3D printing

Self-assembling Polymers Support Silicone 3D Prints

We all know what the ultimate goal of 3D printing is: to be able to print parts for everything, including our own bodies. To achieve that potential, we need better ways to print soft materials, and that means we need better ways to support prints while they’re in progress.

That’s the focus of an academic paper looking at printing silicone within oil-based microgels. Lead author [Christopher S. O’Bryan] and team from the Soft Matter Research Lab at the University of Florida Gainesville have developed a method using self-assembling polymers soaked…

3D Printed Bionic Skin Will Help Humans and Machines Merge

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A new 3D printed “Bionic Skin” developed at the University of Minnesota, is a stretchable, electronic fabric, which would allow robots to gain tactile sensation. The results of this study were published in the journal, Advanced Materials. Scientists have been dreaming of artificial skin since the 1970’s. Thanks to funding by a division of the National Institutes of Health, we are much closer to making it a reality.

Michael McAlpine was the lead researcher on this study. He’s a mechanical engineering associate professor at the university. In 2013, while at Princeton, McApline gained international attention for 3D printing nano-materials to fashion a “bionic ear.” For this project, Prof. McAlpine enlisted graduate students Shuang-Zhuang Guo, Kaiyan Qiu, Fanben Meng, and Sung Hyun Park.

Amputee with natural looking robot arm.

This could change the calculus on options offered to amputees. Getty Images.

Dr. McAlpine and his team created a unique 3D printer unlike any in the world. The device has four nozzles, each with several different functions. To print on the skin, the surface is first carefully scanned for its contours and shape. The printer can follow any curvature. Then, once the surface area has been mapped out precisely, printing can begin. McApline and colleagues were able to print a pressure sensor on a mannequin’s hand.

The base of the “skin” is silicone which when distributed via nozzle, came out as a gel. This contains silver particles to help conduct electricity. A coiled sensor was then printed in the center. Following that, the piece was engulfed in more silicon layers. Above and below the sensor lay electrodes in the form of a conductive ink. At last, a final, temporary layer was printed to hold everything together, while it solidified. The whole thing was just 4-millimeters wide and took mere minutes to carry out. Once it dried, the last layer was washed away, revealing a…

Review: Voltera V-One Makes Custom Homemade PCBs with Less Mess

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Making quality printed circuit boards (PCBs) at home has yielded many solutions through the years with varying degrees of hassle, special equipment, and mess. The most popular DIY systems usually involve the use of acids to etch circuit traces from copper-coated fiberglass boards. For $3,499, the Voltera V-One minimizes the mess and makes DIY PCB production more accurate and automated.

Instructions Built In

The Voltera V-One uses a gantry system, similar to a 3D printer or CNC mill, to move accurately in the X, Y, and Z dimensions. Rather than having a single fixed print head, the V-One has three tool heads that attach magnetically: a probe to measure the blank PCB and feature locations, a conductive ink dispenser that draws the circuit traces and part pads, and a solder paste dispenser that applies solder to pads for surface-mount devices (SMD). The base of the V-One also heats up like a skillet to bake the conductive ink into place and reflow SMD parts.

The Voltera team has done an incredible job of guiding the user through the process of making a PCB on the V-One, with the software shepherding you through each step. After uploading a Gerber file, you mount the blank PCB, measure its location, print the design, and let it bake to set the conductive ink in place.

The V-One drawing traces on a blank PCB with silver ink.

From there, you drill through-holes and vias manually (using more conductive ink to connect the two sides of the PCB). The machine applies the solder paste, but you have to mount the SMD parts by hand. The V-One then runs the board through a proper reflow temperature profile for the supplied solder paste. Once cooled, you have a complete PCB without any chemicals or milling mess.

The V-One is not without its…

Review: Shopbot Desktop Max Gives Pro CNC Router Quality — For a Price

This machine was reviewed as part of our 2017 Desktop Fabrication Shootout. See more machines in our 3D Printer Guide and non-3D printer reviews here.

The ShopBot Desktop MAX retains the precision and software package that made its smaller cousin, the ShopBot Desktop, a great entry-level machine while doubling the cutting area. Although you can fit a ¼ sheet of plywood (48” x 24”) on the bed, the MAX only cuts into the first 36” of the work piece. However, a clever layout of parts means you can flip the sheet end-to-end and use the whole sheet in two steps.

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Like ShopBot’s (@ShopBotTools) other mills, the MAX uses VCarve Pro to generate toolpaths. It’s…

Filament Friday: Taulman3D’s Bridge Offers Nylon Durability

Nylon is a great 3D printing material. It’s strong with just enough flex to make it tough (it’s chemical and wear resistant), but it’s difficult to print. It doesn’t like to adhere to other materials, so it’s tricky to find a bed surface it will stick to. It also has a tendency to shrink, which when mixed with the adhesion problems means even if you get your print to stick, there is a good chance of curling. Well, the innovative team over at Taulman3D wanted to fix some of these issues, so they came out with Bridge, a nylon that “bridges” the gap between printing in common materials like PLA and printing in nylon.

