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The Most Useful Tool March 9, 2011

Posted by stuffilikenet in 3D Printing, Awesome, Brilliant words, Toys.

Consider for a moment the lowly inkjet printer.  Nowadays, a lonely inkjet printer can be found, fully functional but slightly used at your local thrift store for about $6.  I myself found (yes, found) maybe ten of the suckers on street corners waiting to be scavenged by industrious mendicants and bindlestiffs of our fair city.  I yanked the motors and sundry other useful bits and discarded the dismembered corpses, but I think these noble devices should have better treatment than this.

What are we talking about here?  An inkjet printer usually consists of a shaft-encoded pinch roller to move paper (hereinafter referred to as "substrate") in one direction very accurately, while thermospray print heads glide across the paper (sorry, "substrate") in a perpendicular direction depositing ink very accurately in desirable patterns.

Imagine what happens when additions are made to this device, like changing "ink" to "acid" and "paper" to "copper-clad boards"

Lots of hackers have had the same thought.  One fellow has tried printing etchant-resistant wax on printed circuit boards, to pretty good success. 

Others may try other, more tractable substances, but you get the idea. Another idea is adding a Dremel rotary cutting tool to scrape off the copper in the correct pattern.  This hasn’t been done yet for some reason, but people have thought about it.  They also have thought about a laser, but cooler heads apparently prevailed.

Imagine what happens if you substitute plastic for ink, and add a third dimension to add multiple layers.

Imagine what happens when you can fabricate enough parts to make another printer, and it makes another printer, and it makes another printer, etc.  This is already happening.


Imagine what happens when you add that third dimension and just change the ink to something more fabric friendly?

Direct-to-fabric printing apparently is already taking off in a small way.

Perhaps changing the substrate alone would be enough.  This fellow printed some small parts in WeldWood, a kind of wood and plastic powder and a bit of putty.  The “ink” in this case is dihydrogen monoxide, a nearly ubiquitous chemical known for causing drowning:

Except for the Reprap, these little hacks use only slightly-modified inkjet printers and slightly-modified software to drive them.  That’s a lot of potential for a humble $6 printer.


1. Some Links | The Mad Penguin - May 6, 2011

[…] Musings on the usefulness of inkjet printers for a variety of applications.  So ok, I’m not the only one who’s been thinking about this, but here I hope to actually do something about it! […]

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