3D Printing with liquid metals

Kudos to the team at North Carolina State University (and the National Science Foundation for sponsoring the research) for coming up with an interesting paper and an entertaining video on 3D printing with liquid metals.

The build up of the finished part is occurring through depositing of small drops of binary eutectic alloy of gallium and indium (EGaIn, 75% Ga 25% In by weight) which is conductive and liquid at room temperature (slightly below, actually ∼15.7°C) . The 3D printer is essentially a microscope positioning stage with a third axis attached, which is carrying a syringe with the liquid alloy. The alloy is being deposited through a needle approx 250um in diameter.

Each droplet is coalescing into a sphere due to surface tension and each is quickly forming a thin protective layer (only about 1nm ) of passivating skin composed of Gallium oxide.

Be sure to check out the video for the samples of the shapes that can be printed with this technique. This is an early development stage yet and I’m sure we’ll see more interesting results come out soon. Some of the improvements that are in works have to do with devising ways to prevent the spherical droplets from further coalescing into larger diameter spheres instead of staying where they’ve been deposited.

3D-printed microstructure build with liquid metal

3D-printed microstructure build with liquid metal

No less intriguing are the 2D applications of the same technology – the droplets can be stretched into thin wires from 30 to 200um in diameter to build electronic circuits using CNC positioning of the depositing syringe.

Check out the 3D Printing of Free Standing Liquid Metal Microstructures paper  for more details on the fascinating new technology.

On a personal note: I had no idea how affordable indium and gallium are (in quantities needed for a DIY lab, of course) – they are about $1 / gram each and eBay is full of offers. Definitely something within the reach of an adventurous DIY 3D printing enthusiast! 🙂


Lithophane with 3D Printer

3D printing is an ultimate enabling technology! Once you have a way of creating physical objects from computer models and master material’s limitations, there’s no telling what you’ll be able to do! We’ve seen 3D-printed phonograph records, 3D printed bikini, not to mention the much hyped-up 3D printed gun, and now G.P. Le Sage Blog brings us 3D printed lithophane (a picture formed by light that passes through different thickness of semi-translucent material) .
Check out the results and of course the great step-by-step tutorial on the 3D lithophane process posted by G.P. Le Sage.

I have to add a personal note (and this is in no way to belittle results of GPLS’s work) but to me personally the lithophane pictures have a distinct Paranormal Activity flavor and may be in great demand around Halloween time 🙂 – that leaves us just enough time to master the technique and be ready to come up with ghostly images of loved ones before October 31st!

G. P. Le Sage Blog


I created a lithophane using my home-made 3D printer. By using BMP2IGES, a freely available program, I converted a grey scale image to a mesh, with white being thinnest and black being thickest. I printed white ABS filament, and experimented with overall thickness to make a clearly visible image with the light from a $2 night light from a dollar store.

I was following the example provided by Joe.

Here is the original image, and the conversion to grey scale. I added blackouts to protect the privacy of my friends.

JulieIan Eyes BlockedJulieIanBWCrop Eyes Blocked

I first experimented with the lithophane using Blender. I defined an emitting surface, and made the lithophane out of material that partially transmitted light. By rendering the lithophane with the light source behind, I could test the appearance.

Blender Render


Next I printed the actual object with my 3D printer. The first one was too thick, and required a very…

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Turning a phone into a media center remote

Now, here is a strange but interesting in a true hacking (phracking even) way remote control device. I was totally expecting there to be the need to pick up the receiver first in order to dial the commands (and hear DTMFs as you do) but that functionality was left out.

It’s surprising that an entire Raspberry Pi had to be used only for servicing a 12 button keyboard but I think the author was not satisfied with XBMC performance on Raspberry Pi and so the board was available for other uses.

It would be cool, however, to have the Raspverry Pi inside the phone set’s body with an HDMI on the back, hooked up to a TV. Would make for a pretty funky retro-looking multimedia player!



[Kees] wanted a remote for an XBMC audio system. He had a classic T65 Dutch telephone in one of his project boxes and thought this phone with the addition of a Raspberry Pi he could have a functional media remote with classic lines and 70s styling.

Each of the digits on the phone were wired up to a small solderless breadboard. With a handful of resistors, [Kees] set up a simple pull up/pull down circuit feeding in to his Raspi’s GPIO input.

With a short Python script, [Kees] managed to map the buttons to XMBC’s play/pause, volume up/down, next, and previous commands. There were a few buttons left over, so those were mapped to online radio stations, playlists, and a strange setting known only as ‘moo’. We’re not sure what that button does, but you can see the other functions of this XMBC phone remote in action in the video…

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Napster For Pirated 3D Printing Templates?

I don’t get the concern here. 3D printing files are essentially CNC files, they are not any kind of “special” files. In some 30 years of CNC use I haven’t seen a “Napster” for CNC files yet, have you? Despite some of them describing production operations of some expensive parts.

