3D printed serial connector.

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3D printed serial connector.

Post by DEFAULT » Sun May 17, 2020 11:25 am

Hello everyone.

I recently challenged myself to create a 3D printed serial connector, as I have seen it mentioned previously, but out of what I saw no one has actually made one.

The result was a working connector, but the process of putting it together was a massive faff, and has room for improvement.

So rather then treating this as a guide, I am just going to tell you what I did, and some possible improvements which could be made.
I also apologise for the poor image quality, my phone refused to focus on the smaller parts.

First off the files.
I made the connector in blender, so I will provide the appropriate .blend files, and a file .stl file.
SerialPort13.blend contains all the parts to help with alignment.
SerialPort13.5.blend contains the connector just before a boolean operator is applied to it to cut out holes for the pins.
SerialPort14.blend contains the final connector, which is ready to be exported.
SerialPort17.stl contains the final connector, which is ready to be printed.

(This is a temporary link until my Thingiverse account is available.)
https://mega.nz/file/0IplBapY#tM1j_DDC ... QX-HmXwvc

(admin edit: added local mirror of files here:)
SerialConnector.zip
(293.16 KiB) Downloaded 17 times

I acknowledge the weird naming scheme, but I did not expect to do as many iterations as I did.
When it comes to the 3D printing, I used ABS. I encourage you to experiment with other materials as well, as I will show later, ABS was not strong enough at times.
My 3D printer is cheap and cheerful, so you don't need an expensive 3D printer for this connector.

I assume that you already have a soldering iron, solder, a 3D printer, and some general tools, such as wire stripper, pliers and wire cutters. My soldering iron is cheap and does not have temperature set. It just has a knob, which I set to the highest temperature possible most of the time.

You will need some thin electrical wire. I don't know the exact thickness of mine, but the gaps between the pins seen later is very small, so it is important that they are thin.

The last thing you will need is some breadboard jumper wires like these https://www.amazon.co.uk/Solderless-Fl ... N7PLZ49ZE , this is where we will be sourcing the pins from, as they are mostly the perfect size.

The amount of pins you need depends on what you want to do. I show the process for an ft232rl, but it may vary with something like an SD card adapter.

Here is a pinout of the Dreamcast serial port (credit: https://www.microchip.com/forums/m844855.aspx):
Pinout.jpg
Pinout.jpg (9.27 KiB) Viewed 616 times
The first step is to get the pins from the jumper wires. To do this, you cut off the plastic coating, and the use pliers to pull them out. Sometimes they can be reluctant, so you might need two pliers, one to hold the cable and another to pull the pin out.

Here are some images of what this looks like.
WireCutter.jpg
Pliers.jpg
Once the connector is 3D printed, you need to push the pins into the grooves. The walls of these grooves are prone to breaking. This is generally not an issue, as the more pins push in, the more others are supported. You could prevent this by filing them slightly, using a stronger printing material, or just being more gentle, as I am pretty heavy handed.

This is the base connector:
Connector.jpg
And this is the connector with the pins. Keep in mind that these pins are slightly shorter, since this is before I revised the way I sourced the pins. The method I described earlier is the most up to date method:
ConnectorWithPins.jpg
The next step is to find a way to keep them pins down. There is a good 1-2mm to do this, shown by this image:
ConnectorWithArea.jpg
As you can see, I used some thermal tape, but that was not all. I used the soldering iron to melt the plastic around the bottom of the pins, this helped keep them in place. This is the one of the most fiddly parts of creating the connector, because you have got to make sure that the top of the pins don't get too hot, because if they do, they will melt into the plastic too much, meaning no good connection will be made. At the same time, you have got to make sure the bottom of the pins don't sink too much, so the top of the pins stay down, and so the bottom pins can be soldered to.

I am sure there is a better way to melt the plastic, but I just heated up the pins, along with "stroking" the plastic on to them sometimes.
This is where I think there is the most room for improvement, in the making of the connector.
You could use superglue or some other adhesive, it is all up for experimentation.

You should be left with something which roughly looks like this. Keep in mind this is a failed connector, so that is why I say roughly. I only took pictures after the fact:
PinsMelted.jpg
After that, you need to solder wires to the pins, which is a very fiddly process. I tin the wires with a little solder, so I can just rest the wire on top of the pin, and then put the iron on top of them, to fuse them together.

This is what that looks like:
PinsWithWires.jpg
That is the connector part done. You can now solder the other ends of the wires to whatever you want.
I connected mine to a FTDI ft232rl, since I didn't like the one currently dangling outside my Dreamcast.
This is what my final coders cable looks like:
FinalCodersCable.jpg
And here it is plugged into the Dreamcast:
PluggedIn.jpg
The speeds are identical to my previous coders cable, which was soldered directly onto the motherboard.
The connector also has a nice snug fit, saying in place with no problems, yet being easy to remove.

That is it!
I hope you find this connector useful.
I am looking forward to seeing what you guys do with it!
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Re: 3D printed serial connector.

Post by BlueCrab » Sun May 17, 2020 12:53 pm

Interesting... I'm definitely going to have to try this out at some point.

