THICC GBA SP Mod Gets Easy Install Ahead Of Release

Back in August we covered a unique modification for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance SP which replaced the handheld’s rear panel with an expanded version that had enough internal volume for an upgraded battery, a Bluetooth audio transmitter, and support for both Qi wireless and USB-C charging. The downside was that getting the 10 mm 3D printed “backpack” installed wasn’t exactly the most user-friendly operation.

But today we’re happy to report that the dream team behind the so-called THICC BOI SP have not only made some huge improvements to the mod, but that they intend to release it as a commercial kit in the next few months. The trick to making this considerable upgrade a bit more forgiving is the use of a bespoke flat flex cable that easily allows the user to solder up all the necessary test points and connections, as well as a custom PCB that pulls together all the hardware required.

In the video below, [Tito] of Macho Nacho Productions goes over the latest version of the mod he’s been working on with [Kyle] and [Helder], and provides a complete step-by-step installation tutorial to give viewers an idea of what they’ll be in for once the kit goes on sale. While it’s still a fairly involved modification, the new design is surprisingly approachable. As we’ve seen with previous console modifications, the use of flat flex technology means the installation shouldn’t pose much of a challenge for anyone with soldering experience.

The flat flex cable allows for an exceptionally clean install.

Some may be put off by the fact that the replacement rear panel is even thicker this time around, but hopefully the unprecedented runtime made possible by the monstrous 4,500 mAh LiPo battery pack hiding inside the retrofit unit will help ease any discomfort (physical or otherwise) you may have from carrying around the chunkier case. Even with power-hungry accouterments like an aftermarket IPS display and a flash cart, the new battery can keep your SP running for nearly 20 hours. If you still haven’t beaten Metroid: Zero Mission by then, it’s time to take a break and reflect on your life anyway.

According to [Tito], the logistical challenges and considerable upfront costs involved in getting the new rear panels injection molded in ABS is the major roadblock holding the release of the kit back right now. The current prototypes, which appear to have been 3D printed in resin, simply don’t match the look and feel of the GBA SP’s original case well enough to be a viable option. A crowd funding campaign should get them over that initial hump, and we’ll be keeping an eye out for more updates as things move along towards production.

The previous version of this mod was impressive enough as a one-off project, but we’re excited to see the team taking the next steps towards making this compelling evolution of the GBA more widely available. It’s a fantastic example of what’s possible for small teams, or even individuals, when you leverage all the tools in the modern hardware hacking arsenal.

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Injection Molding Silicone Parts For Under $50

You’ve likely seen many tutorials on making silicone parts using 3D printed molds online. The vast majority of these methods use a simple pour method to fill the mold. This relies on careful degassing and gentle pouring to reduce the presence of bubbles in the final result. [Jan Mrázek] has been working on an alternative method however, that allows for injection molding at low cost in the home shop.

The process relies on the use of printed resin molds. [Jan] notes that this generally necessitates the use of condensation-cure silicones, as additive types don’t cure well in resin molds. The condensation silicone is mixed up, degassed, and poured into a standard cartridge. From there, it’s installed in a silicone delivery air gun, which uses compressed air to force the silicone out of the nozzle and into the waiting mold.

It’s basically using a bunch of home DIY gear to create a cheap injection molding solution for silicone parts. [Jan] notes that there are a few mods needed to mold design to suit the process, and that 400-800 kPa is a good pressure to inject the silicone at.

Having the silicone injected under pressure is great for complex mold designs, as it forces the material into all the little difficult nooks and crannies. Of course, we’ve seen other methods for making silicone parts before, too. Be sure to sound off in the comments with your own favored techniques for producing quality silicone parts. Video after the break.

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Injection Molds From Your 3D Printer

Last time we checked in with [CrafsMan] he had bought a benchtop injection molding machine. This time, he shows off how to 3D print molds. If you have ever had to spend to make tooling for injection molding, you’ll appreciate being able to make molds relatively inexpensively.

To test his workflow, [CrafsMan] created a little 3D figurine and brought it into TinkerCad. From there he created a mold and used Lychee Slicer to print it using resin.

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A Plastic Injection Machine You Can Use At Home

3D printing is all well and good if you want one of something, but if you want lots of plastic parts that are all largely identical, you should consider injection molding. You can pay someone to do this for you, or, in true hacker fashion, you can build an entire injection molding setup in your own garage, as [Action BOX] did.

The build relies on a pair of beefy 3hp motors to drive the screw-based injection system. These are responsible for feeding plastic pellets from a hopper and then melting them and filling the injection reservoir, before then forcing the hot plastic into the mold. Further stepper motors handle clamping the mold and then releasing it and ejecting the finished part. A Raspberry Pi handles the operation of the machine, and is configured with a custom Python program that is capable of proper cycle operation. At its peak, the machine can produce up to 4 parts per minute.

