3D printer that lays down conductive traces as it goes
Rabbit Proto is a print-head for the Reprap open 3D printer design that can deposit conductive traces alongside of structural plastic elements, effectively embedding printed circuits directly into the structure of its output. In the video above, a Rabbit Proto prints both the chassis and the the wiring for a game-controller in a single process. A properly designed 3D model could use snap-fit electronic components that directly connected to the internal traces for quick finishing.
The Rabbit Proto is open source hardware and comes from a collective of Stanford engineering grad students. If you don't want to build your own, they'll sell you one, in various states of ready-to-go-ness, at prices ranging from $350 to $2500 (the top price includes a printer, too)>
"Our project enables 3D printers to deposit conductive material along with traditional plastic. The conductive material can be embedded within the 3D model and printed in the same 3D printing process," said Alex Jais, one of three students that created the print head.
The Rabbit Proto (short for prototype) 3D print head is designed to fit onto several different versions of a RepRap printer. RepRap printers are a style of machine designed to print most of their own components. For the most part, a RepRap printer can reproduce itself by extruding acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or Polylactic acid (PLA), or other forms of thermopolymers.
"There are so many RepRap machines out there. This is a great way to bring this capability to other machines," Jais said.
This 3D printer technology can print a game controller, electronics and all [Lucas Mearian/Computerworld]