Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Did you know?

You can print your own circuit boards? For about 8,500 bucks. Not this beautiful model. This one was about 30 grand. Honestly I stopped paying attention, because all I could see was the future where you can print the brains of computers or toys. Then print out the skins with 3D printers.

I mean, you could put a low end shop together for under ten grand. Web site. Look how small the machine is!


  1. Whoa baby, your timing could not have been more perfect. I need something exactly like this for the new venture. I wonder if you can scan an existing board and then duplicate it? It's too bad it's so pricy, reading your blog isn't suppose to cost me money. Off to do a bunch of research on this thing. I have a funny feeling that it may still be cheaper to try and recreate boards manually, but this could save a ton of time. Any advice on a decent 3D printer as well? I can see the future as well and want to be ahead of it.

  2. The issue with scanning an existing board, would be that likely, it's already had things soldered to it. So you'll have to do some cleanup to get a clean board. How well do you know CAD?

    Mr S. says he's seen it work well for cleaning up blueprints. But hasn't looked to see if it would work with circuit boards. He also said it would be easier if you had a paper printout of the board to import into CAD. The image would be much less noisy. TurboCAD for a while had bundled software to tackle that sort of problem. But he doesn't know if they do it now. Just look for raster to vector conversion software. It converts pixels to line drawings.

    As far as 3D printers - It would be hard to give advice when I don't know what your application is going to be. ;) If it's smaller stuff, Cubify is taking pre-orders I read. But you get first gen problems. But you also get multicolor.

    Protopulsion is going to be much more expensive, but it's been around at least a decade. Makerbot has a printer which I assume would be cheaper than even the Cubify model, because well... it's makerbot. They are advancing pretty well with the items they print. But by far, Cubify has the most advanced finished product. Still - gen 1 problems.

    These are the ones I've seen work. There probably are others.

    Likely it is cheaper for now to just recreate on your own. But time is money. How long it going to take you?

  3. Yeah, I took a look at it and I think for my needs I'm better off buying blank boards from Frys and then soldering myself or just buying bad PCB boards off of ebay and then trying to fix them. At first I thought that this would do more than just the PCBs and actually install the capacitors and the chips automatically as well. They do have a neat little oven that makes it really easy to add these things to the board, but probably not worth the capital right now.

    We're needing the 3D printer to make replacement parts for arcade games. Some of these parts run $100+ just for a joystick, so if we could clone the working ones and then reproduce something that looked close to the original, I think it would help save us money in the long run. Most of the parts are actually pretty small, so we could probably get away with something minimal and then just clone the pieces that they don't replacement parts for. Time is money, but we want to take advantage of all the press that will be buzzing at California Extreme, so we plan to launch there. Our business model doesn't really have any fixed costs, so we're not losing any money by waiting. In the meantime, we've got lots and lots of work to do anyway. Hope you can make it to CAX. Something tells me it's the sort of weekend event where I'd find you even if you didn't know that I was going to be there.

  4. Oh. Well, if it were me - I'd contact to have them give you a quote before buying a printer. I blogged about them here. .

    I'd still lean towards the cubify machine. But those old controllers had a certain weightyness and shine to them that I don't think the cubify machine could reproduce. Shapeways is the only company that can create a finish that would replicate that. IMO. But,they don't sell machines. Only the print service.

    Granted, it's been a while since I've played stand up games. And I wasn't exactly examining them for precise detail.

    It makes me laugh you are going to be at CAX. I've almost made it two years in a row, but something always skids it. Plus, while I love bumper pinball - I don't want to spend all day there. And isn't it like 50 bucks to get in? I just want to spend a couple of hours.

  5. PS. If you are willing to travel to Santa Clara for CAX, you might as well stop by The Valley's technology graveyard - wierdstuff. In Sunnyvale. They have a website. If you can find the boards you want, they will be way less expensive than ebay or frys'.