Rabbit Proto turns 3D printers into PCB and sweetie-making machines
3D printing has come a long way in the last eight years, but domestic printers still have one big limitation. While they’re very good at making small plastic objects appear out of thin air, they’re not not so great at doing much else. If you want to print your own chocolate or make something out of metal, you’ll need a big budget and the ability to work out how to do it yourself.
A team from Stanford, California thinks that they’re close to solving this problem, however. The unlikely named Rabbit Proto is a small company of just three people which has designed a customised extruder and feedstock that will allow a RepRap-based machine – which includes Makerbots, Printrbots et al – to accurately print a conductive material through a syringe-like head.
The idea for Rabbit Proto came from a research project at Stanford University headed by Alexandre Jais, and if the final design works as planned, it will be able to print a complete circuit board from scratch – a major breakthrough for home printing, and something that will lower the cost of prototyping new electronic devices again.
Right now, however, the firm says that it’s focussing on building things like touch sensitive surfaces and even game controllers, like the one below.
The Rabbit Proto uses standard 10cc syringes for extrusion, and comes with one that’s prefilled with a low cost graphite-based ‘ink’. The firm hasn’t confirmed how much refills will cost, but pre-orders for the full kit aren’t cheap, starting at $350 for a basic extruder to add to your own machine, to $450 for a dual extruder head that can take plastic as well as conductive feedstock, to $2 499 for a fully assembled printer.
Before you scoff at the price, however, bear this in mind. a) the software is an open source project and will be hosted on Github, so enthusiasts can just build their own if they wish and b) it’s also capable of printing other semi-liquid substances, like peanut butter, below.
Put us down for a bulk order, and watch out Reeses, here we come.[Images – Rabbit Proto]