Bridge was formulated to keep most of the desirable traits of nylon: strength (4800 psi tensile in Bridge’s case), chemical resistance, etc, while being easier to print thanks to less shrink and better adhesion to print surfaces. While you still need a pretty beefy machine capable…

Student designs skyscraper that 3D-prints custom apartments

Student designs skyscraper that 3D-prints custom apartments

A Malaysian graduate student has come up with a building frame that dispenses new apartments much like a vending machine does candy bars. Instead of buying a pre-existing apartment in a skyscraper, imagine designing one yourself and the building producing it out of thin air.

The Pod Vending Machine is a essentially a skyscraper frame with a giant 3D printer at the top. You’d design an apartment, or pod, based on a series of sub-pod designs — essentially cobbling together your place room-by-room. The building would…

Watch An Industrial Robot Get Hacked, Ruining A 3D-Printed Drone

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ABB has fixed vulnerabilities in its robots that allowed hackers to remotely change its configuration, opening the door for catastrophic results, researchers warned Wednesday. (Photo credit: SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)

ABB has fixed vulnerabilities in its robots that allowed hackers to remotely change its configuration, opening the door for catastrophic results, researchers warned Wednesday. (Photo credit: SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that industrial robots can be hacked and the potential for catastrophe is real. Today, researchers from Trend Micro and Politecnico di Milano hammered home the point with a proof-of-concept hack in which they remotely controlled a robotic arm drawing up designs for a drone.

While the hack doesn’t look particularly shocking – an ABB IRB140 industrial robot set up to draw a straight line is altered so it’s a few millimetres off – the impact could be significant, Trend Micro researchers warned. For instance, if an entire factory’s output is wasted because robots had been secretly tweaked to produce faulty goods, millions could be lost. Worse, parts for planes or cars could be changed as to become dangerous if put out into the real world.

In their scenario, the researchers attacked an ABB robot that was designing a 3D-printed drone rotor, injecting “microdefects” by remotely changing a configuration file; they didn’t tinker with the program code. “Taken to the extreme, however, should microdefects successfully evade detection by a vendor’s multiple checks and depending on the nature of the goods themselves, injury or fatality could occur,” the researchers warned in their report.

“As far as the robot thinks, it’s still drawing a straight line,” Mark Nunnikhoven, vice president of cloud research at Trend Micro, told Forbes. “It’s a remote code exploit to change the configuration file, we’re not changing the instructions, we’re changing what the robot believes to be true about its environment.

“It doesn’t sound like much until you remember what the robot is trying to do with this straight line. So…

Printing Bed Off-Kilter? Blu-Tack To The Rescue!

For all their applications, 3D printers can be finicky machines. From extruder problems, misaligned or missing layers, to finding an overnight print turned into a tangled mess, and that’s all assuming your printer bed is perfectly leveled. [Ricardo de Azambuja’s] new linear delta printer was frustrating him. No matter what he did, it wouldn’t retain the bed leveling calibration, so he had to improvise — Blu-Tack to the rescue.

It turns out [Azambuja]’s problem was so bad that the filament wouldn’t even attempt to adhere to the printing bed. So, he turned to Printrun Proterface and a combination of its homing feature and…

Teensy and 3D Printer Make Beautiful Music Together

[Otermrelik] wanted to experiment with the Teensy audio library and adapter. That, combined with his 3D printer, led to a very cool looking build of the teensypolysynth. The device looks like a little mini soundboard with sliders and 3D printed knobs. You can see (and hear) it in the video below.

The Teensy audio library supports several output devices including several built-in options and external boards like the audio adapter used here. The library does CD-quality sound, supports polyphonic playback, recording, synthesis, mixing, and more.

Even more interesting is there is an audio design tool that runs in your web browser for building the audio portion of your code graphically. Even though it is in a browser, it isn’t tied back to…

Shapeways Offers Access to New HP 3D Printing Technology

Shapeways has established themselves as a leader in on-demand 3D printing services. With a community of over 40,000 shops and more than 600,000 items that you can browse, customize, and purchase right now, their impact on the market makes them a great place to try new materials and methods of 3D printing. Today, Shapeways has announced that they are teaming up with HP to give their community access to HP’s new Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology.

When a major company like HP enters the 3D printing market by announcing a new way of printing, it can create quite a buzz, and for the past year since announcing their new system, the industry has been following closely. Multi Jet Fusion promises fast, multi-material, multi-color, production ready parts. While Shapeways will only be starting to offer parts in one material and two finishes, more options will be coming down the road. This first offering is…