Flexible, printable circuits inspired by goldbug beetle

Poking a golden tortoise beetle ("goldbug") triggers the insect's color to change from gold to a red-orange. Inspired by the natural system underlying that insectoid superpower, MIT researchers have developed flexible sensors circuits that can be 3-D printed. Eventually, the technology could lead to sensor-laden skin for robots. From MIT News:

“In nature, networks of sensors and interconnects are called sensorimotor pathways,” says Subramanian Sundaram, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science (EECS), who led the project. “We were trying to see whether we could replicate sensorimotor pathways inside a 3-D-printed object. So we considered the simplest organism we could find...."

The MIT researchers’ new device is approximately T-shaped, but with a wide, squat base and an elongated crossbar. The crossbar is made from an elastic plastic, with a strip of silver running its length; in the researchers’ experiments, electrodes were connected to the crossbar’s ends. The base of the T is made from a more rigid plastic. It includes two printed transistors and what the researchers call a “pixel,” a circle of semiconducting polymer whose color changes when the crossbars stretch, modifying the electrical resistance of the silver strip.

In fact, the transistors and the pixel are made from the same material; the transistors also change color slightly when the crossbars stretch. The effect is more dramatic in the pixel, however, because the transistors amplify the electrical signal from the crossbar. Demonstrating working transistors was essential, Sundaram says, because large, dense sensor arrays require some capacity for onboard signal processing.

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Open source hardware, IoT motorcycle kit you assemble in a weekend

Fictiv is a rapid prototyping company that can take concepts or finished designs and farm them out to a network of CNC and 3D printing companies to have your design fabricated, finished and delivered within 24 hours; to demonstrate their new open IoT platform, they've announced an open-source hardware IoT motorcycle kit that you're meant to be able to assemble in your garage in a weekend, and drive off on by Monday. Read the rest

3D-printed zombie-proof tiny house

Just look at that headline! It's a nounpunk antideepstate beanie short of pure condensed random Boing Boing. But the prototype PassivDom “autonomous 3D-printed mobile house” is a €200,000 effort at creating a completely self-powered dwelling fit for the "zombie apocalypse."

The first model, the ModulOne, includes solar panels that power the climate control system, a clean water system that takes moisture from the air, and air quality control system that includes includes carbon dioxide control. The frame is made of 3D-printed carbon fiber, fiberglass, and resists and the entire house is recyclable.

There are three models, from ultra-simple to full autonomous. The Autonomous house is 36 square meters and costs €59,900 to pre-order. There is already a model in Ukraine and they have a few thousand folks already on the waitlist for the houses. Luckily the team doesn’t take itself too seriously. They also offer a special “Zombie apocalypse” package that includes armored glazing, an alarm system, extra toilet paper storage, and a bible.

While the whole thing could be a pie-in-the-sky fantasy it seems that they have a real model built already and all of the technology is feasible. I, for one, look forward to spending my time in a zombie-proof passive house in the middle of the taiga.

I would rather not have to see the zombies. The name abbreviates "Passive Domicile," but PassivDom is brilliant; one supposes the innuendo may not be clear to its Ukrainian creators. No-one tell them! Read the rest

Amazing 3D-printed salad-tossing robot

3D printing reaches new heights with this ingenious robotic salad-tossing machine. This pre-programmed beauty has three modes of operation, one of which will surely match how you like getting your salad tossed. Read the rest

How to roll dice in space

The microgravity of space would really put a damper on your dice games. You roll them and they don't land. The 3D Printing Professor has a fun solution. Space Dice (via Adafruit)

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Remarkable 3D-printed conceptual furniture

Gilles Retsin has been experimenting with 3D-printed design concepts, but he's also been working with computational mereology to engage in large-scale discrete fabrication. Think of it like Tetris or LEGO: a set of prefabbed interlocking parts that can then be assembled by a robot programmed to create a specific shape. Read the rest

Guy restores a century-old letterpress to perfect condition

Jimmy DiResta kept passing by a 1911 Chandler & Price letterpress sitting out in the rain. After buying it from the neglectful owner, he spent several years lovingly restoring it, eventually learning how to print with it. Read the rest

Door lock requires marble to open door

Marble Lock

Paul Myers of Opulence Mechanics designed and 3D printed this door lock. You can open the door only if you have a marble. I guess a gumball would would, too. Read the rest

New Matter's MOD-t 3D printer - low price, excellent printer

About 5 years ago, I bought a simple 3D printer*. It cost only $400, but it was fussy and the software was hard to use. The printer bed needed frequent adjusting, and the printed parts would get stuck to the printer bed. The overall quality of the prints was just OK, not great. Even with all of its finickiness and shortcomings, I found it useful for making simple repairs of stuff that broke around the house.

Last month, a company called New Matter sent me the new MOD-t 3D printer for review. The MOD-t also sells for $400 and also uses PLA filament, and I was curious to see how two similarly priced printers from then and now compare. After using the MOD-t almost daily, I can say with confidence that it is much, much better in every way than my five-year-old 3D printer.

