How to 3D print your own custom modules for Snap Circuits

Jan 27, 2017 | By Tess

Maker Chuck Hellebuyck, from the popular CHEP Youtube channel, recently demonstrated how to design and 3D print custom modules for a Snap Circuits using beginner 3D modeling software Tinkercad and a few easy-to-find snaps, not unlike those used on garments. The demo was part of his “Filament Friday” series of 3D printing tutorials.

Maker Chuck Hellebuyck

Snap Circuits, developed by electronics company Elenco, came out a few years ago and has helped introduce circuitry and electronics to beginners and students. The simple learning tool consists of a plastic baseboard with mounting holes, and various “snap on” components that establish electrical connections via their mechanical snaps. The Snap Circuit kits, however, which retail from about $35 a set, have been a relatively closed-source platform. That is, until now.

Thanks to Hellebuyck’s easy-to-follow tutorial, you can make your own custom circuit parts for the Snap Circuit system using Tinkercad 3D modeling software, a splicing program, some simple tools, and a 3D printer. Of course, if you don’t have access to a 3D printer, you can always have the 3D printed components made through your local 3D printing service.

The first step of the process is finding the right snaps. As Hellebuyck explains, he found a pack of 12mm “Anorak snaps” that were the perfect fit for the Snap Circuit board. With the snaps in tow, he then set about designing a simple structure that could house the wire, snaps, and LED light (which he used as an example). Using Tinkercad’s simple 3D shapes, he was able to quickly design a small spanner-shaped structure, with 12mm diameter indents and small holes on both ends to accommodate the snap bits. He also integrated a small channel connecting the two ends, where the connective wire could be placed.

With the Tinkercad model done, he then exported it as an STL file and opened it in Simplify 3D to prep it for 3D printing. For the demo, Hellebuyck was working with his own Flashforge Dreamer 3D printer and chose to print with PLA. He used the following print settings: 0.2mm layer height, 50% infill, no supports, 200 degrees celsius for the filament, 60 degrees celsius for the print bed, with a print speed of 50 mm/s. The print should take only about 30 minutes to print with these settings.

Before assembling the custom Snap Circuit module, the maker first had to make some adjustments to the snaps, grinding the edges down to a smaller size. From there he placed the wire and diode in the channel, making sure each end of the wire would be covered by the metal snaps. He then assembled the snaps into each end of the 3D printed model and secured them and the wire with a few simple hammer hits. While the connection should be established from this point on, if you want a stronger connection you can solder the wire to the snap together.

Finally, he simply labeled the module and tested it out on his own Snap Circuit!

If you want to get 3D printing right away, you can always find the finished 3D model on Hellebuyck’s Thingiverse page here. See the full tutorial below:

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Posted in 3D Printing Application

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