Circuit printers and 3D printers are relatively accessible these days. Rabbit Proto, an open source project based out of Stanford University, wants to make it a little bit simpler to put the two together with a set of kits it is offering that make it easier to print 3D objects that are electronics compatible from the start.
Rabbit Proto’s team has created a syringe-like extruder that prints conductive ink, which can serve as circuits that connect different parts of an electronic device. The syringe can plug into RepRap 3D printers that are capable of printing with two extruders. The printer switches between printing in plastic and electronic ink without the user having to manually stop and restart the printer.
The Rabbit Proto joins a burgeoning group of projects looking to make 3D printed objects more than just static plastic. Tools like cheap microcontrollers and circuit pens mean that you don’t need an electrical engineering degree and soldering skills to create electronics anymore, and as interest in devices like wearable electronics grows, more people will become interested in creating their own.
The Rabbit Proto still requires that users know how to operate a RepRap, which is less suited to beginners than many of the desktop printers that have emerged in recent years, and how to design circuits in a CAD program. But similar to how the RepRap project paved the way for friendlier printers, the Rabbit Proto shows that relatively easy to use hybrid plastic/electronics printers are not too far off.
The syringe extruder by itself costs $350 and is now available for preorder. You can also order a complete 3D printer equipped with the Rabbit Proto for $2,499. The open source design for the extruder is also available on GitHub.
And don’t worry if printing circuits doesn’t interest you. The Rabbit Proto can print pretty much any viscous material, including peanut butter.