The MOD-t has a sleek design. It's white, with a clear plastic shell that covers the printing area. The cover keeps the temperature consistent and reduces the noise considerably. The old 3D printer didn't have a cover and it was noisy. The MOD-t also has a fan to help set the plastic after it comes out of the heated extruder head. The helps greatly to reduce sagging of overhanging features on the part being printed.

Setup was a breeze. I went to the New Matter website, downloaded the application and followed the prompts. The MOD-t has built in Wi-Fi, which means I don't have to tether my computer to it with a USB cable while using it. Read the rest

Make: a Rick and Morty-inspired butter-passing robot

Andre was so impressed with the existential crisis of a butter-passing robot as depicted in the cartoon Rick and Morty that he created his own, and shows you how to make one for yourself. Read the rest

3D print a baby universe at home!

Dave from Imperial College sez, "We've taken observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background from the Planck mission and turned them into a 3D printed map of the temperature of the universe when it was just a few hundred thousand years old. Download the files and print your own baby universe!" Read the rest

Beautiful 3D-printed "metamaterial" sculptures that shrink when heated

Researchers from MIT and the University of Southern California 3D printed tiny, and quite beautiful, sculptures out of two different materials that usually expand when heated. But the specific architectures of these sugarcube-sized sculptures instead enable them to shrink when heated. The effect is similar to a Hoberman sphere, the wonderful isokinetic toy sculpture that mechanically collapses to a fraction of its original size. From MIT News:

The researchers consider the structures to be “metamaterials” — composite materials whose configurations exhibit strange, often counterintuitive properties that are not normally found in nature.

In some cases, these structures’ resistance to expanding when heated — rather than their shrinking response per se — may be especially useful. Such materials could find applications in computer chips, for example, which can warp and deform when heated for long periods of time. “Printed circuit boards can heat up when there’s a CPU running, and this sudden heating could affect their performance,” (MIT mechanical engineer Nicholas X.) Fang says. “So you really have to take great care in accounting for this thermal stress or shock..."

Fang and his colleagues printed small, three-dimensional, star-shaped structures made from interconnecting beams. They fabricated each beam from one of two ingredients: a stiff, slow-to-expand copper-containing material, and a more elastic, fast-expanding polymer substance. The internal beams were made from the elastic material, while the outer trusses were composed of stiff copper.

“If we have proper placement of these beams and lattices, then even if every individual component expands, because of the way they pull each other, the overall lattice could actually shrink,” Fang says...

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Prince's ashes rest in a 3D-printed urn shaped like his home

In the entry of Prince's home-turned-museum, visitors walk past a 3D-printed ceramic replica of the building they just entered. What some may not realize is that the scale replica is in fact an urn containing Prince's cremains. Read the rest

Robots 3D-printed with shock-absorber skins

MIT researchers developed a method to 3D print robots with soft, shock-absorbing materials that can be "programmed" to desired elasticity to protect bouncing bots, drones making hard landings, and eventually phones, shoes, helmets and other materials. From MIT News:

For example, after 3-D printing a cube robot that moves by bouncing, the researchers outfitted it with shock-absorbing “skins” that use only 1/250 the amount of energy it transfers to the ground.{? “That reduction makes all the difference for preventing a rotor from breaking off of a drone or a sensor from cracking when it hits the floor,” says (MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory director Daniela) Rus, who oversaw the project and co-wrote a related paper. “These materials allow us to 3-D print robots with visco-elastic properties that can be inputted by the user at print-time as part of the fabrication process...”

“It’s hard to customize soft objects using existing fabrication methods, since you need to do injection moulding or some other industrial process,” says Lipton. “3-D printing opens up more possibilities and lets us ask the question, ‘can we make things we couldn’t make before?”

Using a standard 3-D printer, the team used a solid, a liquid, and a flexible rubber-like material called TangoBlack+ to print both the cube and its skins. The PVM process is related to (CSAIL Director Daniela) Rus’ previous 3-D printed robotics work, with an inkjet depositing droplets of different material layer-by-layer and then using UV light to solidify the non-liquids.

The cube robot includes a rigid body, two motors, a microcontroller, battery, and inertial measurement unit sensors.

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French schools use 3D printed anatomical clitoris models in sex-ed classes

The amazing internal anatomy of the clitoris is a mystery that has surfaced and vanished in history, coming into focus in 2005 (!), when Royal Melbourne Hospital urologist Helen O'Connell published her groundbreaking MRI studies. Read the rest

Polishing 3D-printed bronze coins in a rock tumbler

Barnacules Nerdgasm used 3D printing medium with 80% bronze to make some physical bitcoins. The result was cool, but it got even cooler when he threw them in a rock tumbler. Read the rest

Open licenses don't work for uncopyrightable subjects: 3D printing edition

Michael Weinberg (who has written seminal stories on 3D printing and copyright) writes, "We are seeing widespread adoption of copyright-based open licenses in 3D printing and open source hardware. This is great in that it shows that the culture of openness has really permeated the culture. It is not so great because a significant number of the things nominally licensed in these communities aren't actually protected by copyright." Read the rest

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