Blesson Mathew, Abel Netsereab, Hien Tuong, Jean Leppez and Aby Thomas, a team of engineering students from the University of Texas Dallas, are currently working to create a fully functional 3D circuit printer boosterpack that controls a maximum of 3 extruders for Texas Instruments MSP430F5529LP development.
The MSP430F5529 USB LaunchPad Evaluation Kit allows developers to build low power, PC-connected applications with integrated, full-speed USB 2.0, and the kit is an inexpensive, simple microcontroller development kit for the MSP430F5529 USB microcontroller.
Mathew, Leppez, Thomas, Tuong and Netsereab are Electrical Engineering majors at UTD, calling themselves CIRC3D, and along with a second team, Johnny Appiah, Michael Ortega, Raul Gamboa, Son Nguyen and Michael Wood, who call themselves XTRUDER, have created a 3D circuit printing kit they say offers multiple advantages over those currently on the market.
Their 3D Printer Boosterpack works with a low-cost ink, applies paste which enables components to be mounted without soldering and offers support for two additional extruders to enable printing of multi-layer circuits and structures.
The 3D Circuit Printing Kit was designed to provide similar functionality to other systems as a paste extruder was designed to extrude a copper paste from a syringe via a plunger. The system avoids the need to use silver nanoparticle inks — which are very expensive and require a curing temperature of 240° C — and they add that those inks would melt the plastic beneath a conductive trace.
“With our current design, we are able to have a steady flow our copper paste with a syringe just under 1 mm. We are in the process of finding a way to have a much smaller feature size with our syringe,” Team CIRC3D says. “In order for us to make the best prints, we double filter using paint filters to remove the bigger particles which block a syringe. The use of the syringe design provides the added advantage of being able to print thicker and more conductive traces that you can just set your components on without solder.”
The team’s boosterpack is a custom board developed with Eagle CAD to connect to the TI launchpad and execute the functions on the 3D printer. Setup is simple, and the completely open-source project will ultimately have all the necessary code posted on GitHub.
“The project started out as developing a boosterpack for Texas Instruments which had the capability to control a single extruder for general printing,” they say. “The updated boosterpack has the capability to run multiple extruders for whatever the customer deems necessary. For the purpose of our project, a dual-extruder and paste extruder are used to print simple 3D circuits.”
The 3D Circuit Printing Kit is geared to electronics enthusiasts or hobbyists who wish to fabricate 3D circuits at home.
You can check out all the details of the project here on their Kickstarter page, where the team is seeking to crowdfund $3,5000 by August 31, or review the process of the kit’s development on Mathew’s blog. Team CIRC3D also made their plans and process available on Instructables.
Will you support the 3D Circuit Printing Kit on Kickstarter? Let us know in the UTD 3D Circuit Printing Kit forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the team’s Kickstarter campaign video below.