3D Printing Silicone Parts

Silicone is a useful material for many purposes. Traditionally, creating something out of silicone required injection molding. That’s not difficult, but it does require a good bit of setup. As [Formlabs] points out in a recent video, there are at least three other routes to create silicone parts that utilize 3D printing technology that might fit your application better, especially if you only need a few of a particular item. You can see the video below.

The three methods are either printing silicone directly, printing a mold, casting silicone, or using high-performance elastomers, which are very silicone-like. Of course, as you might expect, some of this is aimed at prompting some of [Formlab’s] products, like a new silicone resin, and you can’t blame them for that.

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An Adjustable High-Voltage Power Supply Built With Safety In Mind

It’s not entirely clear why [Advanced Tinkering] needs a 50,000-volt power supply, but given the amount of work he put into this one, we’re going to guess it will be something interesting.

The stated specs for this power supply are pretty simple: a power supply that can be adjusted between 20kV and 50kV. The unstated spec is just as important: don’t kill yourself or anyone else in the process. To that end, [Advanced] put much effort into making things as safe as possible. The basic architecture of the supply is pretty straightforward, with a ZVS driver and an AC flyback transformer. Powered by a 24-volt DC supply and an adjustable DC-DC converter, that setup alone yields something around 20kV — not too shabby, but still far short of the spec. The final push to the final voltage is thanks to a three-stage Cockcroft-Walton multiplier made with satisfyingly chunky capacitors and diodes. To ensure everything stays safe in the high-voltage stage, he took the precaution of potting everything in epoxy. Good thing, too; tests before potting showed arcing in the CW multiplier despite large isolation slots in the PCB.

Aside from the potting, some really interesting details went into this build, especially on the high-voltage side. The 3D-printed and epoxy-filled HV connector is pretty cool, as is the special wire needed to keep arcs at bay. The whole build is nicely detailed, too, with care taken to bond each panel of the rack-mount case to a common ground point.

It’s a nice build, and we can’t wait to see what [Advanced Tinkering] does with it. In the meantime, if you want to get up to speed on handling high voltage safely, check out our HV primer.

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3D Printed Cookies, Sort Of

Are there any cookies that taste better than the ones you make yourself? Well, maybe, but there’s a certain exquisite flavoring to effort. Just ask [jformulate], who created these custom chocolate-topped butter cookies using a mixture of 3D printing, silicone, and of course, baking and tempering.

[jformulate] did this project along with a makerspace group, and the first thing they did was decide on some images for the cookies. Once a hexagon-shaped mold was created in Fusion360, the images were added in. Some had to be height-adjusted in order for the detail to come out.

Once these positives were printed, it was time to make the food-safe silicone molds that would form the custom chocolate toppers. If you don’t have a vacuum de-gasser, [jformulate] recommends pouring a thin stream from a high place to avoid air bubbles. You can always tap the mold several times on a flat surface as well to bring trapped air to the top.

Finally, it’s time to make cookies. [jformulate] has good instructions for tempering chocolate, as well as a recipe for the butter cookies that support the designs. As a bonus, [jformulate] shows how to make a fish-shaped hot chocolate bomb, and made Jolly Rancher (sadly not Wrencher) medallions using the silicone molds and a microwave.

For the semi-disappointed, directly 3D printing cookies is definitely a thing.

Nuke Your Own Uranium Glass Castings In The Microwave

Fair warning: if you’re going to try to mold uranium glass in a microwave kiln, you might want to not later use the oven for preparing food. Just a thought.

A little spicy…

Granted, uranium glass isn’t as dangerous as it might sound. Especially considering its creepy green glow, which almost seems to be somehow self-powered. The uranium glass used by [gigabecquerel] for this project is only about 1% U3O8, and isn’t really that radioactive. But radioactive or not, melting glass inside a microwave can be problematic, and appropriate precautions should be taken. This would include making the raw material for the project, called frit, which was accomplished by smacking a few bits of uranium glass with a hammer. We’d recommend a respirator and some good ventilation for this step.

The powdered uranium glass then goes into a graphite-coated plaster mold, which was made from a silicone mold, which in turn came from a 3D print. The charged mold then goes into a microwave kiln, which is essentially an insulating chamber that contains a silicon carbide crucible inside a standard microwave oven. Although it seems like [gigabecquerel] used a commercially available kiln, we recently saw a DIY metal-melting microwave forge that would probably do the trick.