It’s an impressive piece of industrial-type hardware. If you want to produce a lot of plastic things in your own facility, a machine like this is very much the way to go. It’s not the first machine of its type we’ve seen, either! Video after the break.  Continue reading “A Plastic Injection Machine You Can Use At Home”

Injection-Molded Glass Breakthrough Shatters Ceiling Of Work Methods

Glass is one of humanity’s oldest materials, and it is still used widely for everything from drinking vessels and packaging to optics and communications. Unfortunately, the methods for working with glass are stuck in the past. Most methods require a lot of high heat in the range of 1500 °C to 2000 °C, and they’re all limited in the complexity of shapes that can be made.

As far as making shapes goes, glass can be blown and molten glass pressed into molds. Glass can also be ground, etched, or cast in a kiln. Glass would be fantastic for many applications if it weren’t for the whole limited geometry thing. Because of the limitations of forming glass, some optic lenses are made with polymers, even though glass has better optical characteristics.

Ideally, glass could be injection molded like plastic. The benefits of this would be twofold: more intricate shapes would be possible, and they would have a much faster manufacturing time. Well, the wait is over. Researchers at Germany’s University of Freiburg have figured out a way to apply injection molding to glass. And it’s not just any glass — they’ve made highly-quality, transparent fused quartz glass, and they did it at lower temperatures than traditional methods. The team used x-ray diffraction to verify that the glass is amorphous and free of crystals, and were able to confirm its optical transparency three ways — light microscopy, UV-visible, and infrared measurements. All it revealed was a tiny bit of dust, which is to be expected outside of a clean room.

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Ford And HP Teamed Up To Drive Down Plastic Waste

This mass manufacturer movement towards electric cars is one thing, but what about sustainability on the plastic part production line? Ford and HP have teamed up to turn used 3D printed parts and powders into pellets that will be fodder for injection-molded parts — specifically the fuel-line clips for Super Duty F250 trucks.

Two of the sustainably-made fuel clips.

According to Ford’s press release, their goal is to reach 100% sustainable materials in all their vehicles, not just the diesel-drinking Super Duty. Their research team found ten other Fords whose existing fuel-line clips could instead be made sustainably, and the company plans to implement the recycled plastic clips on all future models.

There are all sorts of positives at play here: the recycled clips cost 10% less to make and end up weighing 7% less than traditionally-made clips, all the while managing to be more chemical and moisture resistant.

And so much plastic will be kept out of landfills, especially once this idea takes off and more manufacturers get involved with HP or form other partnerships. One of the sources of Ford’s plastic is Smile Direct Club, which has 60 printers cranking out over 40,000 dental aligners every day.

There’s more than one way to combine 3D printing and sustainability. Did someone say fungal sound absorbers?

[Images via Ford]

DIY Injection Molding Press

While 3D printing has now become easily accessible and cheap, there are still several use cases where you need the advantages offered by injection molding, even for small batch runs. Professional small-batch injection molding can be pretty expensive, and buying a manual machine can cost quite a bit. Of course, there are a number of DIY injection molding projects to choose from, but they usually involve a fair amount of tools and labour. [Bolzbrain] wanted to bypass all of the heavy cutting, welding and frame assembly work, so he’s built himself a DIY Injection Molding Press for cheap using an off the shelf, six ton hydraulic press. At final count, he ended up spending about €150 for the machine and another €120 for tools to build the machine. He also managed to locate a cheap, local CNC service that gave him a good deal on machining the Dies. But of course you can’t put a price on the lessons learnt and the satisfaction of having built it by hand.

Choosing the hydraulic press is a great idea as it provides the high pressure needed for the job without the operator having to exert a lot of effort, which is a big drawback with some of the other DIY machines. As a bonus, the structural frame is quite sturdy and well suited for this purpose. The other main part of such a machine is the heated injection block and there are several different ways of doing it. After some amount of studying probable solutions, he decided to build a heated aluminium block through which the plastic granules can be rammed using the hydraulic piston. Heating is provided by a pair of 500W heaters and a type ‘k’ thermocouple does temperature sensing. An industrial PID controller adjusts the block temperature via a solid state relay. Overall, the electrical and mechanical layout cannot get any simpler.

[Bolzbrain] did a great job of documenting his build over a series of videos and more wizened hackers watching them will squirm in their seats spotting the numerous fails. He bought the cheapest pedestal drill machine that he could buy and watching the drill struggle while making a 26mm hole in the aluminium block is quite jarring.

The electrical wiring has a lot of scope for improvement – with 220V AC heaters, exposed wiring and jury rigged panel held up with a pair of clamps. Installing and removing the die is a task and requires a lot of fiddling with several C-clamps — something which needs to be repeated for every shot. Maybe toggle clamps could help him to ease die fixing and removal. Once he figures out about mold release agents and wall draft angles, he won’t have to struggle trying to remove the molded article from the die. Then there’s the issue of proper runner design so that the thermo-plastic can quickly fill the mold cavity completely without any pockets.

But in the end, all that matters is that he is getting reasonably good molded parts for his purposes. With more tweaking and incremental improvements, we’re sure he’ll get better results. The video after the break is a short overview of his build, but the project page has a series of detailed videos covering all aspects of the project. And if you’d like to get an introduction to desktop injection molding, check out “Benchtop Injection Molding for the Home Gamer

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