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Using 3d printing to improve the Super-Elastic Signal Stick

One challenge with a project like these antennas is that we are constantly looking for ways to improve on our previous designs. The reason this is a challenge is that often when we develop an improvement which has significant advantages it also changes the appearance of the antenna, which both creates the possibility that people will not like the change and creates a transitory period where people expect the product to remain constant but we have some stock of the old and some of the new.

That said, we’ve been experimenting with a 3d printer and have started producing covers for the antenna and anti-eye-pokers (that’s a highly technical term) for the tips. Here are some pictures of what the new antennas look like:

Advantages

There are several key reasons that we have decided to adopt this approach:

  • Ham Radio antennas + 3d Printers.  Duh.
  • The glue caps (connector covers) are custom designed to both improve your grip on the antenna connector and to hold the epoxy in exactly the place where it is needed, thus these are more structurally sound than the previous version.
  • With these connectors we don’t need the rubber coating and the epoxy is much easier (and more reliable) to apply.
  • The new tips require just a little easily applied glue and are consistent.
  • There are literally dozens if not hundreds of colors and textures of material we could make the connectors with.
  • In summary, the new method:
    • Is awesome
    • Is faster to build
    • Is more reliable
    • Is more consistent
    • Allows more customization

Current colors

We’ve just about got the process to where we can “mass produce” (about 30 at a time) the caps and tips, so we’ve started stocking up.  What we haven’t decided is which colors to use.  Here is what we have right now:

Cap kit

The colors are:

  • Black
    • Note that we don’t like black tips, so these will have other colors for the tips.
    • The reason we don’t like black tips is that they are hard to see, so we keep poking our eyes out and we’re running short on spare eyes.
  • Super-bright glow in the dark
  • White
  • Brown / wood colored
  • Translucent royal blue
  • Green
  • Light blue / glow in the dark (not super bright)
  • Red
  • Pink (none printed currently, but we have it)

We have ordered some more filaments and hope to add to this:

  • Solid blue
  • Yellow
  • Purple

As you can see, there are a lot of options; we will probably make a bit of everything and see what people like, but it’s hard to have any guarantee that anything will be in stock with so many options.

Which colors should we keep?

Leave a comment please and let us know what colors you think should be “standard”?  Would you pay extra (probably $5 or $10) to have a custom antenna made with a specific color?  What do you think of the change?

7 thoughts on “Using 3d printing to improve the Super-Elastic Signal Stick

  1. That’s great stuff! Would these fit snuggly in a UV-5R? I had a feeling from the previous pics vs the new version that the plastic would now provide much better coverage over the exposed SMA connector.

    I kinda liked the old anti-eye-poking tips. Seems as though they would be less likely to snag onto a branch and come off with their nearly round shape. I plan on bringing mine into the woods while hunting, hence my concern. But, if you run out of your earlier version of antennas and only offered the newer versions, I would still purchase one. Being able to coil them up is more important than anything else.

    I would normally expect to see a standard selection of colors (red, yellow, blue and black). Maybe 1 glow in the dark tip with black base and an all glow in the dark option as well. For the more flashy colors / glow in the dark combinations, a 5$ extra should be reasonable.

    My 0.02$

    Would that mean there’s a sale of “older type” antenna coming up?! ;-)

    I have promised myself that once I pass my basic exam (Canada), I’m ordering one antenna from you guys. If I had to pick right now, I would choose black base with glowing tip. Flexibility trumps price f

    1. Different radios have a different amount of clearance between the radio and the antenna; So far we have chosen not to try to optimize to fit any particular radio, so it will still not come flush with the radio. It’s something I might consider sometime, but haven’t yet.

      I don’t disagree with you on the shape of the tip; I can’t do totally round with the printer, though, so I’m sticking with this for now.

      If we do any sales it is unlikely it would be related to the old vs new style — both seem to be in adequate demand =]

      Thanks for the feedback!

  2. Just wondering if you are exclusively using the 3D printing or are the dipped ones available as well?

    1. Most online orders I’m still sending the dipped ones, as I have some left, but in the future I’ll be only making then with the 3d printed caps, which have changed somewhat since these photos to look nicer and be more effective. They are significantly stronger and IMO look much nicer. I’ll also be standardizing on just one color — probably black.

      As a further update, with the 3d printed caps I have managed to find a happy medium for female SMA that fits all of the Chinese handhelds that I’ve tried it on and is nearly if not perfectly flush with the radio. It took some doing, but it works quite well now.

      If you want a specific style or color when you order please include that information in the notes; if I don’t have it I’ll check with you about what I do have before I ship, unless your instructions allow me to fulfill it with a backup or “anything” as many specify if I don’t have what they want. I also generally don’t send pink ones out except on request :-P

  3. I used hamstudy.org to get my technician license.
    And that is all I used !
    Thank you !
    Next is the General I hope it as easy as technicians was !
    And I’m 63 ! Who says you can’t teach a old dog new tricks !

  4. Will you make the stl file available to download? I’m thinking of buying several antennas but I would like the option to print my own caps.

    1. That is a very interesting question. I’ve really debated it back and forth; I think for now I will probably be keeping that one myself, given that it’s the one custom designed piece that nobody else has that is kinda key to our antennas.

      I will tell you though that if you’re careful and use a relatively thick epoxy (something like JB weld) you can make it reasonably strong even without the glue cap to hold it in place. The trick is to trim the drippage after it sets but before it fully cures (while a knife will still cut it). This is how we used to make them before I designed the new caps

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