Another Way To Make PCBs At Home

One of the more popular ways of rolling out your own custom PCB is to simply create the model in your CAD program of choice and send it off to a board manufacturer who will take care of the dirty work for you. This way there is no need to deal with things like chemicals, copper dust, or maintaining expensive tools. A middle ground between the board manufacturer and a home etching system though might be what [igorfonseca83] has been doing: using an inexpensive laser engraver to make PCBs for him.

A laser engraver is basically a low-power laser CNC machine that’s just slightly too weak to cut most things that would typically go in a laser cutter. It turns out that the 10W system is the perfect amount of energy to remove a mask from a standard PCB blank, though. This in effect takes the place of the printer in the old toner transfer method, and the copper still has to be dissolved in a chemical solution, but the results are a lot more robust than trying to modify a printer for this task.

If you aren’t familiar with the days of yore when homebrew PCBs involved a standard desktop printer, many people still use this method, although the results can be mixed based on printer reliability. If you want to skip the middleman, and the need for a chemical bath, a more powerful laser actually can cut the traces for you, too.

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A Real All-In-One Printer Should Have A Computer In It, Too

With printers generally being cheaper to replace than re-ink, there are plenty of cast-offs around to play with. They’re a great source for parts, but they’re also tempting targets for repurposing for entirely new uses. Sure, you could make a printer into a planter, but slightly more useful is this computer built into a printer that still prints.

This build is [Mason Stooksbury]’s earlier and admittedly useless laptop-in-a-printer build, which we covered a few months back. It’s easy to see where he got his inspiration, since the donor printer’s flip-up lid is a natural for mounting a display, and the capacious, glass-topped scanner bed made a great place to show off the hybrid machine’s guts. But having a printer that doesn’t print didn’t sit well with [Mason], so Comprinter II was born. This one follows the same basic approach, with a Toshiba Netbook stuffed into an H-P ENVY all-in-one. The laptop’s screen was liberated and installed in the printer’s lid, the motherboard went into the scanner bay along with a fair number of LEDs. This killed the scanner but left the printer operational, after relocating a power brick that was causing a paper jam error.

[Mason]’s Comprinter II might not be the next must-have item, but it certainly outranks the original Comprinter on the utility spectrum. Uselessness has a charm of its own, though; from a 3D-printed rotary dial number pad to a useless book scanner, keep the pointless projects coming, please.

3D Printer Meets CNC Router To Make Wood Prints

We’ve seen plenty of plywood 3D printers before; after all, many early hobbyist machines were made from laser-cut plywood. But this plywood 3D-printer isn’t made from plywood – it prints plywood. Well, sort of.

Yes, we know – that’s not plywood the printer is using, but rather particleboard, the same material that fills the flatpack warehouse of every IKEA store. And calling it a printer is a bit of a stretch, too. This creation, by [Shane Whigton] and his Formlabs Hackathon team, is more of a hybrid additive-subtractive CNC machine. A gantry-mounted router carves each layer of the print from a fresh square of material – which could just as easily be plywood as particleboard. Once a layer is cut, the gantry applies glue to it, puts a fresh sheet of material on top, and clamps it down tight. The router then carves the next layer, and so on up the stack. The layer height is limited to the thickness of the material – a nominal 3/4″ (19 mm) in this case – and there’s a remarkable amount of waste, but that’s not really the point. Check out the printer in action and the resulting giant Benchy in the video below.

Seeing all that particleboard dust and glue got us thinking: what about a 3D-printer that extrudes a paste of sawdust mixed with glue? We imagine that would be a bit like those giant printers that extrude concrete to build houses.
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Comprinter Hides A Laptop Inside A Printer

Sometimes we find projects that border on the absurd but are too cool to pass up. The Comprinter is exactly that. [Mason Stooksbury] had a dream. An all-in-one scanner printer that was also a computer. What would turn heads more than walking into a hackerspace with a printer, plugging your headphones in, then opening up the top to reveal a monitor?

[Mason’s] dream became possible when friends gave him some old laptops and a dead Kodak printer. After going through the laptops, he picked a Dell Inspiron 1440 to be the donor machine. The printer and laptop were both carefully stripped down. [Mason’s] goal for the project was to build a “beautiful” printer/computer. No bodges allowed. He spent most of his time planning out how to mount the motherboard and display inside the scanner section of the chassis.

The actual assembly was quite fiddly. Working with only an inch or so of clearance, [Mason] installed standoffs for the motherboard and display. He to do all this without breaking the wires for the display and WiFi antennas.

