A Case for the Desktop Vinyl Cutter

As far as desktop workbench fab tools go, it’s too easy to let 3D printers keep stealing the spotlight. I mean, who doesn’t appreciate that mechatronic “buzz” as our printer squirts a 3D CAD model into plastic life? While the 3D printer can take up a corner of my workbench, there’s still plenty of room for other desktop rapid-prototyping gadgets.

Today, I’d like to shed some light on vinyl cutters. Sure, we can start with stickers and perhaps even jumpstart an after-hours Etsy-mart, but there’s a host of other benefits besides just vinyl cutting. In fact, vinyl cutters might just be the unsung heroes of research in folding and papercraft.

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Cameo Cutter Makes SMD Stencils

You never know what you might find in an arts and craft store. A relatively recent addition to crafting is automatic cutting machines like the Cricut and Cameo cutters. These are typically used to cut out shapes for scrapbooking, although they will cut or engrave almost anything thin. You can think of them as a printer with a cutting blade in place of the print head. [Mikeselectricstuff] decided to try a Cameo cutter to produce SMD stencils. The result, as you can see in the video below, is quite impressive.

If you’ve ever wanted to do SMD soldering with a reflow oven, stencils are invaluable for putting solder paste on the board where you want it quickly. The board [Mike] has contains a boat-load (over 2,000) of LEDs and dropping solder on each pad with a syringe would be very time consuming (although he did do some touch up with a syringe).

The board he’s using doesn’t have any extreme fine-pitched parts. However, he did some test patterns and decided he could get down to a finer pitch, especially with a little tweaking. However, the stencil he used didn’t need any changes. All he did was export the solder paste layer as a DXF and bring it straight into the Cameo software.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen one of these cutters pressed into stencil service. You can also get some use out of your 3D printer.

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Ad Hoc MIDI to Music Box Project Shows Power of Hacker Community

Fair warning: when you post a video of you doing an incredibly tedious process like manually punching holes in a paper tape to transfer a MIDI file to a music box, don’t be surprised when a bunch of hackers automates the process in less than a week.

The back story on this should be familiar to even casual Hackaday readers. [Martin] from the Swedish group “Wintergatan” is a prolific maker of unusual musical instruments. You’ll no doubt recall his magnificent marble music machine, a second version of which is currently in the works. But he’s also got a thing for music boxes that are programmed by paper tape, and recently posted a video showing his time-consuming and totally manual process for punching the holes in the tape. Since his source material was already in a MIDI file, a bunch of his fans independently came up with ways to automate the process.

The video below shows what he learned from his fans about automating his programming, but also what he learned about the community we all work and play in. Without specifically asking for help, random strangers brought together by common interests identified the problems, came up with solutions, sorted through the good and the bad ideas, and made the work publically available. Not bad for less than a week’s work.

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Turning your CNC into a Vinyl Cutter

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s actually pretty easy to modify your CNC machine to hold a vinyl cutter blade in order to do stencils or even cut out vinyl logos!

[Jouni] designed a holder for a standard Roland vinyl/sticker cutter blade (replacement with 5 blades is about $10 on eBay). It’s made to fit his specific CNC which uses a 65mm spindle, with a 49mm mounting ring — but the file could be easily modified to suit others.

Simply clamp your plastic or vinyl onto a flat piece of wood, and get stenciling! [Jouni’s] included his .STL file on his site in case anyone wants to try it out. While he’s designed it for 3D printing, you could probably CNC mill it as well — which would kinda make more sense…

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Porsche-themed Mancave Clock: There is no Substitute

With an extra Porsche brake rotor lying about and a persistent friend to be silenced, [GordsGarage] decided to fabricate a one-of-a-kind man cave wall clock.

This was not to be a boring old hang-it-flat-on-the-wall design, though. The Porsche rotor is a composite design, with a steel hub and a ceramic disc weighing only a third of what an all-steel rotor weighs. That inspired [GordsGarage] to fabricate a wall bracket to hold the rotor and allow it to spin, showing off both sides. The business side has a brushed aluminum clock face with decals cut with a s vinyl-plotter and designed to look like a Porsche tachometer, while the reverse side has a nice custom badge for his friend’s shop. The build log shares some of the nice touches that went into the clock, like powder coated parts to mimic stock Porsche red brake calipers, and the secret [GordsGarage] logo.

It may not have been a clock for social good, but it’s a great design and a nice build that’s sure to brighten up his friend’s shop. And mancave warming presents are apparently a thing now, so we’ll be sure to keep our finger on the pulse of this social trend.

PCB stencils for $200

stencil

There’s some really cool stuff to find if you wander around a Michaels craft shop or Hobby Lobby long enough. Recently, [Ben] picked up a craft cutter – a small vinyl cutter-like device meant for scrapbooking and other crafty endevours. He’s using this machine to create solder paste stencils that are better than any laser cut stencil he’s used before.

Like a build we’ve seen before, [Ben] is using a desktop-sized vinyl cutter, the Sihouette Portrait,  with 4 mil Mylar. After converting the relevent layers of a Gerber file into .SVG files, [Ben] loaded up Robocut to cut very, very small holes in his solder stencil. The results are great; much better than a laser would cut Mylar, and good enough to apply paste to a few hundred boards at least.

While [Ben] is using his stencils to apply solder paste, we’re wondering if a similar process could be used to apply a UV-curing solder mask to home-fabbed boards. That would allow for some very professional-looking boards to be produced with a turnaround time of just a few hours.