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  1. #1
    Administrator Eddie's Avatar
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    Sep 2013
    Cape Coral, FL
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    The EX¹ - rapid 3D printing of circuit boards on KS

    Just saw this on Kickstarter this morning. Already very close to the goal in just the first day on KS.

    The EX¹ makes printing circuits as quick and easy as printing a photo - allowing you to print on the material of your choice.

    What is it?

    The Cartesian Co. printer EX¹ transforms electronics and prototyping in the same way that 3D printing has made things possible that were inconceivable even 5 years ago.

    The EX¹ printer is not designed to create any 3D object like normal 3D printers. It’s been crafted and designed for one key purpose, to allow you to 3D print circuit boards, layering silver nano particles onto paper or any suitable surface to rapidly create a circuit board. In 2011, an article in Wired said that within two years 3D printers could print electronic circuits. Two years to the day, we’re announcing the EX¹, a printer that allows you to rapidly 3D print circuit boards.
    The process is as easy as clicking File > Print. This lets you create electronics, just as you've envisioned - wearable electronics, paper circuits, printed computers or whatever you imagine. A 3D printer creates the objects of your imagination; the EX¹ lets you create the electronics of your imagination.

    What you can make

    Breadboards or sewable circuits are great ways to get into electronics but where do you go after that? Sure etching a PCB is a fun project the first time, but anyone who has done it more than once will tell you how time consuming and frustrating it can be. The barrier to entry into the world of complex circuitry is just too high for many people; not exactly an environment conducive to experimentation.
    Touch sensitive "Simon Says" game printed on paper
    In addition to more conventional circuit board materials the EX¹ can print on a variety of different substrates you might not associate with circuits. Materials we have been able to print on include plastic (many types), glass, wood, ceramic, silicone and even fabric and paper. In fact it is possible to print on most surfaces. If that's not enough, we are developing coatings that can allow virtually any surface to be printed on.

    Cartesian Co. wants to change the way you think about electronics in the same way that 3D printers fundamentally changed the way we think about making physical objects. Imagine the freedom to instantly test your ideas without the monotony of making a PCB by hand, the time spent wiring it on a breadboard or the days spent waiting to get your design back from a board house. With the EX¹ you can make complex circuits as easily as if they were printed on your desktop printer.
    Arduino compatible microcontroller printed on kapton and wood
    Wearable circuits

    One capability of the EX¹ we're really excited about is the ability to print straight onto fabric. Anyone who has used conductive thread will tell you how frustrating it is when the thread breaks but you can't find the break! With the EX¹ you can print circuits straight onto the material of your choice.
    Flashing LED circuit printed on synthetic fabric
    Binary Watch running Arduino printed on fabric (97% polyester, 3% spandex)
    How it works

    The reason we created the EX¹ is simple; we got sick of making PCBs by hand. We got so sick we set out to find a way to make circuits quickly and effortlessly.
    The basic principle of operation is simple. Two inkjet cartridges similar to the ones in your desktop printer print images on a substrate, but instead of ink they lay down two different chemicals. When these two chemicals mix, a reaction occurs to produce silver nano particles, leaving a silver image on the substrate.
    Close up of a surface mount circuit printed straight onto paper
    After a year of working on the EX¹ we believe we've finally created a printer that will allow people to design and make radically new things. With a print area of 17.5 x 8cm (6.9 x 3.2in) you'll be able to print boards well above the size of what you can design in the free version of Eagle. At a size of 43 X 32 X 17cm (17 x 12.6 x 6.7in) its roughly the same size as your Canon or Epson printer at home. Weighing in at only 6kg (13.5lb) it's very portable and will be perfect to take to work or your local hackerspace.

    How hard is it to use your home printer or office photocopier? Not hard (we hope), and that's exactly what we've aimed for with our software.
    But of course printing electronics isn't exactly the same as printing a cute baby photo. We give you complete flexibility with our software, anything from just importing an image and clicking print, all the way through to having control over every printing variable.

    We've included presets and tools to make getting into making electronics as easy as possible, while at the same time allowing experienced pros to push the boundaries of what can be done.

    As well as making it easy for people to create complex circuits we wanted to make it easier to put them together. You can always solder the circuits but if you're not at that stage yet we've been successfully using conductive glues that's as easy as finger painting. In fact, when you use it with a paper circuit it almost IS finger painting!
    We're developing new ways of treating and coating everyday materials to be printed on, so there's nothing holding you back from creating whatever your heart desires.
    Arduino circuit printed on coated MDF
    The materials you can print onto is only half of the equation. Equally important are the inks you're using to do so. We're actively working on new ink formulations and processes to ensure using your printer is as easy and reliable as possible.
    Microscope images of a silver trace on paper (left) and fabric (right)
    The inks we are using are very safe and we won't be gouging you for refills like some printer companies out there (we hate that too!).

    Developing the EX¹ has been a long and difficult road but we’re very happy with the product that we’ve come out with so far. We have spent the last year experimenting with different chemical combinations, off the shelf printers and our own designs for X Y gantries. After some successful tests mixing the Silver Nitrate with Ascorbic Acid to make Silver, we found that the easiest and most precise way of delivering the liquids was definitely with an inkjet printer. Obviously it would be best if we could just take a standard printer off the shelf and fill it with our chemicals and we definitely tried this….many… many times. In the end, having the paper rolled through the printer was not nearly precise enough to align multiple layers and ultimately a home printer was just not designed to build an electronics masterpiece.
    Printer development from alpha to beta prototypes

    Last edited by nka; 11-12-2013 at 07:54 AM. Reason: Added link to KS.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Wow, this is impressive. You start combining this tech with the tech of a Makerbot replicator and scanner, and there are all sorts of crazy possibilities. In 5 or 6 years things are going to start getting really interesting.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    That is a lot of money for a glorified ink jet printer

    I'm sure someone is going to come by and mod an Epson inkjet in the near future.

    You can buy conductive paints now.

  4. #4
    Engineer-in-Training nka's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Quebec, Canada
    Very nice... but very costly.

    I wish I could have something to make PCB for 100$ !

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    The price in my opinion is not bad. Can't wait to see where this tech is in 5 years or so.

  6. #6
    Hey crowbar, my name is Michael - I'm an engineer with Cartesian Co.

    We've actually played and experimented with this paint as well as many many... many other conductors. I just wanted to point out that Bare Conductive Electric Paint (and other carbon particle based paints) has very limited conductivity and is unable to to be soldered. Additionally the viscosity is unusable in an inkjet printer setting. Not that I'm saying it's a bad product - it's great for the applications they show and I love that even kids can play with it very safely, just wanted to point out that we're aiming toward a different niche.

    If you're interested in that side of the field, also check out WireGlue - it's like a cheaper alternative to Bare Conductive Electric Paint, you can also find Copper and Silver solution based paints at Caswell if you're interested. I can also explain how we differ from those products if you wish but it may be a long explanation, haha.

    If you have any questions for me, I'm very happy to answer so fire away!

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