Thanks for putting it together. :)
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Re: 3D printed serial connector.

Post by Moopthehedgehog » Sun May 17, 2020 7:19 pm

Hey, this is great!

I don't know how feasible it would be with a consumer 3D printer, but one could maybe augment this with a cylindrical cavity for the bases of the pins that allow the pins to be threaded through, instead of needing tape. Like a wire guide, as depicted by this cross-sectional ASCII art:
(upper line is the top of the cylinder, dashed line is the pin made from wire, squiggly line is wire)
______
~~~~~~~------------| (<-- side of connector that goes into Dreamcast)
(underline is what's already designed)

Similarly, maybe to keep the pins in place one could do something like what's attached (note the blue lines, not to scale, and, yeah, sorry, the image is disgustingly pixelated) instead of needing to manually melt plastic and breathe in those ABS fumes. A cavity of this kind would only need to "close in" over the pins above the halfway mark to hold them in place--the higher the better--but as I mentioned I am not sure if consumer 3D printers can do detail this fine.

Though, superglue does produce a chemical reaction in the plastic, and if applied carefully may simply sculpt the pin cavities of the posted design around the solid-core wire pin. Actually, instead of ripping apart one of those male breadboard pins in the 3rd image, one could just strip solid-core wire and slide it in, no soldering necessary on that end at all.
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Crappy cavity drawing, blue lines emphasize cavity
Crappy cavity drawing, blue lines emphasize cavity
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Re: 3D printed serial connector.

Post by DEFAULT » Mon May 18, 2020 3:53 am

Moopthehedgehog wrote:
Sun May 17, 2020 7:19 pm
Hey, this is great!

I don't know how feasible it would be with a consumer 3D printer, but one could maybe augment this with a cylindrical cavity for the bases of the pins that allow the pins to be threaded through, instead of needing tape. Like a wire guide, as depicted by this cross-sectional ASCII art:
(upper line is the top of the cylinder, dashed line is the pin made from wire, squiggly line is wire)
______
~~~~~~~------------| (<-- side of connector that goes into Dreamcast)
(underline is what's already designed)

Similarly, maybe to keep the pins in place one could do something like what's attached (note the blue lines, not to scale, and, yeah, sorry, the image is disgustingly pixelated) instead of needing to manually melt plastic and breathe in those ABS fumes. A cavity of this kind would only need to "close in" over the pins above the halfway mark to hold them in place--the higher the better--but as I mentioned I am not sure if consumer 3D printers can do detail this fine.

Though, superglue does produce a chemical reaction in the plastic, and if applied carefully may simply sculpt the pin cavities of the posted design around the solid-core wire pin. Actually, instead of ripping apart one of those male breadboard pins in the 3rd image, one could just strip solid-core wire and slide it in, no soldering necessary on that end at all.
I think the wire guide/cavity idea could definitely work. However the holes would have to be square shaped, since at the start I tried to make the guides cylindrical, and my 3D printer was not accurate enough.

I don't think it is possible to have the cavity "close in" though, due to accuracy and the parts breaking off. You could have parts of the guide wall stick out more, which you can then fold over using the soldering iron again, but as you said ABS fumes are not the best. I plop a commercial extractor fan on my desk next to where I solder, so I did not notice the issue of fumes. But of course, not everyone has one of those lying around!

| <- the bit you could fold over.
| | |

__
| | |

I did not know such solid core wire existed, so that idea is great! It would save all the faff with soldering to the tiny pins.
I unfortunately don't have any more time to mess around with this right now, but I will come back to this idea in the near future a do some further experimentation.

Thanks for posting this!
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Re: 3D printed serial connector.

Post by DanB91 » Mon May 18, 2020 3:38 pm

Thank you very much for making this! I am considering using a service like craftcloud3d.com to print this model. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with 3D printing or stl files. It seems whatever data is in this file, it does not supply these services with with the right real-world dimensions as shown here:

Image

Would you be able to supply the dimensions of this model in millimeters or in inches? Thanks again!

EDIT: By looking at the blender files and scaling it up in craftcloud3d by 100,000%, it looks like the model might be 11mm × 24mm × 4.34mm. Is that correct?
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Re: 3D printed serial connector.

Post by DEFAULT » Tue May 19, 2020 3:33 am

DanB91 wrote:
Mon May 18, 2020 3:38 pm
Thank you very much for making this! I am considering using a service like craftcloud3d.com to print this model. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with 3D printing or stl files. It seems whatever data is in this file, it does not supply these services with with the right real-world dimensions as shown here:

Image

Would you be able to supply the dimensions of this model in millimeters or in inches? Thanks again!

EDIT: By looking at the blender files and scaling it up in craftcloud3d by 100,000%, it looks like the model might be 11mm × 24mm × 4.34mm. Is that correct?
Yes that is correct. The scale does not translate between software very well, my 3D printing software also scales the model by 100000%.
I don't know why this is, probably due to me not configuring something correct in Blender.

I suggest you also get quite a few of them, maybe 5 or 10, since I got through a lot of them before I created a successful one.
I have not used a 3D printing service before, so I hope that turns out well for you, and hope it is not too expensive.
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Re: 3D printed serial connector.