Additionally, it’s a bit too late to get your panties in a bunch over (illegal) 3D model sharing – 3D models as well as any kind of file imaginable are probably shared just as much as any other file type over peer-to-peer connections and have been for ages now (10 years easily). Perhaps not specifically for 3D printing but for 3D rendering.

There’s already a “Napster” or “Napsters” for legal 3D file sharing – Thingiverse obviously and Shapeways list of publicly shared models. What exactly should “illegal” 3D printer “Napster” do to justify the wrath of the “3D manufacturing lobby” – a comment made tongue in cheek, obviously because 3D manufacturing has not and will not have a clout strong enough and unified enough to create a lobby anywhere close to that MPAA was able to field. Besides, profits in 3D printing/manufacturing are nowhere near ones that provide (comfortable) livelihood for the army of MPAA lawyers. I don’t see 3D printing DRM materialize anywhere in the foreseen future.

So, I call the concept of 3D printing piracy a “manufactured controversy”

CNC Control Box done and working

If you ever wanted to see one darn fine looking CNC control box, check out Downing’s project here. He poured all his PC modding talent into the box, and it shows! Not only does the box contain the PC (couldn’t figure out what it’s running but willing to bet it’s LinuxCNC) but the CNC controller as well as the *second* monitor and what looks like a second numerical keyboard. That is pretty dandy considering most of the inputs during a CNC run are numerical. That second keyboard is a great idea, I think I’m going to steal it. Not sure what the second monitor is for but hey, there’s a space there, why not?
There are also some feature buttons (proly the PC reset and power) but perhaps an op-stop (M1) button is also hooked up. And of course, the mandatory hard-to-miss red kill-all mushroom button.

What a lovely sight and professional look! As I’m getting parts together for my own CNC enclosure project (looking to put a small router about the size of Downing’s INSIDE an enclosure to capture dust and chips thrown about) , I think I’ll draw an idea or two from his Control Box.

Downing's Basement

So after suffering from some of the biggest headaches I’ve had to deal with in a long time, the control box for my router is completed. I wanna thank my friend [Dave Russo] for coming over and not only help solve the issue with CNC (which of course was only a single wire connected incorrectly) but also for helping me fix my main PC and upgrading to a Solid State Drive. Much thanks my friend.

So back to the CNC, the general premise of the project was to make up some space that my old PC tower and the CNC control box itself was taking up. Granted now a lot more space on top is taken up, everything is now in one location and even has a nifty little PSOne screen acting as a second monitor for the PC!

Though this isn’t perfect, it does the job. I will be…

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Forget thermoplastics — Mcor says the future of 3D printing is in paper

It’s a shame Mcor Technologies website is pretty much disabled at the moment – only shows “Join Us at the Inside 3D Printing Conference & Expo, April 22-23 in New York City!” and “Prepare to be wowed!”.
Well, consider myself pre-wowed! I did miss the conference but would very much like to find out more about the paper 3D printing technology. Having a sculptor in you family exposes one to all sorts of materials that end up in a 3D design (sculpted by hand as it is now) and so I have seen how paper clays and Papier-mâché performs (when dry) and I would say if Mcor can produce similar strength/weight ratios art paper clays do, I would absolutely want a printer like this! Especially if it includes full color printing on the surface of the 3D model if I got the idea about the way they create colored 3D models right.

Looking forward to learning more about the Mcor 3D printing with paper!

Getting Mainstreamier: SkyMall Is Selling a 3D Printer

As much as I celebrate the fact that 3D printers are becoming more accessible, sitting cramped on a plane and feeling stupid for not bringing a book or some electronic entertainment device (and, really, what else can make you pick up that catalog) does not sound like the perfect time to make a decision to buy a 3D printer. Cube3D is not the best 3D printer out there for the price – I’d say it’s kind of small and I personally feel a bit uneasy about the moving table (which moves the part being printed with it). But, hey, there are even sillier ways to spend $1,300 by buying something from that catalog, so maybe it’s not all that bad after all.


If ever you needed a sign that 3D printing has hit the mainstream, look no further than SkyMall.

Everyone’s favorite way to pass the 15 minutes between when you’re told to turn off your electronic devices and when you’re allowed to turn them back on, the venerable seat-back catalog is now selling the $1,300 Cube 3D Printer, which is capable of printing out plastic objects up to 5.5 inches in size.

According to SkyMall, you can choose from 16 different plastic colors and “an average smartphone case takes about two hours to print.”

The 3D printer includes a Wi-Fi chip for a cord-free hookup to a PC or Mac, and is perfect for anyone between the ages of eight and 80, says SkyMall. Are you seven years old? Are you 81 years old? Sorry, this item is not for you. Are you the 83-year-old whose award-winning invention beat the…

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