The actual casting process is pretty simple — it’s really just ten minutes in the microwave on high until the frit gets hot enough to liquefy and flow into the mold. The results were pretty good; the glass medallion picked up the detail in the mold, but also the crack that developed in the plaster. [gigabecquerel] thinks that a mold milled from solid graphite would work better, but he doesn’t have the facilities for that. If anyone tries this out, we’d love to hear about it.

A Soft Soldering Jig For Hard Projects

We’ve seen some absolutely gorgeous freeform circuit sculptures. There’s a mystic quality to taking what has normally been hidden away for safety and reliability reasons and putting it on display for everyone to see. Of course, creating these unique circuit sculptures takes considerable time and effort. [Inne] created several silicone soldering jigs to help with these tricky joints.

While a vice or helping hands is crucial for many joints, when dealing with tiny SMD components and exacting angles, you need something a little more specialized. Double-sided tape is often recommended, but heat ruins the adhesive and SMD components like to stick to soldering iron tips. Since silicone tends to be heat resistant, it makes a decent material for soldering on. [Inne] uses a city analogy with the cups for soldering called plazas, each with a hole (called a manhole) leading to a foot-switch vacuum pump to keep parts in place. The OpenSCAD code is available on GitHub under a GPLv3 license. It generates a two-part mold that you can cast in A-8/A-15 silicone.

It’s a clever project that makes it far easier to assemble gorgeous circuit sculptures. We love the design and thought that went into it, particularly the naming scheme as we often find appropriately naming variables in OpenSCAD quickly becomes difficult.

DOOM Ported To A Single LEGO Brick

By now you’ve all seen the tiny LEGO brick with a working screen in it. The work of one [James “Ancient” Brown], it was truly a masterpiece of miniaturization and creativity. Since then, [James] hasn’t stopped innovating. Now, he’s demoing a playable version of DOOM running on a single plastic brick.

We’ve covered the construction of these astounding screen bricks before. Long story short, [James] designed a tiny PCB that hosts an RP2040 microcontroller which is then hooked up to a tiny OLED screen. The components are placed in a silicone mold, which is then filled with transparent resin to form the brick. The screen is then powered via contacts in the bottom, much like older-style LEGO motors.

Early experiments involved running various graphics to emulate a spaceship dashboard, but [James] has now gone much further. He’s implemented RP2040-doom to run the game. It uses tilt controls thanks to an accelerometer, combined with capacitive touch controls for shooting. The monochrome OLED is driven very fast with a special library of [James’] own creation to create three levels of grayscale to make the game actually visible and (just barely) playable.

It’s a hack, of course, and the controls are far from perfect. Nobody’s speed-running E1M1 on [James’s] LEGO brick, to be sure. Perchance. With that said, it’s still a glorious piece of work nonetheless. Just imagine, sitting with friends, and announcing you’re going to play some DOOM — only to pluck a piece of LEGO out of your pocket and start blasting away at demons.

Just because [James] doesn’t know when to quit, we’re going to lay down the gauntlet. Let’s get network play happening on these things, yeah?
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DIY Custom Earplugs For Pennies Per Pair

Hearing is one of our most precious senses, and yet many take their hearing for granted, exposing themselves to loud noises that do lasting damage. [Jonathan Levi] of The Next Level does no such thing, at least not anymore. He’s even gone so far as to have custom acrylic earplugs made, which he carried around for two years, finally had them tweaked to be perfect, and promptly lost them. Rather than shell out another $150-$200 for another pair, [Jonathan] decided to see if he could make some himself.

While it’s true that [Jonathan] got a head start by asking the earplug company for the STLs they created back when he was fitted, he goes through the ways that one could mold and then scan one’s ears at home for not a lot of money. There are even kits for squirting that quick-setting goo into your ear to get just the right shape. Once you’ve got the ear canal positives, some quick photogrammetry work with your phone camera and a lazy Susan should be enough to get a model going in Blender.

[Jonathan] had the good sense to label left and right on the 3D printed mold, and furthermore added some small 3D printed screws that are color-coded to help him keep them plugs straight, and give him something to grab on to when it’s time to take them out. Be sure to check out the build video after the break.

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