For most of human history, our inventions and innovations have been at a scale that’s literally easy to grasp. From the largest cathedral to the finest pocket watch, everything that went into our constructions has been something we could see with our own eyes and manipulate with our hands. But in the middle of the 20th century, we started making really, really small stuff: semiconductors. For the first time, we were able to create mechanisms too small to be seen with the naked eye, and too fine to handle with our comparatively huge hands. We needed a way to scale these devices up somewhat to make them useful parts. In short, they needed to be packaged.
We know that the first commercially important integrated circuits were packaged in the now-familiar dual in-line package (DIP), the little black plastic millipedes that would crawl across circuit boards for the next 50 years. As useful and versatile as the DIP was, and for as successful as the package became, its design was anything but obvious. Let’s take a look at the dual in-line package and how it got that way.
Liquid two-part resins that cure into a solid are normally used for casting, and [Cuddleburrito] also found them useful to add strength and rigidity to 3D printed pillar supports. In this case, the supports are a frame for some arcade-style buttons, which must stand up to a lot of forceful mashing. Casting the part entirely out of a tough resin would require a mold, and it turns out that filling a 3D print with resin gets comparable benefits while making it easy to embed fastener hardware, if done right.
Filling the inside of an object with some kind of epoxy or resin to reinforce it isn’t a new idea, but [Cuddleburrito] learned how a few small design considerations can lead to less messy and more successful results. The first is that resin can be poured with screws in place without any worry of trapping the screws in the resin, if done correctly. As long as only the threads of the screw are in the resin, they can be backed out after the resin has cured. Embedding nuts into the resin to act as fasteners becomes a much easier task when one can simply pour resin with both nut and screw in place, and remove the screw afterwards. A thin layer of a lubricant on the threads to act as a release may help, but [Cuddleburrito] didn’t seem to need any.
The second thing learned was that, for a pillar that needs a cap and embedded nut on both ends, it can be tricky to fill the object’s void with the perfect amount of required resin before capping it off. On [Cuddleburrito]’s first attempt, he underfilled and there wasn’t enough resin to capture the nut on the top lid of the pillar he was making. The way around this was to offset the nut on a riser, and design in either a witness hole or an overflow relief. A small drain hole or a safe area for runoff allows for filling things right up without an uncontrolled mess in the case of overfilling.
Something worth keeping in mind when experimenting in this area is that in general the faster a resin cures, the more it heats up in the process. It may be tempting to use something like 5 minute epoxy in a pinch, but the heat released from any nontrivial amount of it risks deforming a thin-walled 3D print in the process. For cases where resin would be overkill and the fasteners are small, don’t forget we covered the best ways to add fasteners directly to 3D printed parts.
When the Magic Smoke is released, chances are pretty good that you’ve got some component-level diagnosis to do. It’s usually not that hard to find the faulty part, charred and crusty as it likely appears. In that case, some snips, a new non-crusty part, and a little solder are usually enough to get you back in business.
But what if the smoke came not from a component but from the PCB itself? [Happymacer] chanced upon this sorry situation in a power supply for an electric gate opener. Basking in the Australian sunshine for a few years, the opener started acting fussy at first, then not acting at all. Inspection of its innards revealed that some unlucky ants had shorted across line and neutral on the power supply board, which burned not only the traces but the FR4 of the board as well. Rather than replace the entire board, [Happymacer] carefully removed the carbonized (and therefore conductive) fiberglass and resin, leaving a gaping hole in the board. He fastened a patch for the hole from some epoxy glue; Araldite is the brand he used, but any two-part epoxy, like JB Weld, should work. One side of the hole was covered with tape and the epoxy was smeared into the hole, and after a week of curing and a little cleanup, it was ready for duty. The components were placed into freshly drilled holes, missing traces were replaced with wire, and it seems to be working fine.
We sometimes get our inspirations from art. When [kodera2t] saw some Japanese art of fish drawings embedded in clear epoxy he just had to make his own. But while skilled in electronics, he wasn’t skilled at drawing. We’d still call him an artist, though, after seeing what he came up with in his electronics embedded in crystal clear epoxy.
His first works of electronic art were a couple of transistors and some ICs, including an 80386, encased in epoxy. But then he realized that he wanted the electronics to do something interesting. However, once encased in epoxy, how do you keep the electronics powered forever?
