£D printed parts with glossy toner transfer images on

Add Full-Color Images To Your 3D Prints With Toner Transfer

Toner transfer is a commonly-used technique for applying text and images to flat surfaces such as PCBs, but anybody who has considered using the same method on 3D prints will have realized that the heat from the iron would be a problem. [Coverton] has a solution that literally turns the concept on its head, by 3D printing directly onto the transparency sheet.

instrument panel design with toner transfer markings
The fine detail is great for intuitive front-panel designs

The method is remarkably straightforward, and could represent a game-changer for hobbyists trying to achieve professional-looking full-color images on their prints.

First, the mirrored image is printed onto a piece of transparency film with a laser printer. Then, once the 3D printer has laid down the first layer of the object, you align the transparency over it and tape it down so it doesn’t move around. The plastic that’s been deposited already is then removed, and a little water is placed on the center of the bed. Using a paper towel, the transparency gets smoothed out until the bubbles are pushed off to the edges.

Another few pieces of tape hold the transparency down on all corners, and the hotend height is adjusted to take into account the transparency thickness. From there, the print can continue on as normal. When finished, the image should be fused with the plastic. If it’s hard to visualize, check out the video after the break for a step-by-step guide.

There are, of course, some caveats. Aligning the transfer and the print looks a little fiddly at the moment, the transparency material used (obviously) has to be rated for use in laser printers, and it only works on flat surfaces. But on the other hand, there will be some readers who already have everything they need to try this out at home right now — and we’d love to see the results!

We’ve covered some other ways to get color and images onto 3D prints in the past, such as this hydrographic technique or by using an inkjet printhead, but [Coverton]’s idea looks much simpler than either of those.  If you’re interested in toner transfer for less heat-sensitive materials, then check out this guide from a few years back, or see what other Hackaday readers have been doing on wood or brass.

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Shot of CubeTouch, a six sided cube built out of PCBs with each of the top PCB allowing for diffusion of the LEDs on the inside to shine through

Keyboard Shortcuts At The Touch Of A Planetary Cube

[Noteolvides] creates the CubeTouch, a cube made of six PCBs soldered together that creates a functional and interactive piece of art through its inlaid LEDs and capacitive touch sensors.

The device itself is connected through a USB-C connector that powers the device and allows it to send custom keyboard shortcuts, depending on which face is touched.

Finger touching the top of a CubeTouch device

The CubeTouch is illuminated on the inside with six WS2812 LEDs that take advantage of the diffusion properties of the underlying FR4 material to shine through the PCBs. The central microprocessor is a CH552 that has native USB support and is Arduino compatible. Each “planet” on the the five outward facing sides acts as a capacitive touch sensor that can be programmed to produce a custom key combination.

Assembling the device involves soldering the connections at two joints for each edge connecting the faces.

We’re no strangers to building enclosures from FR4, nor are we strangers to merging art and functionality. The CubeTouch offers a further exploration of these ideas in a sweet package.

The CubeTouch is Open Source Hardware Certified with all documentation, source code and other relevant digital artifacts available under a libre/free license.

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Custom Raspberry Pi Case Shows The Whole Workflow

If you are a process junkie and love seeing the end-to-end of how a thing is made and with what tools, then watch [Michael Klements] show off his Raspberry Pi case design. His case has quite a few cool-looking elements to it, and incorporates 3D printing as well as laser-cut and clear bent acrylic for a gorgeous three-quarter view.

[Michael]’s write-up (and accompanying video, embedded below) are partly a review of his Creality 3D printer, and partly a showcase of his Raspberry Pi case design (for which he sells the design files for a small fee on his Etsy store.) But the great part is seeing the creation of every piece that goes into the end product. Not everyone is familiar with the way these tools work, or what they can create, so it’s nice to see attention paid to that side of things.

Both the blog post and the video nicely show off what goes into every part. The video opens with unpacking and setting up the 3D printer (skip ahead to 4:58 if you aren’t interested), followed by printing the parts, laser-cutting the acrylic on a K40 laser cutter, bending the acrylic using a small hand tool, and finally, assembling everything. For the curious, there are also links to the exact parts and equipment he uses.

Like we said, it’s part 3D printer review and part showcase of a design he sells, but it’s great to see each of the parts get created, watch the tools get used, and see the results come together in the final product. And should you wish to go in the opposite direction? A one-piece minimalist case for your Raspberry Pi is only a 3D printer away.

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The eurorack rail piece, just printed in white plastic, not yet folded, with a folded example in the upper right corner

Bend Your Prints To Eliminate Supports

When designing even a reasonably simple 3D-printable part, you need to account for all the supports it will require to print well. Strategic offsetting, chamfering, and filleting are firmly in our toolkits. Over time we’ve learned to dial our settings in so that, hopefully, we don’t have to fumble around with a xacto knife after the bed has cooled down. On Twitter, Chris shows off his foldable 3D print experiments (nitter) that work around the support problem by printing the part as a single piece able to fold into a block as soon as you pop it off the bed.

The main components of this trick seem to be the shape of the place where the print will fold, and the alignment of bottom layer lines perpendicular to the direction of the fold lines. [Chris] shows a cross-section of his FreeCad design, sharing the dimensions he has found to work best.

