The International Space Station is one of our leading frontiers of science and engineering, but it’s easy to forget that an exotic orbiting laboratory has basic needs shared with every terrestrial workplace. This includes humble office equipment like a printer. (The ink-on-paper kind.) And if you thought your office IT is slow to update their list of approved equipment, consider the standard issue NASA space printer draws from a stock of modified Epson Stylus 800s first flown on a space shuttle almost twenty years ago. HP signed on to provide a replacement, partnering with Simplexity who outlined their work as a case study upgrading HP’s OfficeJet 5740 design into the HP Envy ISS.
Simplexity provided more engineering detail than HP’s less technical page. Core parts of inkjet printing are already well suited for space and required no modification. Their low power consumption is valued when all power comes from solar panels, and ink flow is already controlled via methods independent of gravity. Most of the engineering work focused on paper handling in zero gravity, similar to the work necessary for its Epson predecessor. To verify gravity-independent operation on earth, Simplexity started by mounting their test units upside-down and worked their way up to testing in the cabin of an aircraft in free fall.
CollectSpace has a writeup with details outside Simplexity’s scope, covering why ISS needs a printer plus additional modifications made in the interest of crew safety. Standard injection-molded plastic parts were remade with an even more fire-resistant formulation of plastic. The fax/scanner portion of the device was removed due to concerns around its glass bed. Absorbent mats were attached inside the printer to catch any stray ink droplets.
NASA commissioned a production run for 50 printers, the first of which was delivered by SpaceX last week on board their CRS-14 mission. When it wears out, a future resupply mission will deliver its replacement drawn from this stock of space printers. Maybe a new inkjet printer isn’t as exciting as 3D printing in space or exploring space debris cleanup, but it’s still a part of keeping our orbital laboratory running.
You would be forgiven for thinking that 3D printing is only about plastic filament and UV-curing resin. In fact, there are dozens of technologies that can be used to create 3D printed parts, ranging from welders mounted to CNC machines to the very careful application of inkjet cartridges. For this year’s Hackaday Prize, [Yvo de Haas] is modifying inkjet technology to create 3D objects. If he gets this working with off-the-shelf parts, this will be one of the most interesting advances for 3D printing in recent memory.
The core of this build is a modification of HP45 inkjet print heads to squirt something other than overpriced ink. To turn this into a 3D printer, [Yvo] is filling these ink cartridges with water or alcohol. This is then printed on a bed of powder, either gypsum, sugar, sand, or ceramic, with each layer printed, then covered with a fine layer of powder. All of this is built around a 3D printer with an X/Y axis gantry, a piston to lower the print volume, and a roller to draw more powder over the print.
The hardest part of this build is controlling the inkjet cartridge itself, but there’s prior work that makes this job easier. [Yvo] is successfully printing on paper with the HP45 cartridges, managing to spit out 150 x 150 pixel images, just by running the cartridge over a piece of paper. Already that’s exceptionally cool, great for graffiti, and something we can’t wait to see in a real, working printer.
You can check out [Yvo]’s handheld printing efforts below.
Continue reading “Repurposing Inkjet Technology For 3D Printing”
There was a time when crowdfunding websites were full of 3D printers at impossibly low prices. You knew that it would turn out to be either blatant vaporware or its delivery date would slip into the 2020s, but still there seemed always to be an eager queue ready to sign up. Even though there were promised models for under $200, $150, and then $100, there had to be a lower limit to the prices they were prepared to claim for their products. A $10 printer on Kickstarter for example would have been just a step too far.
There is a project that’s come close to that mark though, even though the magic figure is 10 euros rather than 10 dollars, so just short of 12 dollars at today’s exchange rate. [Michele Lizzit] has built a functioning 3D printer for himself, and claims that magic 10€ build price. How on earth has he done it? The answer lies in extensive use of scrap components, in this case from broken inkjet printers and an image scanner. These provide all the mechanical parts for the printer, leaving him only having to spend his 10€ on some hot end parts and the printer’s electronics. In an unusual move, the frame of the machine appears to come from a set of cardboard biscuit boxes, a master stroke of junk box construction.
The claimed resolution is 33µm, and using the position encoders from the inkjet printers he is able to make it a closed loop device. We salute his ingenuity in building such an impressive printer from so little, and were we ever locked by the bad guys in a room full of IT junk and lacked a handy escape device, we’d wish to be incarcerated with [Michele] any day over [Angus MacGyver] or [Sgt. Bosco BA Baracus].
You can see the printer in action in the video below the break.
Continue reading “A Functioning 3D Printer For 10€”
Inkjet printers are a dime a dozen. You probably have taken old printers apart to scavenge parts like motors, pulleys, belts, switches, linear rods, power supply, etc. These parts are easy to reuse in other projects, unlike the controller portion of the printer which not as easy to make use of. [Blaupause] has done something very interesting, and it probably ranks in the ‘extreme difficulty’ category for most tinkerers. He has taken the front panel off an otherwise non-working Canon Pixma inkjet printer and has figured out a way to interface with it.
The front panel of this printer has the standard buttons that you would find on any ole printer, but the Pixmas also has a small LCD screen. [Blaupause] has written a library for the Olimexino microcontroller that can communicate with and make use of the repurposed front panel. And the neat part of this project is that the front panel’s on-board processor does the heavy lifting when it comes to displaying images on the LCD screen or checking button states which frees up your microcontroller to do whatever else. Right now, the LCD screen can display bitmaps and supports image transparency. The library can not display video as of yet, but that option is being worked on.
[Blaupause] makes all his hard work available to the public on the project’s Sourceforge page. In addition to the library, he also includes printer panel pinouts and detailed information on how to communicate with the buttons and LCD screen. Video after the break…
Continue reading “Re-Using The LCD & Button Assembly From A Broken Inkjet Printer”
Instead of mucking about fabbing PCBs with the toner transfer method, or making masks for photosensitive boards, the holy grail of at-home circuit board manufacturing is a direct inkjet-to-etch method. [Don] isn’t quite there yet, but his method of producing circuit boards at home is one of the easiest we’ve ever seen.
[Don]’s boards begin by taking the output from Eagle and printing them with an Epson Artisan 50 inkjet printer. By sticking a piece of cardstock in the printer before the copper board, he’s able to precisely align the traces and pads onto the copper board.
When the board comes out of the printer, it’s only covered in ink. While some specialty inks are enough of an etch resist, [Don] comes up with a clever way to make sure acid doesn’t eat away copper in the needed places – he simply dusts on toner from a copier or laser printer, blows off the excess, and bakes the entire board in a toaster oven.
The result, seen above, are perfect traces on a circuit board without the need for ironing sheets of photo paper onto copper boards.
As far as the, “why didn’t someone think of this sooner” ideas go, this one is at the top. [Don] says the method should work on sheets of aluminum for printing solder paste masks. Impressive work, and now the only thing left to do is getting two-layer boards down pat. For more direct to copper printing check out the hacks we’ve covered in years past.
Continue reading “Perfect PCBs With an Inkjet Printer”