Once the main parts of the laptop were assembled, [Mason] completed the build with a nine-port USB hub, some internally mounted speakers and a USB keyboard mounted in the paper tray. The twelve-hour operation was a complete success. What looks to be a cheap inkjet actually hides a complete laptop running Xubuntu. The only downside is that the printer doesn’t actually print, but [Mason] is quick to note that if the printer hadn’t been broken in the first place, it would work fine — all the modifications are in the scanner section.

We’ve seen some wild casemods over the years, including a Nintendo in a toaster, a modern PC stuffed into an original Xbox, and Raspberry Pi’s stuffed into just about everything.

Reinking Dot Matrix Printer Ribbons Because It’s Fun, Okay

Ink! No matter the printer you’ve got, whether it be inkjet, laser or otherwise, it’s the consumables that will send you broke. At times, the cost of Hewlett-Packard black ink has exceeded the price per volume of human blood, and shareholders around the world have rejoiced.

As a retrocomputing reprobate, I have a personal dilection for printers of the vintage persuasion. My previous dalliances have involved fully fledged office copiers, but lately I’ve found myself tinkering with dot matrixes of a 1980s vintage. These workhorses are now reaching middle age, and as you’d expect, their ribbons are a little worse for wear after all this time.

Replacements are cheap enough for the most common printers, but shipping takes weeks and hackers are an impatient bunch. Plus, if you’ve got one of the more obscure models, it’s unlikely you’ll find a fresh cart just sitting on the shelf. It was these factors that spurred my good friend [Cosmos2000] and I into action.

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Arduino Converts Serial To Parallel: The Paralleloslam

After a youth spent playing with Amigas and getting into all sorts of trouble on the school computer network, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for hardware from the 80s and 90s. This extends beyond computers themselves, and goes so far as to include modems, photocopiers, and even the much-maligned dot matrix printer.

My partner in hacking [Cosmos2000] recently found himself with a wonderful Commodore MPS 1230 printer. Its parallel interface was very appropriate in its day, however parallel ports are as scarce as SID chips. Thankfully, these two interfaces are easy to work with and simple in function. Work on a device to marry these two disparate worlds began.

Enter: The Paralleloslam

While I was gallivanting around the Eastern coast of Australia, [Cosmos2000] was hard at work. After some research, it was determined that it would be relatively simple to have an Arduino convert incoming serial data into a parallel output to the printer. After some testing was performed on an Arduino Uno, a bespoke device was built – in a gloriously plastic project box, no less.

An ATMEGA328 acts as the brains of the operation, with a MAX232 attached for level conversion from TTL to RS232 voltage levels. Serial data are received on the hardware TX/RX lines. Eight digital outputs act as the parallel interface. When a byte is received over serial, the individual bits are set on the individual digital lines connected to the printer’s parallel port. At this point, the strobe line is pulled low, indicating to the attached device that it may read the port. After two microseconds, it returns high, ready for the next byte to be set on the output lines. This is how parallel interfaces operate without a clock signal, using the strobe to indicate when data may be read.

At this point, [Cosmos2000] reached out – asking if I had a name for the new build.

“Hm. Paralleloslam?”

“Done. Cheers!”

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Restoring A Forgotten Dot-Matrix Printer

Dot matrix printers are the dinosaurs that won’t go extinct. They are not unlike a typewriter with the type bars behind the ink ribbon replaced by a row of metal pins controlled by solenoids, each pin being capable of printing a single pixel. At their best they could deliver a surprising level of quality, but their sound once heard is not forgotten, because it was extremely LOUD.

[Wpqrek] bought an old dot-matrix printer, a Commodore MPS 803. Sadly it didn’t live up to the dot-matrix reputation for reliability in that it didn’t work, some of its pins weren’t moving, so he set to on its repair. Behind each of those pins was a solenoid, and after finding a crack in the flexible ribbon to the head he discovered that some of the solenoids were open-circuit. On dismantling the head it became apparent that the wires had detached themselves from the solenoids, so he very carefully reattached new wires and reassembled the unit. Of course, he had no replacement for the flexible ribbon, so he made a replacement with a bundle of long lengths of flexible hook-up wire. This hangs out of the top of the printer as it follows the carriage, but for now it keeps the device working.

Dot-matrix printers are a favourite for our readership. Among others, we’ve seen another Commodore get the Python treatment, as well as an Apple capable of printing in full colour.