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”
QR codes are easy to produce, resistant to damage, and can hold a considerable amount of data. But generally speaking, eating them has no practical purpose. Unfortunately the human digestive tract lacks the ability to interpret barcodes, 2D or otherwise. But thanks to the University of Copenhagen, that may soon change.
A new paper featured in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics details research being done to print QR codes with ink that contains medicine. The mixture of medicines in the ink can be tailored to each individual patient, and the QR code itself can contain information about who the drugs were mixed for. With a standard QR reader application on their smartphone, nurses and care givers can scan the medicine itself and know they are giving it to the right person; cutting down the risk of giving patients the wrong medication.
The process involves using a specialized inkjet printer to deposit the medicine-infused ink on a white edible substrate. In testing, the substrate held up to rough handling and harsh conditions while still keeping the QR code legible; an important test if this technology is to make the leap from research laboratory to real-world hospitals.
In the future the researchers hope the edible substrate can be produced and sent to medical centers, and that the medicinal ink itself will be printable on standard inkjet printers. If different medicines were loaded into the printer as different colors, it should even be possible to mix customized drug “cocktails” through software. Like many research projects it seems likely the real-world application of the technology won’t be as easy as the researchers hope, but it’s a fascinating take on the traditional method of dispersing medication.
QR codes have long been a favorite of the hacker community. From recovering data from partial codes to using them to tunnel TCP/IP, we’ve seen our fair share of QR hacks over the years.
[Thanks to Qes for the tip]
Continue reading “Eating a QR Code May Save Your Life Someday”
Style counts, and sometimes all it takes to jazz up the product of a 3D-printer is a 2D printer and a how-to guide on hydrographic printing.
Hydrographic printing, sometimes called hydrodipping, is a process for transferring graphics onto complex-shaped objects in one simple step. A design is printed on a special film which is then floated on the surface of a tank of water. The object to be decorated is carefully dipped into the water right through the film and the design wraps around all the nooks and crannies in one step.
The video tutorial below details the steps to hydrographic printing and outlines how easy the method has become with the availability of water transfer films for inkjet printers. The film is polyvinyl acetate, which is essentially white glue and hence quite soluble in water. The film dissolves and leaves the ink floating on the surface, ready for dipping.
The video lists quite a few tips for optimizing the process for 3D-printed parts and should let you decorate your parts quickly and easily. And once you master the basics, you might want to look at mathematically warping your design to hydrodip complex surfaces.
Continue reading “Hydrodipping 101”
[fungus amungus] was reading online about printing directly on fabrics with a home printer. He’d read a few hopeful tutorials about printing on them with a laser printer, but he didn’t own one.
Considering that you can occasionally buy an inkjet for less than the ink, he decided to take the plunge and see if he could print on a swatch of fabric with his inkjet. The technique requires a printer, some wax paper, scissors, and an iron.
By adhering the wax paper to the fabric properly, it’s possible to run it through the printer without tears. (We’ll let you pick the heteronym.) The final step is to let the ink sit for an hour before running the iron over it again. This seems to cure the ink and it can even survive a few washings.
Being able to make any pattern of cloth on demand seems like a useful thing to keep in the toolbox!
MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, CSAIL, put out a paper recently about an interesting advance in 3D printing. Naturally, being the computer science and AI lab the paper had a robotic bend to it. In summary, they can 3D print a robot with a rubber skin of arbitrarily varying stiffness. The end goal? Shock absorbing skin!
They modified an Objet printer to print simultaneously using three materials. One is a UV curing solid. One is a UV curing rubber, and the other is an unreactive liquid. By carefully depositing these in a pattern they can print a material with any property they like. In doing so they have been able to print mono body robots that, simply put, crash into the ground better. There are other uses of course, from joints to sensor housings. There’s more in the paper.
We’re not sure how this compares to the Objet’s existing ability to mix flexible resins together to produce different Shore ratings. Likely this offers more seamless transitions and a wider range of material properties. From the paper it also appears to dampen better than the alternatives. Either way, it’s an interesting advance and approach. We wonder if it’s possible to reproduce on a larger scale with FDM.
[Kratz] just turned into a rock hound and has a bunch of rocks from Montana that need tumbling. This requires a rock tumbler, and why build a rock tumbler when you can just rip apart an old inkjet printer? It’s one of those builds that document themselves, with the only other necessary parts being a Pizza Hut thermos from the 80s and a bunch of grit.
Boot a Raspberry Pi from a USB stick. You can’t actually do that. On every Raspberry Pi, there needs to be a boot partition on the SD card. However, there’s no limitation on where the OS resides, and [Jonathan] has all the steps to replicate this build spelled out.
Some guys in Norway built a 3D printer controller based on the BeagleBone. The Replicape is now in its second hardware revision, and they’re doing some interesting things this time around. The stepper drivers are the ‘quiet’ Trinamic chips, and there’s support for inductive sensors, more fans, and servo control.
Looking for one of those ‘router chipsets on a single board’? Here you go. It’s the NixCoreX1, and it’s pretty much a small WiFi router on a single board.
[Mowry] designed a synthesizer. This synth has four-voice polyphony, 12 waveforms, ADSR envelopes, a rudimentary sequencer, and fits inside an Altoids tin. The software is based on The Synth, but [Mowry] did come up with a pretty cool project here.