Just like for any other technology, shortly after a new, high-end new is announced, there is bound to be someone that strives to make the technology more accessible and affordable. It happened for every 3D printing technology whose patents have expired; it happened with CLIP technology; and, now, it is happening for circuit 3D printing.
In this latest development, a team of engineering students from UT Dallas picked up where the the 3D electronics printer Voxel8 had left off, making headlines with their project and partnering with Autodesk to further develop electronics 3D printing on the software side. The students’ 3D Circuit Printing Kit that just hit Kickstarter is a fully functional booster pack that controls a maximum of three 3D extruders for Texas Instrument’s MSP430F5529 LaunchPad module.
It uses a paste extruder system to dispense s copper paste from a syringe armed with a plunger. The use of a syringe enables printing of thicker and more conductive traces that do not require solder. Using the copper paste also means the process is significantly more affordable than those relying on expensive silver nanoparticle-based inks. The syringe is currently able to steadily extrude 1 mm-thick layers, but the team is already working on a solution to further reduce the layer size.
The project, which is entirely open source and based on Energia firmware to control the launchpad, can support dual extrusion, which means that two different materials can be used at the same time, along with the paste material form the syringe. The best part is that the entire circuit board printing kit, which includes the designed PCB board (completely soldered) to control the dual FFF extruder and paste extruder, MSP430 Launchpad, and all of the extruders goes for just $100 on KS.
This might mean that it will take a while to reach the $3,500 goal (funds currently stand at 30%), but there is currently no real multiple extruder booster pack alternative for the MSP430 on the market. All the electronics enthusiasts and hobbyists that the system is directed to, who would like to make simple 3D circuits in the comfort of their own home, should consider it.