3D Printing Prototypes

One of the biggest problems with affordable 3D printers is that they are very poor at self-alignment, which can lead to several problems. However, with the use of embedded technology, it is possible to fix this drawback when developing 3D prototypes.

That’s exactly what student projects like PrintPut are doing. By using conductive filament, 3D printers can now have access to a wide range of sensors, which can be embedded into a 3D model. These sensors can include sliders, touchpads, pressure sensors, buttons etc.

3D prototypes are great for assessing qualities related to ergonomics and design aesthetics. However, assessing interactivity has always been a problem. Now, with the conductive filament based sensors embedded into the prototype, the possibilities for innovation are endless.

These sensors can be embedded onto any surface shape or type. The PrintPut project uses a dual-extruder 3D printer (similar to the Replicator 2X from MakeBot), conductive ABS filaments and several scripts to produce the sensor-laden 3D object.

The process involved in producing these sensors is very similar to a standard printing process. It begins with a CAD design that is uploaded onto the 3D printer’s build manager. Then, the interactive points and curves are defined using plugins. After which, the conductive channels are integrated using software.