Prints of Light

The CAD files for this print are available here.

A few weeks ago, I found this experimental conductive filament on the MatterHackers website. Even though it has an obscenely high resistance per centimeter, it gave me an idea. What if we started co-processing electronics into our prints, so that you could use the printer to complete a circuit upon the completion of the print. Then you could do some really fun things, like have your print job light up, or have a motor turn on, or activate a switch on a micro controller to have it control any number of things. Unfortunately, the experimental filament I found turned out to have too high of a resistance to be very useful, but it didn’t stop me from trying to reach my goal.

I used the extruder head to turn the light on at the end of the print.
I used the extruder head to turn the light on at the end of the print.

Using similar methods to what I’ve been doing in the past few weeks by using the printer head to trigger something, we can accomplish this task. Because the conductive filament didn’t end up working, I ended up using the extruder head to flip a switch that has been co-processed into the print job. We already know how to do this pretty easily, as I’ve covered some of this in earlier posts. We need to co-process two button cell batteries, an LED, and a switch (along with some wiring) into our print job, and then in our CAD file we can use the “hovering line” trick that I’ve explained in past posts to flip the switch after it has been co-processed.

The CAD files for the printed light switch, with the hovering line above to flip the switch once it has been placed.
The CAD files for the printed light switch, with the hovering line above to flip the switch once it has been placed.

Because we can employ this trick, the print job becomes very simple. The important thing to consider is that for this print we no longer need a buffer piece. The part that we are printing already serves as one, as the co-processed switch is already taller than the printer head. The other thing we have to do is some preparation, because the components all need to be soldered together before being placed in the job.

The switch, LED, and wires all soldered together.
The switch, LED, and wires all soldered together.

During the print, the job is paused, and all of the electronics can be placed into the printed piece together. After a bit of finnicking and pushing the wires into their grooves, the bulb will print and then the extruder head will flip the switch, turning the light on!

The final product, with a co-processed switch, bulb, and battery.
The final product, with a co-processed switch, bulb, and battery.

Co-processing can be both exciting and useful not just because we can incorporate other parts into our print jobs. It means that we are not only making a fully assembled product; we are also using the printer to our advantage by making the product come to life on the print bed, which can be pretty awesome!

Watch the youtube video below for a more detailed explanation:

Alex

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