Of course, this is Twitter, so other hackers are making suggestions to improve the design — like this sketch of a captive wedge likely to improve alignment. As for layer line direction alignment, [Chris] admits to winging it by rotating the part in the slicer until the layer lines are oriented just right. People have been experimenting with this for some time now, and tricks like these are always a welcome addition to our toolkits. You might be wondering – what kinds of projects are such hinges useful for?

The example Chris provides is a Eurorack rail segment — due to the kind of overhangs required, you’d be inclined to print it vertically, taking a hit to the print time and introducing structural weaknesses. With this trick, you absolutely don’t have to! You can also go way further and 3D print a single-piece foldable Raspberry Pi Zero case, available on Printables, with only two extra endcaps somewhat required to hold it together.

Foldable 3D prints aren’t new, though we typically see them done with print-in-place hinges that are technically separate pieces. This trick is a radical solution to avoiding supports and any piece separation altogether. In laser cutting, we’ve known about similar techniques for a while, called a “living hinge”, but we generally haven’t extended this technique into 3D printing, save for a few manufacturing-grade techniques. Hinges like these aren’t generally meant to bend many times before they break. It’s possible to work around that, too — last time we talked about this, it was an extensive journey that combined plastic and fabric to produce incredibly small 3D printed robots!

We thank [Chaos] for sharing this with us!

Planning Custom Aluminum Enclosures With OpenSCAD

We’ve seen a number of projects over the years that let you create custom enclosures using OpenSCAD, and for good reason. The parametric CAD tool is ideal for generating 3D models based on user-adjustable variables, and if you leverage its integrated Customizer, producing a bespoke box is as easy as moving some sliders around. The resulting files get sent off to the 3D printer, and you’re set. But what if you’re looking for a custom enclosure that’s not so…plastic?

In that case, AlClosure by [0xPIT] might be the answer. Rather than generating STL files intended for your 3D printer, the code is written to help you design an enclosure made from aluminum sheets. The top and bottom panels are intended to be cut from 1.5 mm – 2.5 mm sheets, while the sides are made from thicker 5 mm – 8 mm stock to accept a machined pocket that holds the front and rear inserts.

Since it’s OpenSCAD, much of the design is governed by variables which you can tweak. Obviously the outside dimensions of the enclosure can be changed in a flash, but it’s just as easy to modify the thickness of the aluminum sheet being used, or the size of the screw holes. [0xPIT] has also done a great job of documenting the code itself, so you’ll know exactly what you’re modifying.

Obviously, you’ll need the ability to cut and machine aluminum to actually utilize this project. The code itself is really just a way to conceptualize the design and get your dimensions figured out ahead of time. But as we were recently reminded by the keynote presentation [Jeremy Fielding] gave at the 2021 Remoticon, this sort of early prototyping can often save you a lot of headaches down the line.

Generate Fully Parametric, 3D-Printable Speaker Enclosures

Having the right speaker enclosure can make a big difference to sound quality, so it’s no surprise that customizable ones are a common project for those who treat sound seriously. In that vein, [zx82net]’s Universal Speaker Box aims to give one everything they need to craft the perfect enclosure.

The parts can be 3D-printed, but the design ensures that the front and back panels are flat, so one can use wood or some other material for those depending on preference and appearance. The assembly is screwed together using six M3 bolts per side with optional heat-set inserts, but it’s entirely possible to simply glue the unit together if preferred.

One thing that makes this design a bit more broadly useful is that [zx82net] not only provides the parametric design file for Fusion360, but also includes STEP format CAD files, and a small number of pre-configured assemblies for a few commonly available speaker drivers: the Dayton Audio DMA70-4, ND91-4, and the TCP115-4. Not enough for you? Check out [zx82net]’s collection of ready-to-rock enclosures in a variety of designs and configurations; there’s bound to be something to appeal to just about anyone.

[via Reddit]

Art of 3D printer in the middle of printing a Hackaday Jolly Wrencher logo

3D Printering: Corrugated Plastic For Cheaper & Easier Enclosures

Clear acrylic panels have long been a mainstay of 3D printer enclosure designs, but they can also add significant cost in terms of money, shipping, weight, and hassle. An alternative material worth looking at is corrugated plastic (also known by its trade name coroplast) which is cheap, light, an excellent insulator, and easy to work with. Many enclosure designs can be refitted to use it instead of acrylic, so let’s take a closer look at what it has to offer.

What’s Wrong With Acrylic?

It’s not just the purchase price that makes acrylic a spendy option. Acrylic is fairly heavy, and shipping pieces the size of enclosure panels can be expensive. Also, cutting acrylic without special tools can be a challenge because it cracks easily if mishandled. Acrylic cuts beautifully in a laser cutter, but most laser cutters accessible to a hobbyist are not big enough to make enclosure-sized panels. If you are stuck with needing to cut acrylic by hand, here are some tips on how to get by with the tools you have.

It is best to source acrylic from a local shop that can also cut it to size with the right tools for a reasonable price, but it is still far from being a cheap material. There’s another option: corrugated plastic has quite a few properties that make it worth considering, especially for a hobbyist.

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