Transparent and Flexible Circuits

German researchers have a line on 3D printed circuitry, but with a twist. Using silver nanowires and a polymer, they’ve created flexible and transparent circuits. Nanowires in this context are only 20 nanometers long and only a few nanometers thick. The research hopes to print things like LEDs and solar cells.

Of course, nothing is perfect. The material has a sheet resistance as low as 13Ω/sq and the optical transmission was as high as 90%. That sounds good until you remember the sheet resistance of copper foil on a PCB is about 0.0005Ω.

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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!

Direct download (67.6 MB of audio splendor)

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Steel-Reinforced 3D Prints

Continuing on the never-ending adventure of how to make a 3D print stronger, [Brauns CNC] is coming at us with a new technique that involves steel-reinforced 3D printed parts.

We’ve seen plenty of methods to create stronger 3D prints, from using carbon fiber filament to simply printing the part in a way that the layers of the print are orthogonal to the direction of force. We’ve even seen casting carbon fiber bars into 3D prints, but of course that will only work with straight parts. [Brauns]’ technique uses steel wire, embedded into the print itself, and from some testing there’s about a 50% increase in strength of the part.

The process of embedding a steel cable into a 3D printed part is simply taking apart the model and putting a channel in for the cable. At a specific layer height, the printer is stopped, the steel cable is embedded with the help of a soldering iron, and the printer continues doing its thing.

There’s a slight amount of Gcode hacking to make this happen, and the process of embedding a steel cable into a print is a bit finicky. Still, if you want stronger 3D prints, there are worse ways to do it, and certainly less effective ways of doing it. You can check out the video for this technique below.

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Watch These Two Robots Cooperate On a 3D Print

Putting a 3D printer on a mobile robotic platform is one thing, but two robots co-cooperatively printing a large object together is even more impressive. AMBOTS posted the video on Twitter and we’ve embedded it below.

The robots sport omnidirectional wheels and SCARA format arms, and appear to interact with some kind of active tabletop to aid positioning. The AMBOTS website suggests that the same ideas could be used for other tasks such as pick and place style assembly work, and the video below of co-operative 3D printing is certainly a neat proof of concept.

As a side note: most omni wheels we see (such as the ones on these robots) are of the Mecanum design but there are other designs out there you may not have heard of, such as the Liddiard omnidirectional wheel.

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Custom Rotary Switch Takes a Motor

There are certain challenges we all will have to face sooner or later. Changing a flat tire in the rain, trying to put on a shirt that doesn’t quite fit, or producing a 16 position rotary switch for a replica computer front panel. There was a time when something like this would be a major undertaking, but with the help of a 3D printer [Megardi] was able to build good looking switches that were big enough to be motor driven.

Switches of course are old tech, and there are plenty of ways to make contacts. [Megardi] settled on using 16 small magnets and reed switches. This works, but you probably wouldn’t want to use it where the switch might get close to an external magnet. It does however make for a neat assembly without a lot of mechanical work. It also resists wear compared to a brush type arrangement.

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Metal 3D Printing — a Dose of Reality

We have no doubt that hundreds of times a day a hacker is watching a 3D printer spew hot plastic and fantasizes about being able to print directly using metal. While metal printers are more common than ever, they are still out of reach for most people printing as a hobby. But as Mr. Spock once observed: “…you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.” However, metal 3D printing has its own unique set of challenges. Texas A&M recently produced a short video explaining some of the design issues that you’ll encounter trying to make practical metal prints on an SLS (Selective Laser Melting) printer. You can see the video below.

The description says “It is more challenging to ‘metal 3D print’ a part than most people think. We’ve noticed the same even with plastic printers as friends will expect us to print the most outlandish things for them. What we like about this video is it helps to set expectations of the current state of the art so we’re not expecting far more than today’s metal printers can produce.

Among the features covered in the video are overhangs, which require supports. After removal, the surface is about like 80 grit sandpaper unless you perform further finishing. Just like plastic parts, warping and curling of large areas is a problem with metal. If you’ve ever been frustrated removing plastic support material, try having to ceramic grind metal supports off. They also use an EDM machine to cut especially tough supports, but it causes a lot of effort since it is likely to run through EDM wires and clog the filters.

We looked at recent advances in metal printing last year. We’ve seen homebrew machines that were little more than welders under computer control and we’ve seen plans by big players like HP to create metal prints, but at a steep price. Still, you can’t stop the march of 3D printing progress.

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The 3D Printing Dream is Still Alive at 2019’s Midwest RepRap Festival

3D Printers have been in the hands of hackers for well over ten years, but the dream is far from over and certainly not overslept. This year’s Midwest RepRap Festival is a testament to the still-growing excitement, and world where 3D printing is alive and kicking on the next level.

This past weekend, I took up my friend [Eric’s] advice to come down and participate firsthand, and I was simply blown away. Not only did we witness the largest number of attendees to date, MRRF 2019 spilled into not one but two conference halls at the Goshen Fairgrounds.

In what follows, I tell my tale of the times. Continue reading “The 3D Printing Dream is Still Alive at 2019’s Midwest RepRap Festival”