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Report summary

This report begins by documenting the development of a new ‘circuit inclusion’ technology which creates electrical circuits. The process injects molten alloy into casting channels in a physical component. On solidification, a robust electrical circuit is formed within the structure of the physical component.

The circuit inclusion process was automated by mounting the injection device onto a mechanical axis (similar to an axis found inside a desktop printer). This axis was designed to move the injection device along one dimension so that it could mechanically deposit the alloy into the casting channels.

The axis was specifically designed to incorporate rapid prototyping technology which has the capability of printing three dimensional, insulating, mechanical components using a similar deposition principle. The combination of circuit inclusion and rapid prototyping technologies into a single unit would enable the manufacture of three-dimensional electro-mechanical components. It is recognised that this process is the fundamental principle which a ‘self-replicator’ could use to manufacture its own parts.

With a view to realising such a device the simple circuit inclusion axis was designed around the idea of self-replication i.e. it was designed from components which the future circuit inclusion/rapid prototyping unit would be able to make (with the exception of a few acceptable “standard” components).

This report documents the development, design and manufacture of such an axis. Three significant successes were recorded. Firstly the axis achieved a repeatable movement across the length of its strokefor 100 % of 38 tests, secondly the majority of the design conformed to the idea of self-replication. Eight extra components outside the accepted list were used, however less than half of these were considered necessary for future developments. Thirdly the automated axis successfully created a simple circuit by depositing a continuous stream of molten alloy into a casting channel.

Research should continue to develop the circuit inclusion technology further starting by extending the axis into the second and third dimensions. On completion of this development the axis would be ready to adopt both circuit inclusion and rapid prototyping technologies to form a basic self-replicating unit.

-- Main.EdSells - 06 Jan 2006