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Building Circuit Boards With an Inkjet Printer
11/7/2013

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An Arduino circuit pattern printed on transparent PET film.
An Arduino circuit pattern printed on transparent PET film.

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tekochip
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Flex Circuits
tekochip   11/7/2013 8:27:10 AM
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This would be a great way to make your own flex circuits  Although I like the idea of being able to print a circuit board on a printer, I think the assembly for this process may be a bit difficult.
 
For quick boards at home I tried a few of the hobby processes, including one where you would iron your artwork onto the board.  Really the best process is still a photo process using pre-sensitized boards.  All you have to do is print your artwork on a transparency sheet, expose the board with an ordinary fluorescent lamp for about 10 minutes, develop the board and then etch it.  In an hour you can yield a single-sided, 10mil trace and space board that you can drill, solder and cut to whatever shape you need.  You can make double-sided boards, but that's not as easy as you would hope.  It's best to stick to single-sided boards with surface mount components so you don't need to drill.


Rob Spiegel
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Do they still make inkjet printers?
Rob Spiegel   11/7/2013 8:50:27 AM
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This is quite a surprise, Cabe. Great story. I didn't even know they still made inkjet printers.

Elizabeth M
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Re: Do they still make inkjet printers?
Elizabeth M   11/7/2013 11:15:25 AM
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Ha! I'm with you on that, Rob. I have forgotten all about the inkjet printers and to be able to repurpose them in this way is really interesting. I would expect this would be more of a 3D printing type thing, so it's an interesting twist. Good story, Cabe.

EVprofessor
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Re: Do they still make inkjet printers?
EVprofessor   11/8/2013 7:24:27 PM
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Yes, They still make Ink Jet printers and they work "Swell" also they are much less expensive than the Xerox process for black and especially for color printing. Now only the government agencies use impact printers with daisey wheels and print bands, but they want to continue using the carbon paper and NCR forms approved by the state printing office.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Do they still make inkjet printers?
Rob Spiegel   11/10/2013 8:51:24 AM
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EVprofesson, I'm hoping that's a joke about government's preference for antiquated materials. But I fear it's not a joke.

EVprofessor
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Re: Do they still make inkjet printers?
EVprofessor   11/10/2013 11:23:33 AM
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Rob, the comment about the government using impact printers is no joke, I noticed last month when purchassing a renewal for my vehicle registration that the form was a "Multipart carbom paper" and the printer was a "Daisey-Wheel" from 1970s technology.  This is in Florida, I asked and was told that that way no available technology could reproduce the resultant certification, reducing the likleyhood of the forms being used to obtain title for a stolen car... Swell concept but obvously inefective. 

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Do they still make inkjet printers?
Rob Spiegel   11/10/2013 11:32:44 AM
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Now that's crazy, EVprofessor. It's got to be hard to get materials and replacement parts for this technology.

EVprofessor
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Re: Do they still make inkjet printers?
EVprofessor   11/10/2013 12:03:35 PM
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Yes, Rob, but whoever is printing the forms and supplying the printers  (And RIBBONS) sells that as added security. Hey the NASA "Space Shuttle" program was still using the 1980s  80286 microprocessor systems when the last one was retired! Our Government seems to have a LOT of inertia...

How many years will pass before our vehicle license  plates (Tags) will be 3-D printed and include an RFID readable from a following police patroller? and our "Driver's License / State ID" could be 3-D with a 3-D color rendition of our face included with a similar RFID (or your Bank's Debit card) to make them more secure?  Even Orwell's 1984 didn't concede such an intrusive technology.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Do they still make inkjet printers?
Rob Spiegel   11/10/2013 2:00:09 PM
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Good points, EVprofessor. Business and manufacturing of all stripes have moved to new technology, in great part to achieve improved efficiencies. The investment in technology in recent decades has more than paid for itself. It's a shame to see the government miss these efficiencies.

EVprofessor
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Re: Do they still make inkjet printers?
EVprofessor   11/10/2013 6:49:25 PM
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Rob, Ann, and others, Concerning the printing of PC boards, In the old days (Oh yes I remember them well.) we used copper plated fiberglass media for PC boards. Then used  a subtractive process to "Etch" out the unwanted copper by applying "Resist" then acid etched the unsanted areas. Why nit print on an ink jet printer the resist and transfer it to the board stock or even better print out the etched zones with acid inks and transfer it directly to the board so that part of the copper is etshed away by the acid. but seriously a plotter with acid ink can do a good job of etching or use a milling cutter with its own motor moved around by the plotter to cut the copper or why not etch the copper with a laser? it can cut metals... I suspect a plotter/pc-board mill could be sold eagerly for a couple hundred at a profit.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Do they still make inkjet printers?
Ann R. Thryft   11/13/2013 11:43:54 AM
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EVprofessor, I love your story about impact printers and carbon paper coming back into use because of the security benefits. And yes, I remember those etch processes, as I used to write about them. Same goes for some of the earliest RFID technologies.

TJ McDermott
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Transferring it to fabric
TJ McDermott   11/7/2013 10:46:30 AM
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If this technology were used to print (or transfer) onto fabric, one could create some interesting (if temporary) garments.  Logic on a tee-shirt!

Ann R. Thryft
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New type of printed circuits
Ann R. Thryft   11/7/2013 1:04:15 PM
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Printing circuits on paper instead of plastic or other substrates? Awesome! Thanks for the report, Cabe.



Charles Murray
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Re: New type of printed circuits
Charles Murray   11/7/2013 9:17:45 PM
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Nice story, Cabe. I recall a technology -- I think it was from Motorola -- called BiStatix. It involved printed circuits for RFID applications. Seems to me they also used a conductive ink. I don't know what happened to that technology.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: New type of printed circuits
Ann R. Thryft   11/8/2013 11:57:57 AM
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Chuck I looked up BiStatix, and here's one thing I found:
http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/high-tech-gadgets/rfid2.htm
You're right, the carbon ink was conductive and it was also printed on paper RFID tags. The (undated) article says the technology "didn't catch on with retailers," but doesn't say why. I wonder if it has to do with the low 96-bit storage capacity.

Charles Murray
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Re: New type of printed circuits
Charles Murray   11/8/2013 5:58:04 PM
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Thanks, Ann. The source is right -- it definitely didn't catch on with retailers. Maybe it did have to do with storage capacity. I also wonder if the technology just arrived too early, really, before much of the world was ready for RFID.

EVprofessor
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Re: New type of printed circuits
EVprofessor   11/10/2013 11:42:12 AM
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Ann, the original purpose for RFID tags was theft reduction at retailers by triggering an alarm. The paper based tags were too easy to dissable by tearing the tag. A tough plastic tag wes preferable to most store security experts. the paper units were used at libraries where the accidental carrying off an unchecked out book thru the exit triggered an alarm. To disable the alarm a laminated "Date-Due" card with metal foil in the center was inserted whenever the book was "signed-out" and because the RFID was a part of the "Pocket" for that "Date-Due" tag the imbeded foil damped the retransmission of RF and NO Memory was used or needed just a return RF signal triggered the klaxon.  8^)

BrainiacV
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Printing
BrainiacV   11/8/2013 10:28:47 AM
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I sent this story to a friend of mine who had gotten excited one day when I was demonstrating a film you applied to laserjet printed paper and then ran through the printer again to fuse the film to the toner.

I had used a metallic film and he had hoped it was conductive so he could print circuits.  Sadly the films I was using proved to be non-conductive, so maybe this tecnology will fulfill his dream.

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