He tried a solar cell charging a battery which then powered an LED but he didn’t like the idea of chemical batteries encased in epoxy for a long time.
He then switched to wireless power transmission with a receiving coil in the base of epoxy pyramids. For one of them, the coil powers a BLE board with an attached LED which he can control from his phone. And his latest contains an ESP32-PICO with an OLED display. The code allows him to upload new firmware over the air but on his Hackaday.io page, he shows the difference between code which can brick the ESP32 versus code which won’t. But don’t take our word for it. Check out the video below to see his artistry for yourself.
JB Weld is a particularly popular brand of epoxy, and features in many legends. “My cousin’s neighbour’s dog trainer’s grandpa once repaired a Sherman tank barrel in France with that stuff!” they’ll say. Thankfully, with the advent of new media, there’s a wealth of content out there of people putting these wild and interesting claims to the test. As the venerable Grace Hopper once said, “One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions“, so it’s great to see these experiments happening.
[Project Farm] is one of them, this time attempting to repair a connecting rod in a small engine with the sticky stuff. The connecting rod under test is from a typical Briggs and Stratton engine, and is very much the worse for wear, having broken into approximately 5 pieces. First, the pieces are cleaned with a solvent and allowed to properly dry, before they’re reassembled piece by piece with lashings of two-part epoxy. Proper technique is used, with the epoxy being given plenty of time to cure.
Two-part epoxy is one of those must-have items in your toolbox, albeit kept in a ziploc bag to keep all that goo off the rest of your tools. It’s a glue with a million uses, but which brand is best? Should you keep some cheap five-minute epoxy around, or should you splurge for the fancy, long-setting JB Weld. It’s not a perfect analysis, but at least [Project Farm] has done the experiment. This is a test of which two-part epoxy you can find at your local home supply store is strongest.
The epoxies tested include Gorilla epoxy, Devcon Plastic Steel, Loctite Epoxy Weld, JB Weld original, JB Weld Kwik Weld, and JB ExtremeHeat. This more or less covers the entire gamut of epoxies you would find in the glue aisle of your local home supply store; the Gorilla epoxy is your basic 5-minute epoxy that comes in a double barrel syringe, and the JB Welds are the cream of the crop.
The testing protocol for this experiment consisted of grinding a piece of steel clean, applying a liberal blob of each epoxy, and placing three bolts, head down, in each puddle. The first test was simply suspending weights in 2.5-pound increments to each bolt as a quick test of shear strength. Here, the losers in order were the JB Weld ExtremeHeat, JB Weld KwikWeld, Loctite, Gorilla Epoxy, Devcon Plastic Steel, and finally the JB Weld Original. Your suspicions are confirmed: those fancy new versions of JB Weld aren’t as good as the original. The fact that they’re worse than 5-minute epoxy is surprising, though. The second test — torquing the bolts out of the epoxy — gave similar results, with Devcon Plastic Steel beating the JB Weld Original just barely.
So, what do these results tell us? Cheap five-minute epoxy isn’t terrible, and actually better than the fancy new versions of JB Weld. Loctite is okay, and the Devcon and original JB Weld are at the top of their game. That’s not that surprising, as you can cast cylinder heads for engines out of JB Weld.
[Dickel]’s robot MDi #4 has been in progress for several years, but what we wanted to draw your attention to is the way the parts have been fabricated and what kind of remarkable results are possible with careful design, measurement, cutting, and finishing. Much of MDi #4 was made by hand-cutting and drilling sheets of high impact polystyrene (HIPS) with a utility knife and layering them as needed. Epoxy and aluminum provide gap filling and reinforcement of key sections, and fiberglass took care of one of the larger sections.
The process [Dickel] follows is to prototype using cardboard first. Parts are then designed carefully in CAD, and printed out at a 1:1 scale and glued to sheets of polystyrene. Each sheet is cut and drilled by hand as necessary. Layers are stacked and epoxied, embedding any hardware needed in the process. Two examples of embedding hardware include sealing captive nuts into parts with epoxy, or using aluminum to add reinforcement. After some careful sanding, the pieces look amazing.
Scroll down a bit on that project page and you’ll see plenty of great photos of the process [Dickel] used. A video highlighting the head and a video showing the careful work that goes into making each part are embedded below.