Eric Boyd and team’s Retro Populator project over at Hackaday Projects attempts to retrofit a 3D printer into an electronics pick-n-place assembly. A dual community project between Ultimate Workshop and HackLab Toronto, and answers the question of “what’s the next new thing” with “well, let’s do better stuff with outdated 3D printers!” As many 3D enthusiasts buy their 2nd, 3rd, and beyond machines, perhaps there is more to do with those that aren’t as busy printing electronics enclosures for your projects. 😉
A jig and software for allowing a 3D printer to do electronics pick-n-place assembly. It populates boards, by retrofitting a 3D printer, hence Retro Populator.
Motivation: surface mount soldering is great, but the process of placing parts is horribly tedious and requires great manual dexterity as well good vision. Doing a few boards by hand is practical, but doing more than about 20 is hell on earth. Yet it’s not practical (read: affordable) to pay industry to do it until about 500 boards – the setup charges just kill you. So there is this huge chasm between what’s doable for hobbyists by hand, and where industry can take over, and this volume is quite commonly desired in the maker community – a small run of 50 to 100 boards is in fact typical. Thus, the desire to build machines that hobbyists can own to do electronics pick-n-place. Our cost-saving idea is to retrofit similar machines that makers already own: 3D printers.
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! We also offer the LulzBot TAZ – Open source 3D Printer and the Printrbot Simple Metal 3D Printer in our store. If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!
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