eventually be driven by the software that is being written for the device.