If we get any better at designing the tools we need to build 3D printers and having those tools 3D printed, pretty soon we won’t need to do much more than leave the 3D printers alone and they will be able to create themselves. Of course, if you’ve seen any of the AI movies ever made you’ll know that the next step is sentience. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
In any case, this time, we still seem to be the in the realm of the truly helpful with the creation of a 3D printed adaptor that allows seventh grade shop teacher Travis Burroughs to convert handheld rotary tools into a precision PCB drill press. After having moved halfway around the world from Australia to Canada, Burroughs took a job in a secondary school where he was tasked with teaching woodwork, metalwork, robotics, electronics, and drafting. Given that broad variety of subject material and a relatively limited budget, he was challenged to find ways that his students could have access to the materials and equipment needed in order to complete the projects that would allow them to develop the necessary skills in those areas.
Given that this is a situation common to many teachers, Burroughs decided it was also important to share the files on Thingiverse so that others could create their own simple conversions.
“At one point or another,” notes Burroughs, “all teachers feel the pinch of a restricted budget. Equipment and materials add up and make it difficult for teachers to run the diverse programs that they want. I am currently working on an electronics project with year 7 students and they will have to manufacture PCB boards themselves. I have always used PCB drills from [Dremel], but at $200 for the the Dremel and the work station they were outside of my price range. Instead I turned to Autodesk Inventor to design a low cost PCB drill that could utilize cheap rotary tools.”
What he did is no duct tape and chewing gum, MacGyver-esque, jerry rig, but instead, a slick creation that allows him to take an Ozito rotary and convert it into a tool that his students can use to create their own boards.
“The drill uses 3 8mm rods 2 LM8UU linear bearings and 2 608-2RS bearings, all commonly used for building 3D Printers. There is also a piece of 6mm rod used for the handle; this is cut down from the hanger that came with the rotary tool. The Drill consists of six 3D printed parts, the base, carriage, pinion gear, rack gear, handle adapter and handle end,” he explains.
This first creation was printed using 20% infill in PLA on a low-cost Prusa i3 printer, but as there are always areas ready for improvement in any project, Burroughs has plans to create a future version in ABS and to use a higher quality linear bearing or bronze bushing. He is also relying on feedback from the Thingiverse community – something which is rarely lacking – in order to continue to improve both the design and the experience of the students who will be using it.
Discuss the creation in the 3D Printed PCB Modification forum thread over at 3DPB.com.