Post by DanB91 » Tue May 19, 2020 12:47 pm

DEFAULT wrote:
Tue May 19, 2020 3:33 am
DanB91 wrote:
Mon May 18, 2020 3:38 pm
Thank you very much for making this! I am considering using a service like craftcloud3d.com to print this model. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with 3D printing or stl files. It seems whatever data is in this file, it does not supply these services with with the right real-world dimensions as shown here:

Image

Would you be able to supply the dimensions of this model in millimeters or in inches? Thanks again!

EDIT: By looking at the blender files and scaling it up in craftcloud3d by 100,000%, it looks like the model might be 11mm × 24mm × 4.34mm. Is that correct?
Yes that is correct. The scale does not translate between software very well, my 3D printing software also scales the model by 100000%.
I don't know why this is, probably due to me not configuring something correct in Blender.

I suggest you also get quite a few of them, maybe 5 or 10, since I got through a lot of them before I created a successful one.
I have not used a 3D printing service before, so I hope that turns out well for you, and hope it is not too expensive.
Thank you! Ordered 7 craftcloud3d.com for only $16, so doesn't seem to bad. Using polished SLS nylon material. Hoping it turns out well.
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Re: 3D printed serial connector.

Post by |darc| » Tue May 19, 2020 12:58 pm

This is a really cool idea! In in the past I've avoided making my own serial connectors (from AGP slots/HDMI connectors and whatnot) and I use a Neo-Geo Pocket Color cable's official connector for various tasks instead. This looks like a much better way to come up with your own connectors.


Side note: instead of taping or melting the plastic to hold the pins in place, I wonder if it'd make more sense to just use a brush-applicator super glue product to apply some super glue to hold the pins in place?
Like https://www.amazon.com/Gorilla-Super-Br ... 01LYO4R4I/ ?
Also, uploaded the ZIP file to the server for a local mirror of the files for you as well.
It's thinking...
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Re: 3D printed serial connector.

Post by DEFAULT » Tue May 19, 2020 1:40 pm

|darc| wrote:
Tue May 19, 2020 12:58 pm
This is a really cool idea! In in the past I've avoided making my own serial connectors (from AGP slots/HDMI connectors and whatnot) and I use a Neo-Geo Pocket Color cable's official connector for various tasks instead. This looks like a much better way to come up with your own connectors.


Side note: instead of taping or melting the plastic to hold the pins in place, I wonder if it'd make more sense to just use a brush-applicator super glue product to apply some super glue to hold the pins in place?
Like https://www.amazon.com/Gorilla-Super-Br ... 01LYO4R4I/ ?
Also, uploaded the ZIP file to the server for a local mirror of the files for you as well.
Thanks for uploading the files to the server! Good thing too, as MEGA often threatens to delete my account if I don't login for a while.
I have uploaded it to Thingiverse as well, linking back to this discussion so people know how to assemble it.
https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4371911

Superglue could definitely work, the only thing you would have to be careful of is getting a non-conductive one. The one you linked to looks like a good option.

I will attempt to improve the design further if I get some time next week.

I did not know a Neo-Geo Pocket Colour link cable had the correct connector, that is pretty neat.
However, out of what I saw on ebay they are not the cheapest, but still an option nevertheless.
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Re: 3D printed serial connector.

Post by DanB91 » Wed May 27, 2020 11:35 am

just got them in. Fit a bit too snug so I'll need to sand them down. Also the pin holders are not as deep as I hoped them to be, so will need to make them deeper some how. But since I got a bunch definitely room to experiment with!
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Re: 3D printed serial connector.

Post by DEFAULT » Thu May 28, 2020 12:42 pm

DanB91 wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 11:35 am
just got them in. Fit a bit too snug so I'll need to sand them down. Also the pin holders are not as deep as I hoped them to be, so will need to make them deeper some how. But since I got a bunch definitely room to experiment with!
Excellent!
Keep in mind that when the pins are added, the fit becomes even tighter.
Mine has also loosened over time, so don't sand it too much.

The guides, unfortunately, had to be shallow in order for the pins to make good connection.
You will need to use/find a method to keep the pins stuck down

I have got some of the superglue which |darc| recommended, but have not experimented with it yet.
I have been working on new designs to no avail, so unfortunately this is the best I can do.

I hope it turns out well.
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Re: 3D printed serial connector.

Post by c0deisme » Wed Oct 07, 2020 2:25 pm

now, from printing some test pieces i noticed that the stock size is way too large to fit, x11 y24 z3.9 seems to fit perfectly with pins
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Re: 3D printed serial connector.

Post by mrneo240 » Wed Oct 07, 2020 7:36 pm

c0deisme wrote:
Wed Oct 07, 2020 2:25 pm
now, from printing some test pieces i noticed that the stock size is way too large to fit, x11 y24 z3.9 seems to fit perfectly with pins
What does this mean
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Re: 3D printed serial connector.

Post by c0deisme » Thu Oct 08, 2020 11:31 am

oh, sorry i forgot the units

actually it only means that the height is .5mm too large to fit perfectly
x 11mm
y 24mm
z 3.9mm
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